Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg briefly found his Twitter account hijacked, as were at least two of his other social media accounts.
Zuckerberg’s Facebook account and password were not compromised, the company said in a statement; his account on Facebook-owned Instagram was also unaffected. Facebook Inc. said Monday morning that none of the company’s systems or accounts were accessed and that Zuckerberg’s affected accounts have since been re-secured.
A person close to the situation confirmed that Zuckerberg’s LinkedIn and Pinterest accounts also were affected. Officials for both of those social media networks didn’t immediate respond to requests for comment.
Screenshots preserved by the technology website Engadget showed someone with access to his largely dormant Twitter account using it to say Zuckerberg was “in the LinkedIn database” and inviting the social media mogul to get in touch. LinkedIn declined to comment.
It’s not yet clear how the hack happened, although a spate of massive data breaches at companies — along with recent news that a 2012 breach at LinkedIn Corp. was much bigger that previously disclosed — has recently given hackers a wealth of password data to work with. Several high profile Twitter users have also had their accounts hijacked in recent weeks.
Zuckerberg’s name is synonymous with Facebook, but the billionaire has several accounts on rival social networks, including one registered with Google Inc. None appear very active.
Tue, 05/31/2016 – 1:49pm9 Commentsby The Associated Press
Anastasia Bubeyeva shows a screenshot on her computer of a picture of a toothpaste tube with the words: “Squeeze Russia out of yourself!” For sharing this picture on a social media site with his 12 friends, her husband was sentenced this month to more than two years in prison.
As the Kremlin claims unequivocal support among Russians for its policies both at home and abroad, a crackdown is underway against ordinary social media users who post things that run against the official narrative. Here the Kremlin’s interests coincide with those of investigators, who are anxious to report high conviction rates for extremism. The Kremlin didn’t immediately comment on the issue.
At least 54 people were sent to prison for hate speech last year, most of them for sharing and posting things online, which is almost five times as many as five years ago, according to the Moscow-based Sova group, which studies human rights, nationalism and xenophobia in Russia. The overall number of convictions for hate speech in Russia increased to 233 last year from 92 in 2010.
A 2002 Russian law defines extremism as activities that aim to undermine the nation’s security or constitutional order, or glorify terrorism or racism, as well as calling for others to do so. The vagueness of the phrasing and the scope of offenses that fall under the extremism clause allow for the prosecution of a wide range of people, from those who set up an extremist cell or display Nazi symbols to anyone who writes something online that could be deemed a danger to the state. In the end, it’s up to the court to decide whether a social media post poses a danger to the nation or not.
In February 2014, when Ukraine was in the middle of a pro-European revolution, President Vladimir Putin signed a bill tightening penalties for non-violent extremist crimes such as hate speech. In July of that year, three months after Russia had annexed the Crimean Peninsula, he signed a bill making calls “to destroy” Russia’s territorial integrity a criminal offense punishable by up to five years in prison. The new amendment makes the denial of Russia’s claims on Crimea an even greater offense if the statement is made in the press or online, even on a private social media account.
Many of the shares that led to the recent rash of convictions were of things critical of Russia’s involvement in Ukraine.
This was true of the articles and images shared by Bubeyeva’s husband, a 40-year-old electrician from Tver, a sleepy provincial capital halfway between Moscow and St. Petersburg.
“Andrei Bubeyev thinks that he was charged as an example so that other ordinary citizens would be discouraged from expressing their opinion,” said his lawyer, Svetlana Sidorkina.
Bubeyev spent a lot of time online, sharing links to various articles on his VKontakte page and engaging in political debates on local news websites, his wife says.
In spring 2015, he left town to work on a rural construction site. After investigators couldn’t get through to him on the phone, they put him on a wanted list as an extremism suspect. When Bubeyev stopped by to visit his wife and young son at their country cottage, a SWAT team stormed in and arrested him.
His wife now lives alone with their 4-year-old son in a sparsely furnished apartment on the ground floor of a drab Soviet-era apartment block. After her husband was arrested, Anastasia Bubeyeva, 23, dropped out of medical school because she couldn’t find affordable day care for her child, who still wears an eye patch for an injury he suffered when he bumped his head during the raid.
Several months after his arrest, Bubeyev pleaded guilty to inciting hatred toward Russians and was sentenced to a year in prison. His offense was sharing articles, photos and videos from Ukrainian nationalist groups, including those of the volunteer Azov battalion fighting Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. Among them was an article about the graves of Russian soldiers killed in Ukraine and a video describing Russia as a “fascist aggressor” and showing Russian tanks purportedly crossing into Ukraine.
Less than two weeks after the verdict, Bubeyev was charged again. This time, he was accused of calling for “acts of extremism” and “actions undermining Russia’s territorial integrity.” He had shared the picture of a toothpaste tube and also an article under the headline “Crimea is Ukraine” by a controversial blogger, who is in jail now, calling for military aggression against Russia.
“He was interested in politics, read the news, shared things, but he did it for himself. It was like collecting newspaper clippings,” his wife said. “His page wasn’t popular — he only had 12 friends. He couldn’t have aimed to coerce anyone into anything.”
The new charges were soon followed by a damning report on local television station Tverskoi Prospekt. The program showed an anonymous blogger complaining about social media users who voiced their support for Ukrainian troops and were “ready to back a coup in Russia and take up arms and kill people as the Nazis did.” The television report claimed that the blogger’s complaint had prompted the prosecution of the electrician.
On May 6, Bubeyev was convicted and sentenced to two years and three months in prison.
Also this month, a court in the Caspian Sea city of Astrakhan sentenced a man to two years in prison for his social media posts urging Ukrainians to fight “Putin’s occupying forces.”
In December, a court in Siberia sentenced a man to five years in prison for “inciting hatred” toward residents of eastern Ukraine in his video posts. In October, a court in southern Russia sent a political activist to prison for two years for an unsanctioned picket and posts on social media criticizing Putin and calling for southern Russia to join Ukraine.
The articles, photos and videos that landed Bubeyev in prison were posted on his page on VKontakte, Russia’s most popular social media network with 270 million accounts.
VKontakte founder Pavel Durov sold the site and fled Russia in 2014, claiming that he had come under pressure from the security services for VKontakte to disclose personal data of the users of a group linked to a protest movement in Ukraine. The company is now controlled by the media holding of Kremlin-friendly billionaire Alisher Usmanov.
Alexander Verkhovsky, director of the Sova group, says roughly half of the convictions of hate speech online are about posts on VKontakte, which he said might be because its administration might be easier for the Russian police to deal with than that of foreign-owned social media.
Bubeyev’s defense claimed that the privacy settlings on his account made the articles he shared available only to him and his 12 friends. Sidorkina, his lawyer, said she has no explanation for how the security services found his posts unless they received the credentials to his account from VKontakte.
VKontakte declined to comment when contacted by The Associated Press.
Russia faced a surge of racially motivated attacks against Central Asian migrant workers in the 2000s, but the crime rates dropped drastically after dozens of neo-Nazis got lengthy prison sentences for extremism.
Rights activists and lawyers who have worked on extremism cases say the drop in violent hate crimes sent police and investigators scrambling to prosecute people for non-violent offenses to show a solid record of tackling extremism.
The Moscow-based Center for Economic and Political Reform said in a 23-page report on extremism law released this month that most convictions for this type of crime resulted in fines or a few days in custody, with the aim of boosting the crime statistics.
But as tensions with neighboring Ukraine heated up, courts across Russia began to hand out more and more prison sentences for hate speech, the report said.
Many of the hate speech convictions do deal with dubious content, but the severity of the punishment doesn’t seem to correspond to the level of public danger posed, said Verkhovsky of Sova.
“These cases are very arbitrary because there are lots more people out there who have done the same thing. Such enforcement of the law does not address or combat radical activities,” he said. “No one knows where the red line is: It’s like roulette.”
Facebook’s “like” button isn’t going away, but it’s about to get some company.
Facebook has now officially added a select group of emoticons to allow users to react to posts – without having to use anything as old fashioned as, you know, actual words.
The social network rolled out “Reactions” – an extension of the “Like” button – worldwide on Wednesday, allowing people to display quick reactions such as sadness, anger and love.
In a video accompanying a blog post, the five new buttons appear as animated emoticons that pop up when the “Like” button is held down on mobile devices. The buttons appear on desktops when users hover over the “Like” button.
The new emoji-like stickers Facebook users can press in addition to the ‘like’ button. Photo: Mary Altaffer
Facebook launched a pilot of “Reactions” – which allowed users to select from seven emotions including “Angry”, “Sad”, “Wow” and “Like” – in Ireland and Spain in October.
The “Yay” emoticon, which was present in the pilot launch, was not seen in Wednesday’s video.
The company will also use “Reactions” to track user behaviour and for ad delivery.
“We will initially use any Reaction similar to a Like to infer that you want to see more of that type of content,” Facebook said in separate blog post.
Facebook said that over time it hoped to learn how different “Reactions” should be weighted differently by the Facebook News Feed to customise it for individual users. Facebook said “Reactions” would have the same impact on ad delivery as “Likes”.
The feature received mixed reviews from users on social networking sites.
Many complained that they could not see the new emoticons, while some were unhappy that Facebook did not launch a “dislike” button. Others expressed concern that the feature would lead to diminished use of language and less interaction.
“Great, now you don’t even have to offer actual words, just a freaking emoji. What’s the point in learning a language at all then?,” Candice Johnson wrote on the social network.
While Newsdesk is aimed primarily for mass-scale events, it can be also used for always-on marketing and even crisis management.
Hopwood says while it’s “early days” the tool has already proved popular with brands including Garnier, by tapping into marketer demand for real-time communications.
For the Australia Day campaign, a team of 12, including four community managers, two content producers, four creatives and two strategists, used a suite of tools to identify relevant conversations and respond at scale in real time.
In addition, content from the campaign engaged more than 110,000 people across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and engaged conversations with influencers including the President of India Pranab Mukherjee and singer Recce Mastin.
“The benefit is being able to respond to people and give a better customer experience on the day,” Hopwood says.
“When we’re talking about customers for Australia Day we’re talking about citizens. Australia Day is a celebration of our nation, the government invests a lot in making sure we get the most out of our day and we’re adding in a layer of customer service.”
Whimsy and flamboyance is all well and good, but your choice of email address has the potential to hurt you professionally
My little sister used to have a ridiculous email address. I won’t tell you it exactly – I don’t want to flood her inbox – but it was something similar to “email@example.com”. I asked her about it a few times, and she said it was an inside joke between her and her friends.
I see these kinds of email addresses all the time with my students. (Put your hand up if you have one too…)
Whimsy and flamboyance is all well and good, but your choice of email address has the potential to hurt you professionally. If you choose not to be serious, well – it shouldn’t be any surprise if people don’t take you seriously.
What I’m talking about is looking a little more professional for things like applying for a job. It’s fine if your friends know you as “firstname.lastname@example.org”, but do you really want that as your first impression? It’s a bit like wearing thongs to a wedding.
Take some extra time to make a new email address today for all your formal, professional correspondence. A good bet is your firstname.middleinitial.lastname. If you have a common name, you might have to get creative, but again, don’t go overboard. Try different combinations of periods and underscores. For example Jon Smith could try:
A little creativity and a touch of perseverance and you’ll find one that’s available.
Use Gmail or Yahoo mail or Microsoft’s Outlook.com. Avoid more exotic (and less professional looking) providers.
If you’re more technically minded, you might even consider getting your own domain. A domain (web address) is fairly cheap. If you shop around, a .com would cost you under $15 a year.
However, a .com.au has a few restrictions on it, most notably you need an ABN. An alternative would be an id.au. These domains are intended to be used by Australian individuals. Again, you should be able to get one for around $15 a year. I think “email@example.com” looks much more professional that “firstname.lastname@example.org”.
Search for “gmail for your own domain” if you want to hook up your own custom email address to Gmail. It’s not too hard and you won’t have to pay extra for cloud storage of all those new emails you’ll be receiving.
My sister eventually gave up her fishy email address. It served her into university, but she was embarrassed filling out job applications after graduating. She found out that nobody would take “these_fish_have_bowties” seriously.
None of the addresses used in this article are the email addresses of real people.
Pakistani troops stand guard after the murder of Punjab’s governor Salman Taseer, who criticised the country’s blasphemy laws. Photo: AP
LAHORE, Pakistan: Late one night, the imam Shabir Ahmad looked up from prayers at his mosque to see a 15-year-old boy approaching with a plate in his outstretched left hand. On it was the boy’s freshly severed right hand.
Ahmad did not hesitate. He fled the mosque and left the village, in eastern Punjab province.
Earlier that night, January 10, he had denounced the boy as a blasphemer, an accusation that in Pakistan can get a person killed – even when the accusation is false, as it was in this case.
The boy, Anwar Ali, the devout son of a poor labourer, had been attending an evening prayer gathering at the mosque in the village of Khanqah when Ahmad asked for a show of hands of those who did not love the Prophet Muhammad. Thinking the cleric had asked for those who did love the prophet, Anwar’s hand shot up, according to witnesses and the boy’s family.
He realised his mistake when he saw that his was the only hand up, and he quickly put it down. But by then Ahmad was screaming “Blasphemer!” at him, along with many others in the crowd. “Don’t you love your prophet?” they called, as the boy fled in disgrace.
Anwar went home, found a sharp scythe and chopped off his right hand that same night. When he showed it to the cleric, he made clear it was an offering to absolve his perceived sin.
The police quickly caught the mullah and locked him up, but local religious leaders protested, and the authorities backed down and released him. After the international news media began picking up on the story over the weekend, the authorities rearrested Ahmad on Sunday, holding him on terrorism and other charges.
“There is no physical evidence against the cleric of involvement, but he has been charged for inciting and arousing the emotions of people to such a level that the boy did this act,” the district police chief, Faisal Rana, said.
The boy’s family, however, argues that the cleric did nothing wrong and should not be punished.
“We are lucky that we have this son who loves Prophet Muhammad that much,” Muhammad Ghafoor, Anwar’s father, said in a telephone interview. “We will be rewarded by God for this in the eternal world.”
Anwar, too, declined to make any charge against the mullah. “What I did was for love of the Prophet Muhammad,” he said.
Blasphemy is a toxic subject in Pakistan, where a confusing body of laws has enshrined it as a potentially capital offence but also makes it nearly impossible for the accused to defend themselves in court. Even publicly repeating details of the accusation is tantamount to blasphemy in its own right.
Such cases almost never make it to court, however. The merest accusation that blasphemy has occurred has the power to arouse lynching or mob violence.
The governor of Punjab, Salman Taseer, was assassinated by his own bodyguard in 2011, after Taseer criticised the country’s blasphemy laws and defended a Christian woman who had been falsely accused under them. The assassin is a national hero to many devout Pakistanis: His jail cell has become a pilgrimage site, and a mosque was renamed to honour him.
On Monday, Pakistan lifted a three-year-old ban on YouTube, which it had shut down because of accusations of airing anti-Islamic videos. The government announced that Google, which owns YouTube, had agreed to give it the right to block objectionable content. The Pakistani government blocks thousands of web pages it considers offensive.
“We have become a society so intoxicated by negative things in the name of religion that parents feel proud of sending their children to jihad and to die in the name of such activities,” said I.A. Rehman, secretary-general of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. “The government needs to do more to educate people and to speak out against extremism.”
Anwar Ali did not even go to a hospital after his amputation, but had his right arm’s stump bandaged at a village clinic and went home. Family members buried his hand in the village graveyard.
The new Peach social network app lets friends share anything from doodles to animated GIFs to micro-blogs. Photo: Peach
Peach! It’s a new emoji-themed social network for iPhone that has probably already ridden its headline-driven hype wave to the ground. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting.
For real, I’m not even going to entertain the idea that Peach has a chance of taking off. It’s not particularly intuitive, it doesn’t offer a killer new feature that is easily explained, and social networks aren’t where the world is heading — messaging apps are. That’s why it was never actually downloaded by that many of us.
If a serious amount of people — more than say, Ello — are using it in six months, I will eat a newspaper.
Yet, even without users, Peach is worth looking at seriously. Indeed, I hope some of the people at Facebook Messenger — an app that does have serious numbers — are watching closely.
Some of the “magic words” you can use to post in Peach.
Why? “Magic words”. Let me explain
Peach’s only real innovation is the use of certain trigger words which add content or context to your update. You type “song” and it listens to hear what music you’re listening to, then posts that. You type “weather” and it pulls in the weather with a nice little emoji. You type “battery” and it posts your battery percentage (again with an emoji). You type “draw” and it brings up a pad for you to draw on. You get it.
These magic words make use of all the ambient information your iPhone is already collecting on you — if you type “move” it will show how many kilometres or steps you have walked that day. The process of discovering what all the things you can type do is a lot of fun.
These kind of typed triggers are in no way new. As Brian Feldman writes in New York magazine, they actually harken back to the command line interfaces of old, which many programmers still swear by for productivity.
“The text field is key. It’s partly the solution to a problem that has long plagued mobile developers: Less screen real estate means less space to present interaction options to the users. But it’s also that, for the first time, engineers and developers are creating products for a population that’s truly digital native — for whom typing comes naturally and for whom digital actions don’t need to be metaphorised,” Feldman writes.
Essentially, we don’t need to be coddled by a world of icons and metaphors like we used to be. Typing out what we want is intuitive. It’s already how a lot of us get around our Macs (command-space-type-what-you-want), and has proven immensely popular on business-messaging platform Slack, where there are apps that let you order food by typing a number.
Facebook have been trying to make Messenger a “platform” for a long while, following the example of Chinese messaging giant WeChat. They’ve built in gifs, location sharing, and even Uber ordering. Yet these options are mostly hidden behind an ever increasing array of tiny tappable buttons — they’re not quite intuitive yet.
There’s a lot of ambient information your phone is already collecting.
You could type “location” to show someone where you are, “battery” to convey the urgency of a situation, and “weather” to make them jealous.
Contextual data is already used for “filters” on Snapchat. Why not add it in as typeable on Messenger?
Bots have been taking over our interactions for a long while now, just as people have been predicting for years. Where they got it wrong is how we interact with them — using your voice is fun, but slow.
Typing is exact, quick, and takes far less power to process than voice. It makes sense to take advantage of that.
Rick Giner, a senior developer in the IT industry. Photo: Meredith O’Shea
Rick Giner’s expertise lies behind the scenes, but as far as the job market is concerned, he may as well be a rock star.
The 33-year-old front-end web specialist receives an average of five or 10 job offers every week, and has worked at four different organisations in the last five years.
This is despite having no formal training – as a teenager he mucked around on computers at home, and got his first job at 18, fresh out of high school. He learnt the rest on the job.
“For a long while it [front-end development] was kind of seen as the little brother of programming and development … really just like colouring in pictures,” Giner says.
Just six years ago, The Guardian described his profession – simply speaking, making apps and websites look great and work seamlessly for the user – as a “relatively obscure internet discipline“.
But in the last few years, with the explosion of smartphones and mobile apps, and the need for websites to adapt to any device, his skills have become increasingly sought after.
Giner is emblematic of a new breed of IT workers born out of Australia’s IT skills shortage and the rapid pace of technological change.
They are highly mobile, highly sought after, and tend to “upskill” off their own bat. The ball is most definitely in their court.
Richard Fischer, managing director at specialist IT recruitment firm Greythorn, says the Australian technology workforce of today is transient and lacks loyalty.
A recent Greythorn survey showed 90 per cent of IT workers were either actively looking to change jobs or “keeping an eye on the market”. Sixty-one per cent were actively looking to change jobs in the next 12 months.
“The hottest area, of course, is digital, including design people as well as technical people,” Fischer said.
App developers and people with skills in mobility, analytics, cloud and security, as well as experienced project managers and business analysts, were also in high demand, he said.
Contract work has always played a big role in IT thanks to organisations needing to boost their staff for short-term projects. But it’s on the rise.
Fischer said contract and temporary positions now make up about 90 per cent of IT jobs (across recruitment firms, not just at Greythorn), up from around 60 to 70 per cent prior to the global financial crisis.
Most of the time, this is mutually beneficial for employer and employee. Organisations can get a project sorted with minimal overheads, while in-demand talent have the opportunity to build their CV with each new position, and have little to fear when it comes to finding the next job.
But a workforce conditioned towards mobility is not good news all of the time.
“Job-hopping” – where a worker leaves before a contract is up, or quits a permanent position – can have its downsides for both staff and firms.
Some employers will overlook talent that has had too many different jobs, opting instead for someone they consider more loyal.
Luke Singleton, of from ICT recruitment firm Spark, says for the employer an inconsistent project team can also result in missed project deadlines; financial losses incurred by replacement costs; lost productivity; lower team morale and that modern workplace bugbear, stress.
Consultancies, government and other large, complex organisations such as banks, are more likely to want to hang onto intellectual property and retain staff.
So how does an organisation catch and keep a rock-star tech professional with 100 other job offers in the pipeline? The answers may be surprising.
Fischer says if an organisation wants to retain talent like Giner, it needs to be thinking in the same 12-month time frame and be able to communicate opportunities for professional development. Investing in staff training can also pay off in a big way.
“If employers working on a digital development project are only talking to their team about ‘deliverables’, it’s not enough,” he says.
Singleton says career growth opportunities, flexible working conditions, employer-paid training, and having an employer with a strong leadership team are all attractive to top talent.
“Gone are the days when salary was the main reason why candidates would change roles,” he says.
That certainly rings true for Giner, who says work-life balance and the opportunity to work on fulfilling projects are both priorities when deciding on the next conquest.
In his spare time, he’s heavily involved in Melbourne’s local developer community, organising programmer gatherings and even launching an “emerging technologies” festival called Buzzconf, to be held in Ballan in rural Victoria next month.
For him, it’s never been about the money.
“People want to do more than just program,” he says. “It used to be enough 15 years ago to sit and code in the dark and be antisocial, but that’s not really the case any more. We want to bring real benefits to the places we work in.”
But imparting skills and helping a place to grow and change often takes only a short period; and then, he says, it’s time to move on.
New York women are the least trustworthy on social media, though the girls from Sex and the City may be a special category.
A study of deceitful behaviour on the internet made the surprising finding that women lie almost twice as much as men in social media posts.
The reason women lie is less surprising, if you believe in gender stereotypes: women tell porkies to make other people look good. Men do it to make themselves look good.
The Works Sydney advertising agency working with Dr Suresh Sood, a brand data scientist at the UTS Business School, sought to go deeper than the widely known truth: that without the sweaty palms and facial tics to give them away, everyone lies on the internet, whether about their age, their marital status, their resume or just the all-out envy-making marvellousness of their lives.
Men lie the most on Facebook, mainly to make themselves look better.The researchers analysed hundreds of thousands of public posts on Facebook, Twitter, TripAdvisor and Instagram. They used a “deceit algorithm” which scores posts for truthfulness based on tell-tale words and emoticons.
AdvertisementFor example, people are less likely to lie if they use pronouns like “I”, “me” or “we” because “we subconsciously distance ourselves from what we know to be a lie.” On the other hand an emoticon with a winking face or dark glasses might be a mark against credibility.
They then compared the results according to gender, location and nationality. They found that 64 per cent of lies come from women compared with 36 per cent for men. Sydney men are the most deceitful on Facebook while Australian women punch above their weight in posting deceitful reviews on TripAdvisor, “in the quest to maybe get free upgrades or gifts”.
A give-away? The winking face emoticon
A give-away? The winking face emoticon
Women lie the most on Twitter, followed by Facebook and Instagram, while men lie most on Facebook. By city, in Australia the biggest deceivers on Twitter are
On social media globally, the least truthful are
1. New York women
2. Perth women
3. Manchester women
4. Cardiff women
5. Edinburgh Women
6. Brisbane men
6. Adelaide women
6. Los Angeles women
9. Melbourne women
10. Los Angeles men
The research drew a distinction between white lies or “embellishment”, and “true” lies, meaning straight out deceit.
It concluded people tell white lies to gain the approval of their social network, to manage their personal brand, to make a good story an amazing story, and to have their ego stroked publicly. They told out and out lies to get free stuff or privileges from brands, to gain social power, to elevate their importance and to protect themselves. But some people were deceiving themselves, too and were unaware that they were lying, the researchers said.
Dr Sood said the deceit was part of “natural human behaviour”. He said people often put themselves into a “hero” narrative. This demanded that they battled the odds and overcame adversity, even if they were just going to the shops. For example, they might exaggerate their difficulties in opening the packaging of a particular brand, because “they have to make a hero story even bigger than it really was”.
The Works agency said the research was meant to help marketers get over their fear of social media. They said the deceit algorithm was not foolproof in identifying untruth, but claimed it performed “much better” than the average human who can only spot 54 per cent of deceitful content.
A 2009 promotional poll by Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment of 2000 Britons found men told twice as many lies as women (six a day compared with three). The most common lie told by both sexes was “Nothing’s wrong, I’m fine”.
Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, thinks telepathy could be the future of his company
Internet satellites, virtual reality, even real working AI: It all pales in comparison to the future that Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg has in mind. In a Q&A session with site users on Tuesday, the 31-year-old said he envisions a world where people — presumably Facebook users — don’t need these types of communication intermediaries. Instead, they’ll communicate brain-to-brain, using telepathy.
“One day, I believe we’ll be able to send full rich thoughts to each other directly using technology,” Zuckerberg wrote in response to a question about what’s next for Facebook. “You’ll just be able to think of something and your friends will immediately be able to experience it too.”
But hold up: Is that even possible? And is that something anyone actually wants? TL;DR: Theoretically, yes; and, er — maybe not.
How to read a mind
To understand how Zuckerberg’s vision would theoretically work, you have to understand how the brain works, too.
In a nutshell, your nervous system is composed of cells called neurons, which communicate with each other using chemical signals called neurotransmitters. When a neuron receives one of these signals, it generates a tiny electrical spike. And because millions of these signals are required for everything your brain does — clicking your mouse, reading this text, remembering breakfast, you name it — your brain is basically sending off pinpricks of electrical energy all the time.
The cool thing about this, of course, is that scientists can measure and map this electrical activity using existing technologies like EEG and fMRI machines. And once they have enough maps, they can begin to read them – a point that neuroscientists and researchers are just now approaching.
At the University of California at Berkeley, a team of cognitive scientists have managed to reconstruct clips of movies their subjects were watching, based solely on measurements of their brainwaves. “You could not see the close-up details,” wrote the theoretical physicist Michio Kaku after watching one of the “movies,” “(but) you could clearly identify the kind of object you were seeing.”
How to send a thought
This is all well and good and interesting, of course, but the technology Zuckerberg envisions is a two-way street: How could we not only “read” a mind but also get that pattern of electrical signals into someone else’s head?
There are invasive options; i.e. implanting some kind of device in your brain. In 2013, scientists at Duke University implanted two lab rats with microelectrode arrays and taught one of the rats to press one of two levers. Afterwards, the second rat, who had not been trained, also seemed to know which level to push: It had received neural signals from the first rat, via the implant.
Recently, researchers have also had some luck with a noninvasive technique called transcranial magnetic stimulation, or TMS. When you put on a TMS headset it generates a magnetic field over your scalp, which can be used to activate neural pathways. Last fall, test subjects in India were able to use TMS to “think” the words “hola” and “ciao” to test subjects in France; the process was painfully slow, however, and the words weren’t sent in their entirety — they had to be encoded as binary digits, uploaded to the internet, sent, downloaded and then decoded as flashes of light. (WHEW.)
This is, while promising, a really clunky system. It’s unsophisticated (no one has yet “sent” an actual emotion or idea), it’s inexact (the rat still chose the wrong lever sometimes), and it’s slower than virtually every other form of modern communication, save perhaps snail mail. These experiments also required access to some very expensive, sophisticated equipment. Even if you wanted to, you could not try this at home.
“‘Telepathy’ technology remains so crude that it’s unlikely to have any practical impact,” wrote Mark Harris at the MIT Technology Review.
That said, these are only the very earliest days of telepathy research, and new developments are in the works. Among other things, researchers are looking into handheld, phone-sized MRI machines that would make it easier and cheaper to capture your own brain activity. And the US army is developing a telepathy helmet, almost like a VR headset, that would condense and simplify all this electrical signal-sending — although that, experts say, is still decades away.
Where does Facebook fit in?
Is Facebook currently developing any technology in this vein? A spokesperson for the company did not immediately respond to The Washington Post‘s request for comment, though Facebook’s Research division — the arm of the company that studies machine learning, AI and virtual reality — has not published any work on brain-to-brain communication and does not appear to employ any researchers in the field.
But even if Facebook isn’t leading the charge toward telepathy — a worrying concept in itself, given the site’s past indiscretions re: research consent and user privacy — the field poses tons of ethical challenges, if only in theory. How would you control who “spoke” to you? What’s to stop someone from sending you disturbing or abusive thoughts, or otherwise “hacking” your brain? And if these signals are moderated by some third-party technology, like a headset or helmet, will they be recorded somehow and saved, and by whom and for what purpose? Could they be hijacked by advertisers like the ones in “Minority Report,” who tailor interactive billboards to private thoughts?
“John Anderton!” one calls out, “you could use a Guinness right about now!”
There are, as of yet, no answers to these questions: An academic paper on the ethics of brain-to-brain technology, published in 2014, warned that there is neither legislation nor formal academic protocol for this type of research. (The writers predicted that could eventually provoke “public uproar.”)
For now, however, such concern is many breakthroughs and advances away. Zuckerberg himself may be getting up in years by the time we’re communicating telepathically.