Facebook is facing financial penalties for allowing hackers to hijack as many as 50 MILLION users worldwide.
This is a very big deal so let’s cut to the chase: if you stay logged into Facebook and are, in fact, logged in right now but not using it, go log out immediately.
Facebook’s Vice President of Product Management, Guy Rosen, said of the recent data breach:
“Our investigation is still in its early stages. But it’s clear that attackers exploited a vulnerability in Facebook’s code that impacted ‘View As,’ a feature that lets people see what their own profile looks like to someone else.”
The software intruders exploited access tokens. Every time you check that little box that says “Stay logged in” an access token is generated. The hackers used the tokens to “take over people’s accounts.”
Facebook claims to have fixed the problem and reset access tokens on almost 50 million accounts. Wow. Rosen added:
“We’re also taking the precautionary step of resetting access tokens for another 40 million accounts that have been subject to a ‘View As’ look-up in the last year. As a result, around 90 million people will now have to log back in to Facebook, or any of their apps that use Facebook Login. After they have logged back in, people will get a notification at the top of their News Feed explaining what happened.”
The sheer volume of Facebook’s egregious transgressions is beefy enough that the thorough folks over at Fortune made a list – so we don’t have to.
- Retaining users’ deleted videos
- Russia meddling and “fake news”
- Public profiles being scrapped
- Photo and link scans over Messenger
But perhaps the worst – and certainly ironic – Facebook scandal is spreading hate speech in Myanmar. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has gone on at great length about how his company’s “community standards” are designed to provide a safe place in cyberspace absent of all hate speech. Violators go to Facebook jail.
Community standards are upheld by computer programs called algorithms which are supposed to detect text and images that promote hate and/or violence. These scans flag questionable content that is out of line with Facebook’s professed ethical and moral rules.
“Facebook designed these automated tools so we can rapidly stop abusive behavior on our platform,” a corporate spokeswoman told Bloomberg.
On April 2, 2018, Zuckerberg boasted to Vox interviewer Ezra Klein that Facebook had reduced the spread of anti-Rohingya propaganda over Messenger. He said, “our systems detect that that’s going on. We stop those messages from going through.”
On April 5, 2018, representatives from civil society organizations in Myanmar (formerly Burma) wrote a letter to protest Zuckerberg’s taking credit for quelling social media antagonism in their country. They wrote that Facebook Messenger has, over the past four years, allowed messages through the No Hate Speech filters – messages that were used “to incite real harm.”
The messages in question targeted the 700,000 Rohingya Muslims being driven out of the country’s leader, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, who is accused of practicing ethnic cleansing by using rape, arson, and murder to remove the Rohingya Muslims from the Myanmar population.
Facebook’s inability to practice what they preach has poured media gasoline on the political fire in Myanmar. The authors of the letter included two messages which, according to them:
“spread in an unprecedented way, reaching country-wide and causing widespread fear and at least three violent incidents in the process. The fact that there was no bloodshed is a testament to our community’s resilience and to the wonderful work of peacebuilding and interfaith organizations. This resilience, however, is eroding daily as our community continues to be exposed to virulent hate speech and vicious rumors, which Facebook is still not adequately addressing.”
The first message mentioned the Kalar which is both a city in Iraq and the Burmese word for people of south Indian origin. The inflammatory, rabble-rousing Messenger message translated as:
“Be warned and stay alert every time you go and eat. The Kalar are planning to launch a Jihad on Monday 11 Sept. Warn your friends. The order to get ready with guns has already been issued in the army. Please forward this message in the chat box. Friends, brothers and sisters, lets [sic] unite.”
The second message was equally provocative:
“Dear Islam brother, be warned and stay alert every time you go and eat. On 11 Sept in Yangon, MaBaTha and extremist nationalists will collaborate and they will launch an anti kalar movement. Please forward this message to our brothers.”
The Myanmar group accused Zuckerberg’s team with a lack of transparency and no acknowledgment whatsoever that they had reported a problem existed:
“Seven months after the case mentioned, we have yet to hear from Facebook on the details of what happened and what measures your team has taken to better respond to such cases in the future…The risk of Facebook content sparking open violence is arguably nowhere higher right now than in Myanmar.”
Closer to home, the European Union has already threatened to impose a $1.63 BILLION fine for Facebook’s inability to provide basic user security.
It comes as no surprise that Facebook stock (ticker FB) continues its downward trend. The bigger they come, the harder they fall.