Everything you need to know about Facebook’s cryptocurrency Libra

We’re all familiar with the term cryptocurrency, and perhaps with its nature too. Cryptocurrency itself didn’t work out as well as expected in the long term. But the concept might be put to good use by none other than Facebook.

How did the crypto hype start?

Cryptocurrency at its peak looked nothing more than a “make money quick” scheme or an electricity bill hazard. But the possibilities such a concept could bring about were left unexplored. A form of currency separate from cash or cards promises added convenience and liquidity and would be the kind of thing we see in sci-fi films. Which is probably why Facebook has decided to adopt a form of cryptocurrency.

How does Libra work?

The Libra cryptocurrency, named after the Roman unit of coin measurement is set to launch in the first half of next year. This is certainly the best-supported effort to bring cryptocurrency technology into the mainstream. As the project is backed by 27 prominent companies, the likes of MasterCard, Uber and Spotify chief among them. The currency sets itself apart from other cryptocurrencies like bitcoin by having a group of major currencies like the US Dollar and the British Pound backing it.  This is sure to bring stability to its value. The major reason for the failure of Bitcoin and others in establishing themselves is the fluctuating values they experience in a short time.

Libra promises to facilitate instantaneous money transfers all over the world and fulfilling the potential the cryptocurrency concept originally had. Facebook will also launch a wallet app named Calibra for use in payments over Messenger and WhatsApp.

The Libra promise

Libra has an association of its backers dubbed the Libra association. Each member exercises equal rights over the product, so Facebook doesn’t necessarily own Libra. Different backers have also implied that they will use their expertise to help the cause in different ways. In addition to a strong group of overseers, Libra also has its value regulated by established currencies. Thus, expectations of its success are very valid. Let’s see how it goes.

Facebook to merge WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger

A spokesperson from social media giant Facebook has announced that the platform plans to merge messaging platforms WhatsApp, Instagram and Messenger, according to a New York Times report.

The spokesperson claimed that the merger would deliver a “fast, simple, reliable and private” messaging platform intended to create “the best messaging experiences” for users. Although the apps are expected to remain distinct from one another, the core infrastructure will be combined into one, according to experts. The merger is expected to take place early next year even though no official details have been released.

Photo Courtesy: The Independent UK

Facebook acquired photo-sharing platform Instagram for approximately $1 billion (£761 million) in 2012, before taking over the messaging app WhatsApp in 2014 for an estimated $19.3 billion (£14.7bn).

The original founders of the app have since left Facebook, but the apps themselves have experienced dynamic growth in popularity. The decision to merge these platforms is contradictory to statements by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who stated the platforms would remain separate from Facebook.

One of the main concerns of the said merger is the privacy of users’ data. Given Facebook’s past and ongoing efforts to prove innocence against allegations of privacy breach, this merger can’t but attract scrutiny and arched eyebrows. It will be a technically challenging task to merge privacy configurations and data from three separate platforms.

The process might get shady given lack of user awareness regarding privacy issues. There is still a year’s time between now and the merger actually happening. Facebook needs to be absolutely crystal clear about the progress of their proceedings to retain user trust. As of now, we’re not quite sure how to feel about this and can only nervously await further proceedings.  

Things to do instead of feeding your Facebook addiction

Let’s face it, most of us have a very real phone addiction problem these days. More specifically, we are addicted to Facebook. You start reading a new book, or you’re in the middle (middle!) of a riveting chapter, but you find yourself glancing over to read notifications. As that familiar sense of boredom (is that even the word for it?) settles in, so does the next  60ish minutes of endless scrolling. A ‘harmless’ distraction that turns into watching a hedgehog sneeze. 100 memes later.

Scroll, scroll, scroll…the first step is acceptance. We might have a problem, and now we need to take back control of our lives. It’s not that social media is inherently evil—it’s how we choose to indulge in it and what we choose to expose ourselves to.

When and why do we need to curb our addictions?

The first real sign is its effect on your behavior— do you use your phone as a crutch for antisocial tendencies and to mask your anxiety? Sure it’s an easy way out. But imagine if you took a drug that did the same as the smartphone does—makes you stare at your hand for hours and obstructs real human interaction—wouldn’t you avoid it? Higher rates of suicidal tendencies, depression, and anxiety have been linked to constant exposure to the highlights of other people’s lives via social media by many studies. Know your own symptoms. Recognize that you feel worse after seeing facades of Instagram perfect lives.

How can it be healthy to watch video after video of happy people, girls setting unreal standards on how to look so pretty in makeup tutorials, boys getting gains fast and debonair clothing. The promise sold to us is, when you do your makeup and muscles like them, you will feel happier. This is how you unconsciously fall into the trap of fixating on “what you don’t have”. The solution to happiness is a click away. A link away from being beautiful. Or to shop. Or to constantly travel in dream destinations looking picture-perfect.

The Likes and Followers Trap

Facebook exposed photos

Have you ever posted a picture of Instagram, and refreshed the page every couple of minutes to see if it’s got more likes? If so, you are not alone. The day-to-day obsessions and concern around the ‘success’ of each of our social media statuses have become the norm. The photos we post are only the ones we think are best, that too according to social media’s standards. We project the ones where we look the fairest, the thinnest, our thighs are apart, our muscles look the most pronounced and we look the most popular.

We feel like we need to prove our lives to other people and that’s how we can validate ourselves. When you base your self-worth on the number of likes and followers, you are trapped in a vicious cycle? The actual pursuit of happiness is replaced by this sort of endless and addictive rut of low self-esteem and disarray.

What are ‘influencers’ influencing?

These emotions are compounded by the constant exposure to celebrity lives. If we follow the beautiful, designer clothing-clad, edited photos and videos of celebrities’ insta-handles we start feeling like they’re fabulous and successful because of their high materialism in their life. In comparison (and oh you will compare!)  our own little lives feel mundane. The habit of “I’m lacking” accentuates.

Think about it, why do they need so much designer clothes and edited pictures if they are as happy as they seem? Is the reason for fitness and a healthy lifestyle for butt-cheek exposed photo streams, or are they meant to be their own rewards—to be healthy and to feel good from better fitness? Is it about attaining a certain physique?  At the end of the day you do not get to feel lasting happiness.

You are probably already in a healthy place and didn’t need to try that grapefruit juice diet. And if are not, then there’s always that endless supply of memes that can drown your inner emptiness (yikes). Something to think about.

Its time to wean out of these habits.

How do we break the habit?

By getting help! No, I don’t mean going to a therapist, but making the small but significant changes each day that cuts a normalized obsessive habit. You can utilize free and paid resources in app stores that help you to build your will-power work. You can try:

  • Time your own indulgences: Use free apps like In Moment, Freedom and App Detox to track how much you spend time on your phone. This awareness and hard facts can spur you into reducing screen time. Some apps reduce access to productivity-killing apps for when you lack will-power. Try them.
  • Switch to productive alternatives: You need to make marginal adjustments to your daily routines. Instead of just quitting social media and then relapsing into the habit after a while, try a new activity. Say, you download Duo Lingo, a great user-friendly app to help learn a new language. Use the 15 minutes during your lunch break to learn a few skills instead of scrolling. In a couple of months, you can build a whole set of vocabulary with just 15 minutes a day! Or start a free course on Udemy on Coursera. Low on computer skills? Check out Code Academy for fun, there are some really easy free courses for non-techies. The key is to slowly but surely change habits.
  • Here’s a crazy idea, do nothing? Just pause and watch the world go by. Let the moment sink into your being. Notice that your breathing. Reflect. Notice your surroundings. Or if that initially scares you, go for a walk.

Samsung launches campaign to promote phones as fashion accessories

A cell phone, today, is not just a communication tool but it has also become a fashion accessory. Colour is an important aspect of the fashion world. Likewise, colour has also become an important factor for purchasing a mobile device. Noting the changes in consumer buying trend, many mobile phone companies are now producing their handsets in various different colours.

What your phone says about you

Choosing a colour can either be a conscious or subconscious decision as it represents our personality and lifestyle. Psychologists believe that each and every time we are faced with a colour choice, we are actually revealing what is going on inside our brain. It’s making a statement.
Such as, red is for people who enjoy taking action. These people are passionate and bear strong emotion. It also represents excitement and youth. On the other hand, the colour blue gives an impression of trust, loyalty, and integrity. The colour goes for people who are dependable. Pink goes to the people who are loving and nurturing.

Samsung’s campaign

Keeping this in mind, Samsung recently came up with an idea of a colour campaign, called ‘My Galaxy, My Color’. In this campaign, participants can upload photos with the shades of the featured colours (red, blue, and pink) in their lifestyle. They will have to upload these photos on their Facebook public profiles with appropriate hashtags. Such as for Red, it’s #ShadesOfRed. For Blue, it’s #ShadesOfBlue. And for Pink, it’s #BubblePink. Another common hashtag that needs to be used with the posts is #MyGalaxyMyColour.

The campaign is still running and its divided into three phases. The phases are Red (J6+), Blue (A7), and Pink (A9). Each phase of the campaign will be announced by a social media celebrity through a Facebook video where they will talk about the featured colour, Samsung handsets in those colours, and participation details of the campaign. The participants will also need to upload the screenshot of the photo in the comment section of the video which will be published on the Samsung Bangladesh Facebook fan page.

Through this campaign, people now can share photos regarding the featured colours and how it connects with their lifestyle. It’s a great way to make a statement among others and win some prizes in the process.

Facebook going back to its roots with new dating feature

Facebook has been in the news quite a bit recently. From the Cambridge Analytica scandal to the viral memes of founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg drinking water at his appearance before Congress, it almost feels like the company has been constantly stealing headlines for weeks now. Amidst all of this controversy, Facebook had their F8 conference, an annual conference for developers of the company, on the first of May. Zuckerberg announced during the keynote speech that the company will introduce a new dating feature for Facebook, commenting that “200 million people listed as single, so clearly there’s something to do here.” He added, “If we’re focused on helping people build meaningful relationships, then this is perhaps the most meaningful of all.”

For anyone following the history of the company, this shouldn’t come as a shock. In fact, many insiders joke that the only reason Facebook was created was for Mark Zuckerberg to rank ladies according to their looks. Jokes aside, that really was how the website started, as a means of reaching ladies and dating. Facebook would later distance themselves from this and become more family friendly, but in doing so it seems they have turned a full 360 degrees and come back to their original proposition. This time, however, Facebook is determined to make it a more permanent feature. They want people to find their lifelong partners on the website, in contrast to what used to be a way to find the prettiest girls in its earliest incarnations.

The results of the announcement were fairly easy to predict as well. The price of stock of Match, a prominent dating company and its parent IAC both went down. The prices plummeted by 22 and 18 percent respectively. The new feature will probably be free, which would challenge Match very well, as Tinder- the only real viable option in the dating scene, has gotten more and more premium features in the last couple of years.

The IAC CEO, Joey Lavin, when asked about this new development, simply brought up Facebook’s controversies in a fun fashion, saying the product could be “great for US/Russia relationships”. He also said that “Come on in. The water is warm”, hinting that his company already has a sizable chunk of that market. The CEO of Match, Mandy Ginsberg, shared similar confident sentiments. She also proceeded to poke fun at the expense of the massive corporation. She said in a statement, “We’re surprised at the timing given the amount of personal and sensitive data that comes with this territory.” It’s clear at this point that both the CEOs of Match and its parent IAC are trying their hardest to bring up that controversy and to make sure people cannot trust Facebook with their data, but the bottom line is that because of Facebook’s new announcement they have lost tons of money.

Many analysts also speculate this feature to be a way to divert public attention away from the Cambridge Analytica scandal and towards something they can actually market. For months now, Facebook has been trying to put out the raging barn fire that it has been this controversy and the associated data leaks. The CEO, Zuckerberg, has even been brought to trial for this reason. He however, stated at F8 that his company will “keep building [new features] even while we focus on keeping people safe.”

The dating feature comes with its very own texting feature, where only texts can be sent, not images. It will also be separate from the Messenger or WhatsApp apps. As said by Chris Cox, the chief product officer, this new feature is said to mirror real life as it will feature links to events and groups on the website, allowing users to connect through a shared interest, hobby, profession or any combination of the three.

All of this sounds fantastic, especially as Tinder has been useless for non-premium users for a while now. This brings them real competition, something everyone likes to have as consumers in the market. Tinder’s near monopoly being shattered would do wonders for single people worldwide who do not want to pay a premium. That being said, this announcement also means that Facebook will be handling more sensitive data than they ever have, and they do not have a very good record of handling sensitive data. In the coming months we will see if Facebook can put our doubts to rest, or if we see another scandal in the same proportions as (or greater than) Cambridge Analytica.

Zuckerberg and Facebook’s day of reckoning?

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg found himself in the proverbial hot seat as he was grilled for a marathon 5 hour long hearing in front of the US Congress, as senators from the commerce and judiciary committees pelted questions regarding privacy, data mining, fake news, regulations and the social media giant’s involvement in the recent scandal involving Cambridge Analytica, a British data firm with shady ties to the Russians.

If it sounds like a post-modernist spy film with slightly boring-action-yet-interesting-subplots, you’d be absolutely right.

If this image vaguely reminds you of Superman’s appearance in front of Congress in Dawn of Justice…you’re not alone. Minus the cape and the explody bits, of course.

On April 10th, Zuckerberg traded in his signature plan grey collarless shirt for a sharp suit, muted white shirt and a tie in the Facebook-shade-of-blue and appeared before a Congressional committee that seemed, over the course of the evening, appeared to be both blissfully unaware of the way Facebook collects and monetizes data as well as seemingly ready to ask the tough questions…that no one is really asking. With less than five minutes allotted to each member of the committee, the line of questioning that the 33 year old billionaire had to face barely scratched the surface of the overall problem, with barely any follow up questions – quite unlike the previous instances of the tech world clashing with government, like Bill Gates had to face in 1998.

Similar to the Gates hearing, however, Mark Zuckerberg was asked whether Facebook was a monopoly and actively engaging in anti-competitive practices, which the CEO took lightly and answered with “It doesn’t feel like it”. The floor made it somewhat clear that the committee members were concerned about the seemingly limitless power Facebook currently holds.

Some media outlets called the whole thing a “sham”, while others understood the need for such theatrics in calming an excited population and stock market – while Facebook’s shares were steadily falling before the hearing, the numbers stabilized and even climbed 4.5% afterwards. And while some of the questions might be seemingly hard-hitting on the surface, Zuckerberg’s responses were apologetic – a virulent mix of “I’m sorry”s and “We’re working on it”s.

Public apologies for data misuse – becoming quite common for Facebook and its young CEO.

In Facebook’s 14 years of existence, this seems to have become a cycle that they’ve nearly perfected – Facebook takes user data and either sells/distributes to third party advertisers and/or researchers/data miners, invariably gets caught, goes on a media apology tour and the world moves on with some good humoured meme and vine sharing. But now a line in the sand has been drawn – do not mess with the democratic process of elections. Cambridge Analytica’s data mining of nearly 87 million Facebook users with the help of researcher Aleksandr Kogan and alleged ties to the Donald Trump presidential campaign was an eye-opener – that social media is now plays an important enough role in the lives of people, enough to affect election results and who you’re likely to vote for.

So when the public audience at the hearing erupts into laughter following Zuckerberg’s “no” to a question fielded by Democrat Dick Durbin – “Would you be comfortable sharing with us the name of the hotel you stayed in last night?” – it’s enough to make most people’s skin crawl. If there’s anything to take away from the hearing, it’s that people might care less about their data privacy than Facebook does.

Democrat Richard Blumenthal put the Facebook CEO under some amount of stress when he said, “We’ve seen the apology tours before. You have refused to acknowledge even an ethical violation to report this violation of the FTC consent decree. My reservation about your testimony today is that I don’t see how you can change your business model unless there are specific rules of the road. Your business model is to maximise profit over privacy.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is surrounded by members of the media as he arrives to testify before a Senate Judiciary and Commerce Committees joint hearing regarding the company’s use and protection of user data, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., April 10, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis.

Another senator pointed out how Zuckerberg’s second in command, Sheryl Sandberg, went on morning TV and talked about getting users to pay if they wanted to opt out of having their data shared with third parties, to which he gave yet another vague answer. Much of the hearing saw Zuckerberg deflecting questions and trying to run out the clock, while driving home Facebook’s mission statement of “connecting people and letting ideas foster”.

Republican Ted Cruz picked up on that and gave Zuckerberg an equally hard time about the “liberal bias” of Facebook’s team of content moderators, who are seemingly more prone to taking down conservative viewpoints like those of Christian evangelists than regulating liberals and their Planned Parenthood pages. To which Zuckerberg replied “Palo Alto is one of the most liberal places on earth”…forgetting, for a moment perhaps, that Facebook is as global an entity as any.

But liberal biases and vague answers aside, the young CEO was forced to clear out the Cambridge Analytica issue as much as he could. Zuckerberg initially claimed there was no scope for blocking Cambridge Analytica from being on Facebook in 2015 when their activities were first brought to light, as CA maintained no pages and was neither a developer nor an advertiser.

However, after taking some time to consult his team, Zuckerberg clarified:  “[From] what my understanding was … they were not on the platform, [they] were not an app developer or advertiser. When I went back and met with my team afterwards, they let me know that Cambridge Analytica actually did start as an advertiser later in 2015. So we could have in theory banned them then. We made a mistake by not doing so. But I just wanted to make sure that I updated that because I … I … I misspoke, or got that wrong earlier.”

Cambridge Analytica’s data mining of nearly 87 million Facebook users with the help of researcher Aleksandr Kogan and alleged ties to the Donald Trump presidential campaign was an eye-opener – that social media is now plays an important enough role in the lives of people, enough to affect election results and who you’re likely to vote for.

Senator Leahy took a line of questioning that struck close to home for South Asia: “… six months ago, I asked your general counsel about Facebook’s role as a breeding ground for hate speech against Rohingya refugees. Recently, U.N. investigators blamed Facebook for playing a role in inciting possible genocide in Myanmar. And there has been genocide there. You say you use A.I. to find this. This is the type of content I’m referring to. It calls for the death of a Muslim journalist. Now, that threat went straight through your detection systems, it spread very quickly, and then it took attempt after attempt after attempt, and the involvement of civil society groups, to get you to remove it.”

In response, Zuckerberg laid out a plan – “There are three specific things that we’re doing… hiring dozens of Burmese-language content reviewers, because hate speech is very language-specific…working with civil society in Myanmar to identify specific hate figures so we can take down their accounts…standing up a product team to do specific product changes in Myanmar and other countries that may have similar issues in the future to prevent this from happening.”

With the initial hearing ending on a note of regret and taking responsibility on Facebook’s part and Zuckerberg promising more involvement in finding the “right kind of regulation” that could work for what is essentially a social media monopoly, one thing is clear – there is a long way to go for Facebook in developing a mature, effective and trustworthy system that balances profitability with privacy, freedom of expression and accountability, and nearly everything in-between. Considering the role social media has begun to play in our daily lives, it’s vital that tech companies like Facebook get their act together and bridge the gaping chasms that they have unintentionally created.

Facebook rolls out updates to fight “fake news”

After several shocking revelations concerning Facebook sharing data with Cambridge Analytica, the social media giant has started rolling out an update that it tested last year as a means of curbing the tidal wave of “fake news”. Hopefully it will help build a credible base of information shared on Facebook, and reduce the influence of websites producing and distributing fake news.

By tapping on the [about this article, i] button on a news shared on Facebook, details about the website shared from and similar news appears. Scroll down and you will even find the regions where the news is getting shared from the most. It also shows who shared it – one of the crucial points of this new feature.

Initially the update appears to be giving context for the news that users share, but this new feature will help users recognize their Facebook friend’s views even more.

This clarifies how Facebook recognizes your behavioral patterns and builds a specific advertisement stream tailored for you. But this will shed more light on the people in your newsfeed who might be more prone to sharing fake news.

According to developers, the idea came from the “related articles” you can find whenever you interact with a news article on Facebook. In order for this feature to work, however, the authors of these stories have to have author tags implemented on their page.

The update is already available to everyone in the US and it’s expected to roll out worldwide in a few days.