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Monday News: Facebook screws with its users, the Netherlands tests the resale of digital books, a new documentary on Amazon, and The Princess Bride gets Legoed

Monday News: Facebook screws with its users, the Netherlands tests the...

Facebook Doesn’t Understand The Fuss About Its Emotion Manipulation Study – So Facebook, which appears to have zero respect for its users privacy, has also been intentionally manipulating content by way of “experimentation,” relying on the Terms of Service to compensate for actual informed consent. Worse, two academic researchers from UCSF and Cornell analyzed the data and wrote up the paper for a publication called the PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), an un-refereed journal that is nonetheless associated with the prestigious NAS. So many things wrong with this that it’s almost impossible to count, but there’s now a real concern that this experiment will serve as precedent for others like it – minus the public disclosure after the fact. A.V. Club initially broke the story, but I’ve used the Forbes piece because of all the updated information.

This weekend, the Internet discovered a study published earlier this month in an academic journal that recounted how a Facebook data scientist, along with two university researchers, turned 689,003 users’ New Feeds positive or negative to see if it would elate or depress them. The purpose was to find out if emotions are “contagious” on social networks. (They are, apparently.) The justification for subjecting unsuspecting users to the psychological mind game was that everyone who signs up for Facebook agrees to the site’s “Data Use Policy,” which has a little line about how your information could be used for “research.” –Forbes

The right to resell ebooks — major case looms in the Netherlands – Oh, this is interesting. Tom Kabinet, a retailer selling used digital books, is using a EU Court of Justice ruling from 2012 to justify its actions, while the Dutch Publishers Association (NUV), through its secretary general, Martijn David, is claiming threatening legal action and claiming that the retailer is “aiding piracy.” Although no court ruling on this issue is internationally binding, any legal consideration of this issue will likely affect how other countries approach the issue of reselling digital content.

On Tuesday this week, a local startup called Tom Kabinet opened the virtual doors on its secondhand ebook bookstore. At the moment, it is generally accepted that ebooks cannot be resold, as is the case with music, movies and other digital media.

However, Tom Kabinet is pointing to a 2012 ruling by Europe’s top court, the Court of Justice of the European Union, in the case of UsedSoft v Oracle. That case was about reselling licenses for downloadable software, and the court ruled that – even when the software license explicitly forbids resale – the buyer should have the right to resell that licence, just as they would be allowed to resell a boxed software copy. –Gigaom

‘AMAZON RISING’ PREMIERES JUNE 29 – Advertised as an “insider’s look” at Amazon and Jeff Bezos, the documentary premiered last night. David Faber produced this 60-minute program, and there’s a summary and a link to different national schedules here.

With more than 240 million customers, Faber reports on this powerhouse that has upended publishing, retail, and cloud computing, is poised to disrupt the supermarket industry, and faces increasing scrutiny as it extends its reach ever further into the fabric of American life. –CNBC

Celebrate romance with detailed Lego versions of famous Princess Bride scenes – While I was reading the Facebook story on the A.V. Club website, I came across this gem. While not a complete antidote to the Facebook mess, it’s a happy combination of Legos and Princess Bride. Although not very romantic, the Fire Swamp re-creation might be my favorite. –A.V. Club

Friday News: BuzzFeed is following you, Amazon, Hachette, and DRM, interesting beauty experiment, and online content v. comments

Friday News: BuzzFeed is following you, Amazon, Hachette, and DRM, interesting...

BuzzFeed is Watching You – In my everlasting quest to understand the phenomenon that is BuzzFeed, I come across pieces like this. Which makes me think of Facebook. Which makes me even more wary of BuzzFeed and its seemingly enormous online reach. Want to know what kinds of information BuzzFeed likes to collect about you — especially when you’re taking those nifty quizzes, check out Dan Barker’s breakdown. And be afraid. Be very, very afraid.

In other words, if I had access to the BuzzFeed Google Analytics data, I could query data for people who got to the end of the quiz & indicated – by not checking that particular answer – that they have had an eating disorder. Or that they have tried to change their gender. Or I could run a query along the following lines if I wished:

Show me all the data for anyone who answered the “Check Your Privelege” quiz but did not check “I have never taken medication for my mental health”. –Dan Barker

How Amazon is holding Hachette hostage – Well, this is interesting. While I think the article’s title is bullshit, I love the idea that Hachette’s dogged support of DRM is now turning back on them. Amazon, the argument goes, is putting their DRM on Hachette’s books, which means that Hachette cannot engage in encouraging people to buy their digital books from other outlets, stripping DRM, and reading them on their Kindle. I don’t know how big a deal this really is, given the number of people who already do strip DRM, but it is a nice little illustration of how antediluvian DRM has become in our rapidly evolving digital marketplace.

It is an own-goal masterstroke. It is precisely because Hachette has been so successful in selling its ebooks through Amazon that it can’t afford to walk away from the retailer. By allowing Amazon to put a lock on its products whose key only Amazon possessed, Hachette has allowed Amazon to utterly usurp its relationship with its customers. The law of DRM means that neither the writer who created a book, nor the publisher who invested in it, gets to control its digital destiny: the lion’s share of copyright control goes to the ebook retailer whose sole contribution to the book was running it through a formatting script that locked it up with Amazon’s DRM. –The Guardian

Before & After – Esther Honig introduces her project by noting that “In the U.S. Photoshop has become a symbol of our society’s unobtainable standards for beauty. My project, Before & After, examines how these standards vary across cultures on a global level.” So she sent an unadorned photo of herself to 40 individuals in 25 countries and asked them to use Photoshop to “make her beautiful.” The experiment is intended to demonstrate different standards of beauty in different cultural contexts. Honig is caucasian, which significantly limits and qualifies the results, I think (e.g. are the Photoshoppers interpreting the standard of beauty relative to the model or to their own cultural/racial/national/ethnic standards), and it would be really cool if the project could be more diversified in regard to the model, but I think the concept is fascinating and revealing, and is something to build on. –Esther Honig

Social media is important for journos but let’s keep things in proportion – Perhaps some of those websites that have shut down comments might instead want to post a copy of this article for readers to chew on. Here’s the upshot: a ridiculously small proportion of people who read articles online actually comment, and those who don’t comment are often the ones who consider information and arguments without the need to let everyone witness the friction their braincells produce in the form of commentary. Boy, do we all need to remember this, because, as the article points out, if we become too consumed by online comments, our content can be ruled by them — or, more importantly, by fear of or desire for them.

Martin Belam, digital editor at the Trinity Mirror group, crunched the numbers and made a startling calculation. If 2,600 people post at least 40 comments each, then their total must be more than 104,000, which means that a maximum of 496,000 comments are written by everyone else. In other words, at least 20 per cent of the comments on the website each month come from just 0.0037 per cent of the Guardian’s declared monthly audience.
. . .
Let me make the counter-argument. The vast majority of readers do not comment on articles or write to journalists using Twitter. Instead, these people read, consider the arguments and reach their own conclusions, without leaving much of a digital footprint. That it is extremely difficult – impossible, even – to decipher what they believe does not mean they do not exist. Indeed, they are often exactly the people who may consider changing their minds. The silent majority, sceptical and open to new arguments, is the very audience journalists should try to reach. –New Statesman