Facebook Wants To Track Emotions Using Your Webcam

If you still aren’t covering your laptop’s webcam with a piece of duct tape, here’s a great incentive: Facebook wants to use it to track your emotions in real-time.

According to several recently published patent applications, the social media giant is looking to monitor users’ emotions in several new and invasive ways, including monitoring the rhythm of their keystrokes and peering through webcams to analyze facial expressions in real-time. According to the filings, the goal is to allow the company to incorporate their users’ emotional state into typed messages, automatically translate facial expressions to reaction emojis, and of course, use intimate data to target ads.

Some of the patents were originally filed as far back as 2014, but are being published now, as face and emotion recognition technology is become increasingly prevalent. One filing, published May 25, 2017 and titled “Augmenting Text Messages With Emotion Information,” describes a method for predicting a user’s emotions by analyzing user input interactions in Facebook Messenger — including the rhythm of keystrokes and interaction patterns from using a mouse or touchscreen  — and changing the visual formatting of the text to reflect their emotional state.

“By integrating emotion information within a text message, the message system can retain context associated with the message that might otherwise be lost in a conventional text message,” the patent’s description states. “Automatically formatting the text in a message to convey emotion information allows the sender to more accurately convey a specific meaning of the message without requiring that the sender include other content or explicitly state an emotion in the text.”

Another patent filing, published in May, depicts a system for using facial expressions observed through a webcam to automatically generate Facebook’s emoji reactions. The filing describes a method for analyzing portions of the user’s face, then matching the real-time image data with an appropriate emojis, like the current selection of “wow,” “angry,” “sad,” and “haha.” Of course, having a seamless, hands-free emoji experience like the kind the document describes would mean giving Facebook constant, unhindered access to your laptop or smartphone’s forward-facing camera — allowing the company to track and profile your emotion responses.

The patents are not surprising, given the widespread usage of machine learning for emotion recognition and Facebook’s well-known ambitions for exploiting users’ emotions and behavioral data. The company has previously shown its willingness to use emotional data to secretly manipulate users’ behavior through its infamous “Emotional Contagion” experiment, which influenced the emotional content of their posts by altering the appearance of positive or negative articles appearing in their news feeds.

As previously reported, independent researchers have created relatively simple systems that identify users and predict their emotional state by analyzing keystroke patterns — and data-hungry tech conglomerates like Google and Facebook are presumably much farther along in implementing such systems for their billions of users. The emoji-generating patent also follows Facebook’s November purchase of FacioMetrics, a startup company that prides itself on gesture controls and systems that can “recognize facial expressions and perform related actions.”

Deleting the Facebook App Will Double Your Phone’s Battery Life

We’ve covered how Instagram is seriously damaging to mental health, but another self-study revealed that Facebook‘s mobile app is the most draining of your smartphone battery life. This observation came to light after Inc. journalist John Koetsier decided to delete Facebook from his phone after seeing that the social media app accounted for almost 50 percent of his device’s daily juice. Upon deletion, his phone’s battery doubled in lifespan.

While this may not come as a surprise to many, it’s the app’s specific functions that make Facebook battery use more demanding. SRAX executive ad tech developer Aaron Hetler says that Facebook’s wide range of features is what causes it to kill your phone battery, even by just opening the app. Facebook’s wide range of features such as device location, notifications, live videos, contacts, etc has contributed to the app’s 10-fold increase in megabytes over the past few versions. Some suggest that disabling the “Background App Refresh” function after quitting the app can extend battery life, but as long as Facebook is tracking your device’s location, it will continue to eat away at power.

How the Nature of Popularity Was Changed by Social Media

There aren’t many aspects of the human experience that haven’t been affected by the mass proliferation of social media over the past decade. From our way we interact with our friends to the way we find our booty calls, age-old rituals are squeezed through a digital prism and come out on the other side looking markedly different than before.

Our lives are so changed by its all-consuming omnipresence that writing about all the ways that social media has reconfigured the world has become a steady stream of income for internet commentators such as myself.

In a recent installment of New York Magazine’s “popular” column – a regular series investigating “the pain and joys of fitting in” – the author assessed the ways that social media has changed the nature of popularity and came to the conclusion that it has made it predictable, boring and more of a job than an enviable social privilege.

This makes sense: with so much money to be made from social media, and many of the methods to grow your following mapped out in widely-available books and online guides, nurturing your social media presence has a professional incentive that often fosters a professional approach. But what doesn’t get mentioned as much is how social media has changed the fundamental nature of popularity by presenting it through a nerd’s-eye-view.

Popularity Is Now Quantifiable

Popularity, as NY Mag points out, used to have an intangible, unquantifiable quality to it. On social media, however, it’s the opposite: easily measured in followers, likes, retweets and all those other metrics that marketers use to calculate engagement. They can be tallied up, assessed and ranked.

It’s cold and logical, like mathematics, because it’s pretty much a digital simulation of human interaction by tech geeks. Social media is how socially-awkward Silicon Valley programmers imagine that socializing looks like in the real world. The accumulation of popularity on social media works much like a video game: with the correct input – a pithy tweet, a sexy Instagram photo, a cat video – you’re rewarded with the positive reinforcement of engagement, and the more engagement you get the more “popular” you are.

It’s all as binary as a computer’s code and doesn’t take into account the many intangible X-factors that define IRL, flesh-and-blood popularity: charisma, social intelligence, learned behaviors, peer approval, genetics and countless other variables. Not that this is much of a surprise: after all, I doubt that Mark Zuckerberg got many nominations for prom king, and if The Social Network is anything to go by, he seems to have less friends than I have Snapchat followers (I don’t have Snapchat).

Popularity on social media is as mechanical as seduction in “Pick Up Artistry” circles, because it’s the result of bookish minds analyzing human behaviors and attempting to break them down into hyper-rational formulae.

This is part of the reason why popularity on social media doesn’t usually translate to popularity into the real world. Sure, some people may be popular on social media precisely because they’re popular IRL or have a huge media presence elsewhere, like, say, Selena Gomez or Kylie Jenner, but digital popularity is so unlike its physical counterpart that it rarely carries over.

Not only that, but our social media profiles are usually false personas; projections of the people that we would like to be rather than reflections of who we really are. You might be able create a really sassy avatar of yourself on Twitter, but that’s because you have the mental space and time to invest a half hour into a single snappy tweet. In the real work you have to be quick-witted and confident; you need a mastery of timing and tone to pull of the same feat.

To stick with the current example, Twitter is medium dominated by journalists. In my professional life I’ve had the opportunity to meet numerous writers that have tens of thousands of followers and have locked down that wry tone that works so well in tweets, and I’ve always been astounded how many of them mumble through sentences and struggle to maintain eye contact when they’re forced to interact with an actual human being.

At its worst, social media is a tool for people to compensate for all the personal or physical qualities that they lack, and Instagram is another good example of this. The internet is full of guides on how to make yourself look more attractive than you actually are, because hot people quite obviously get more follows on a platform that focuses purely on aesthetics. As most of us are aware, though, this doesn’t always carry over to real life. What’s that old saying? “Nobody looks like Victoria’s Secret models, not even Victoria’s Secret models”?

Social Media Popularity Is Really About Sales

In this sense, popularity on social media is, in fact, the polar opposite of popularity in reality: while real-world adoration is something to be craved because it opens doors to parties, sex, career advancement, social capital and all sorts of pleasures, on social media it becomes a cage, trapping us online because the things that make us likable in the digital realm sometimes don’t exist beyond it.

But that’s the thing: popularity on social media and popularity in the real world shouldn’t be discussed on the same terms, because social media ultimately wasn’t made to foster popularity or even sociability, but salability.

Every social media platform is, in essence, a marketing tool. Initially it offers fun incentives to reel in users, and slowly it begins to monetize that audience by acting as an advertising space that links brands to masses of potential consumers.

Just look at Twitter’s short, succinct format: tweets are the perfect vessel for ad copy. Instagram allows us to visually distort our image and adopt the qualities of a billboard. This is intentional: it blurs the divide between advertising and content so that the former is more readily accepted by consumers. We might download ad-blockers or go to the toilet during TV commercial breaks, but on social media we willingly and enthusiastically open ourselves to advertising by following Instagram influencers and, ultimately, by marketing ourselves.

To paraphrase former British prime minister, Margaret Thatcher: “marketing is the method; the object is to change the heart and soul.”  By making the personal and the commercial indistinguishable from one another, social media has succeeded in doing exactly that.

New Facebook Option Allows Food Ordering Right From App

Facebook once again looks to widen its market at become a one stop shop for just about everything you would want on the internet after the introduction of a new feature that allows individuals to order food from nearby restaurants right from the app. Facebook made reference to this earlier this year, when they announced a partnership with both Delivery.com and Slice. Users on Twitter were surprised to see it pop up randomly on their Facebook app, with some users are reporting that the “Order Food” icon is also appearing on Facebook’s website, giving you the option to order food from your computer as well. According to those who have used the service, every step of ordering food is done through Facebook, including looking at menus, checking daily specials and payment.

As of right now, it looks like the feature is only available in certain areas around the world. This is one of the many business strategies the social media giant has embarked on over the past while. Most recently,the platform announced it would be live streaming regular season MLB games every Friday, as well as introducing a lineup of new, original shows to compete with business like Netflix and Hulu. With Facebook making more and more of an effort to find new ways to add on to their network, it will be interesting to see what they come up with next.

Instagram Is Terrible for Your Mental Health, Studies Find

It’s hardly news that social media exacerbates mental health problems and generally makes everyone feel a little worse about themselves, but apparently some are worse than others.

A new study conducted by the Young Health Movement and the Royal Society for Public Health surveyed 1,500 14 to 24-year-olds about the effects five social media platforms have on their mental wellbeing.

Instagram was found to be the worst platform, with Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter also having an negative effect. Participants in the research said that social media was worsening bullying, body image anxiety, and feelings of depression and loneliness.

For its part, Instagram has recently addressed mental health problems in its community with its “HereForYou” campaign to highlight and support people sharing mental health stories on the app.

YouTube was the only social network that was actually a positive presence in teen’s lives. Though the video site negatively affect young people’s sleep, something that I think we can all understand, participants said that it lessened feelings of loneliness and depression, offered emotional support and gave them an understanding of other people’s experiences.

Why Facebook Put 10 Tips on ‘Fake News’ in Your News Feed

This week Facebook began inserting advisory pop-ups in the news feeds of users in 14 countries, including the USA, about how to spot fake news. It’s all in support of a new Facebook feature that empowers Facebook to report propaganda websites that look like legit news.

The pop-ups, which Facebook tells Inverse began showing up on Monday, are part of a series of PSAs the site is producing with the News Literacy Project, aimed at “helping people make more informed decisions” when they encounter fake news. The guidelines, which are made up of 10 points, were written in collaboration with the nonprofit First Draft.

Facebook Vice President Adam Mosseri said in a press release earlier described the news feed as a “place for authentic communication.”

Click further to read the guidelines:

1. Be skeptical of headlines. False news stories often have catchy headlines in all caps with exclamation points. If shocking claims in the headline sound unbelievable, they probably are.

2. Look closely at the URL. A phony or look-alike URL may be a warning sign of false news. Many false news sites mimic authentic news sources by making small changes to the URL. You can go to the site to compare the URL to established sources.

3. Investigate the source. Ensure that the story is written by a source that you trust with a reputation for accuracy. If the story comes from an unfamiliar organization, check their “About” section to learn more.

4. Watch for unusual formatting. Many false news sites have misspellings or awkward layouts. Read carefully if you see these signs.

5. Consider the photos. False news stories often contain manipulated images or videos. Sometimes the photo may be authentic, but taken out of context. You can search for the photo or image to verify where it came from.

6. Inspect the dates. False news stories may contain timelines that make no sense, or event dates that have been altered.

7. Check the evidence. Check the author’s sources to confirm that they are accurate. Lack of evidence or reliance on unnamed experts may indicate a false news story.

8. Look at other reports. If no other news source is reporting the same story, it may indicate that the story is false. If the story is reported by multiple sources you trust, it’s more likely to be true.

9. Is the story a joke? Sometimes false news stories can be hard to distinguish from humor or satire. Check whether the source is known for parody, and whether the story’s details and tone suggest it may be just for fun.

10. Some stories are intentionally false. Think critically about the stories you read, and only share news that you know to be credible.

We already know the backstory of Facebook’s reform efforts by heart: In the run up to the 2016 presidential election, fake news spread across Facebook like wildfire, influencing people’s opinions about candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. This pattern may or may not have changed the outcome of the election, of course. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg insisted that it did not in the face of damning evidence, his actions to help people spot bullshit signaled some acceptance on the company’s part.

After you see these pop-ups a few times in your newsfeeds, they will disappear. It’s direct, but relatively unobtrusive, action.

Facebook’s New Tool Aims To Stop Revenge Porn

With a set of new tools, Facebook is seeking to stop the spread of revenge porn on its network, the company said on Wednesday.

To help stop intimate photos from being shared without a person’s consent, the social network will implement photo-matching tools that identify reported images and not only take them down from other Facebook News Feeds, but across all Facebook-owned platforms including Messenger and Instagram.

“If someone tries to share the image after it’s been reported and removed, we will alert them that it violates our policies and that we have stopped their attempt to share it,” Facebook said in a company blog post.

This is not the first time Facebook has tried to address revenge porn. However, people have still managed to post and share intimate photos of others without their permission. The most recent high-profile case was of a group of U.S. Marines who were posting nude photos of servicewoman in a secret Facebook group. They eventually moved on to using Snapchat when Facebook cracked down on the groups after they received publicity.

Facebook is not alone in the fight against revenge porn and worked with other online communities to build out the system. The company also hopes to start a domino effect and help other companies in the industry implement similar features.

“We worked with the Cyber Civil Rights Initiative and other companies to create a one-stop destination for victims and others to report this content to the major technology companies,” Facebook added.

To report a photo that might be considered “revenge porn,” users can click on the ellipses icon next to a post and then “report.” Users will then be asked to provide a reason for reporting the image.

Facebook Spending Millions To Make You Trust News Again

Facebook and other companies are partnering up to help fund a 14-million-dollar initiative to help restore trust in the media — at a time when it really needs it.

The News Integrity Initiative will be based at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism in New York City and partner with a number of institutions around the world to help educate people about media literacy.

“As part of the Facebook Journalism Project, we want to give people the tools necessary to be discerning about the information they see online,” Campbell Brown, Facebook’s Head of News Partnerships, said in a statement. The company launched its own media literacy project in January. Faculty and students of the CUNY Journalism program will collaborate with researchers and technologists, and conduct research in support of the initiative’s goal.

The non-profit initiative comes at a time when public trust in the media is at an all-time low. According to a recent poll, only six percent of Americans said they have “a lot of confidence” in the media, and nearly 40 percent said they can point to a specific incident that caused this mistrust, often the result of inaccurate reporting or bias. President Donald Trump’s consistent accusations that critical news reports about him are “fake news” and “a total scam“, as well as claiming the media is the “enemy of the people,” has likely only helped deepen this mistrust.

The 2016 election cycle saw an unprecedented flood of actually fake news. The New York Times profiled a young American who made up a story about ballot box stuffing for Hillary Clinton, and watched it ricochet around Facebook and into the feeds of millions of readers. This phenomenon — just one of many examples from last fall — was fueled by the new ubiquity of sites like Facebook as a source for news.

The fake news echo chamber is compounded by people’s low levels of media literacy. A recent study showed that students have a hard time identifying real news, with more than 80 percent of middle schoolers unable to tell the different between sponsored content and news reports. “In high school U.S. history, I learned that a trustworthy press is the immune system of democracy,” said Craig Newmark, a funder of the initiative and founder of craigslist and the Craig Newmark Philanthropic Fund.

After the election, in a widely shared post, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg denied his platform had played any meaningful role in disseminating fake news, writing that “99% of what people see [on Facebook] is authentic.”

Prepare For Onslaught Of Facebook Friends Begging For Donations

If Facebook wants anything, it’s to keep you on the Facebook site for as long as possible. That’s why perhaps it’s not surprising that given the popularity of personal online fundraisers, Facebook is now entering that business, letting people raise money for medical expenses, funerals, education, or any other cause.

In its announcement of the new feature, Facebook explains that there will be six broad categories of personal fundraisers that users can hold. Those are education, medical, pet medical, crisis relief, personal emergencies, and funeral and loss (including living expenses after a loved one’s death.)

Hoping to avoid the fraud accusations that have popped up against other crowdfunding sites designed for personal fundraisers, Facebook will limit fundraisers to those categories for now, and each will be reviewed within 24 hours by a staff member. “As we learn more, we hope to expand our categories and automate more of the review process,” the social network’s vice president for social good explains in the announcement.

Personal fundraisers are not to be confused with the existing program that lets Facebook users hold their own fundraisers on behalf of verified nonprofits. Those still exist, and in a new feature, Facebook will let verified nonprofit groups put donation buttons on Facebook Live, allowing the groups to solicit donations during any broadcast, or even hold online telethons.

This Alarming Infographic Shows How Much Time We Spend on Social Media

If you’re worried that you might be spending too much time procrastinating on Instagram and Facebook rather than actually doing anything productive, then fear not, for it appears you’re not alone. New statistics on the average person’s social media consumption habits have emerged courtesy of Mediakix, and the results make for some grim reading.

According to the article, global social media marketing spending is set to hit $36 billion this year, with $12.5 billion of that being spent in the U.S and Canada. Two years ago, it’s estimated that people spent more time on mobile apps than they did watching television, and, terrifyingly, the advent of functions such as Facebook Video and Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, and Snapchat Spectacles is only set to increase that growth further.

The infographic below estimates the average person spends five years and four months on socials in a lifetime. Yes, five years. That’s longer than the wait between Frank Ocean albums. Unsurprisingly, Facebook remains the most popular platform, followed by YouTube. Snapchat is in third, but for how much longer given the rise of Instagram stories?

So, what could you be doing instead of perusing the feed of some stranger who you’ve never — and probably will never — meet? You could fly to the moon and back for starters. Scroll below to find out more.

As we said, grim. How much time do you reckon you spend on the above channels? Let us know in the comments.