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Thursday News: Facebook’s many experiments, Canada’s new anti-spam law, World Book...

In fact, Facebook knew most of the users were legitimate. The message was a test designed to help improve Facebook’s antifraud measures. In the end, no users lost access permanently.

The experiment was the work of Facebook’s Data Science team, a group of about three dozen researchers with unique access to one of the world’s richest data troves: the movements, musings and emotions of Facebook’s 1.3 billion users. –Wall Street Journal

Good point. The government says the law applies to anyone who sends spam to someone in Canada, but enforcing that is another matter. The agency will have its hands full just trying to apply the law in the first place, let alone tangling with complicated cross-border issues.

What Canada will do is try and work with other governments to go after the worst of the worst, which is what it does when it comes to telemarketers. In Canada’s own words: “[We will ] share information with the government of a foreign state if the information is relevant to an investigation or proceeding in respect of a contravention of the laws of a foreign state that is substantially similar to the conduct prohibited by this Canadian law.” –Gigaom

The problem in the U.S. was the cost of, production, organization and distribution. “The expenses of running World Book Night U.S., even given the significant financial and time commitment from publishers, writers, booksellers, librarians, printers, distributors, and shippers, are too high to sustain without additional outside funding,” executive director Carl Lennertz wrote in a statement. –Los Angeles Times

This is an experience very familiar to genre readers. However, categories can also ghettoize, as Mishra cautions:

Writers like Gary Shteyngart (Russia), Aleksandar Hemon (Bosnia), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Nigeria), Yiyun Li (China), Junot Díaz (the Dominican Republic) and Dinaw Mengestu (Ethiopia) have bypassed the old lines of connection between Europe and America. The ethnic and linguistic communities they belong to are spread across the United States rather than concentrated in the East and the Midwest. They may have grown up speaking Mandarin, Igboand Spanish at home; some of them fled disorderly societies and despotic regimes. But their advantages of class or education — and renewable intimacy with the mother country in the age of the Internet and cheap air travel — clearly mark them out from the huddled immigrant masses of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. –New York Times

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!

8 Comments

  1. library addict
    Jul 03, 2014 @ 04:30:47

    It’s a shame about World Book Night US shutting down. Hope they somehow manage to secure funding to restart.

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  2. mali muso
    Jul 03, 2014 @ 05:30:10

    Sitting here in the pre-dawn hours each morning hammering out my dissertation, it seems outrageous to me the incredible violations of informed consent in social science research that these Facebook studies represent. Good grief. Having completed reams of IRB paperwork, I can’t imagine trying to justify these research methods.

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  3. Ros
    Jul 03, 2014 @ 06:54:33

    I thought this article made a good point that FB’s messing with timelines may well have had unintended consequences for relationships as well as emotional states.

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  4. Lynnd
    Jul 03, 2014 @ 07:49:52

    There are days that the irony in the news just amuses me. The Government of Canada has passed the CASL legislation which will only prevent legitimate businesses from sending emails to customers and potential customers without consent or a prior customer relationship (I’m simplifying it a lot – whole day-long seminars were given on this legislation). It won’t stop the Viagara emails, the “you have inherited millions in some foreign country” or the other truly annoying and bogus emails at all because it will be impossible to enforce. Meanwhile, Facebook (and probably Google, Twitter and other such entities) are permitted to use the data we post or the searches we conduct for whatever “research” they wish to engage in without impunity and based on some dubious implied consent contained in Terms of Service, which at law (at least in Canada) probably does not constitute consent at all.

    Thanks for posting about the Facebook issues. Maybe if enough people become aware of what is going on, someone will be compelled to act to try to address it.

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  5. Robin/Janet
    Jul 03, 2014 @ 08:03:29

    @Ros: Thanks for that link, Ros. I’ve been sharing a lot of these articles with our systemwide mental health director, because we still don’t know what the fallout from this is going to be on our college and university campuses (or has been, without anyone knowing its source), as students are among the most ardent Facebook users.

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  6. Christine M.
    Jul 03, 2014 @ 08:19:29

    The other that hasn’t been mentionned much is, companies have THRE years to bring changes to the way they connect with their Canadian customers. Three. Years. I’ve already had 50+ companies email me over the last couple of months to ask for my consent so I don’t think it’s an impossible task.

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  7. Harper Kingsley
    Jul 03, 2014 @ 14:50:26

    So should I sue Facebook, because I’m pretty sure I was part of the “no access” test. I had to jump through some serious hoops to prove I was a person and I remember being really freaked out and upset. There was this paranoid sense of “oh god, they’ve found me” and my usual “what if I’m not real?” neurosis. Ah, the joys of mental ill-health.

    I spent days complaining about Facebook on Twitter, but I finally got back on in time to see my farm — which I’d been obsessively cultivating for months — withered and dead. I’ve never regained my trust in them, and when I was told a few weeks later AGAIN that I wasn’t a person, though I regained access, I stopped using their service except for automatic blog reposts. Even now, people friend me and I’m just like “Dude, I don’t want to mess with that thing. Meet me on Twitter or LJ.”

    And btw, I’m still upset about my farm. I was seriously invested, like to the point of scheduling my life around being there to take care of my crops, and to see them all dead… I know it wasn’t real, but it FELT real. And my poor animals making that “We’re dying, you animal abuser!” sound was horrible.

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  8. MaryK
    Jul 03, 2014 @ 15:47:28

    @Harper Kingsley: That is an interesting point, the Facebook games that people get very invested in.

    This latest experiment, it’s not like it was just targeting ads at users or collecting the usual usage data. It actually interfered with users’ feeds. For the length of the study, Facebook didn’t work as advertised.

    If you were a negative test subject, it removed positive posts from your feed. If you were a positive test subject, it removed negative posts from your feed. So users, who rely on Facebook to keep in touch with family, maybe didn’t get that sad post about so-and-so’s death. Because they were part of a secret experiment about emotions.

    How is that useful as a social network? Facebook has made itself unreliable.

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