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Recode Daily: Facebook’s secret groups problem

Plus: The parent company of Bumble, a dating app that markets itself as the empowered-women alternative to Tinder, has an ironic misogyny problem. 


The secret Border Patrol groups scandal reveals another one of Facebook’s blind spots. The revelations of secret Facebook groups used by Customs and Border Patrol agents to share sexist memes about Congress members and jokes about migrant deaths have caused a political uproar. The existence of the groups also highlights one of Facebook’s big weaknesses when it comes to policing violative content on its platform: relying on users to flag policy-violating content. When hate speech is spreading in a private group, that self-selecting audience is less likely to report bad content. These private groups and messaging “pose specific problems to Facebook’s two-pronged automatic and human-driven moderation approach,” Emily Stewart writes, which will only worsen as Facebook embraces private messaging as its future.

Background: After ProPublica’s first report of a Customs and Border Patrol Facebook group sharing racist and sexist content, CNN found a second similar group.

What we know now: Border Patrol leadership may have known about these groups for years.
[Emily Stewart / Recode]

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Today’s Facebook double header:

Facebook built internal tools to manage its damaged reputation when it should’ve been managing bigger issues. A Bloomberg report found that starting in 2016, Facebook developed and deployed two internal tools, dubbed Stormchaser and Night’s Watch, to track and combat misinformation about the company and its CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The tools also measured shifting public sentiment toward Facebook and its leaders.

Why it’s a big deal: Facebook was devoting its resources to managing its own reputation at a time when fake news and political manipulation were propagating on its platform.

What happens now: Facebook told Bloomberg it’s stopped using its Stormchaser tool, but the technology still exists.
[Mark Bergen and Kurt Wagner / Bloomberg]

The parent company of Bumble, a dating app that markets itself as the empowered-women alternative to Tinder, has an ironic misogyny problem. Bumble founder Whitney Wolfe Herd’s founding partner, Andrey Andreev, the owner of Badoo (a European- and Latin American-focused dating app) is right at the center of the accusations. Sources told Forbes that as Badoo grew, it developed a reputation for wild parties and office behavior that was hostile and discriminatory toward women. Forbes reports that at one point the company’s chief marketing officer said she was asked to give a job candidate a massage and that “female employees were routinely discussed in terms of their appearance.”

Why it matters: Forbes’ report on accusations of Badoo’s toxic work culture repeats a trend that’s played out in tech too many times. Companies and their leadership betray their values and allow discriminatory environments to flourish in favor of rapid growth.
[Angel Au-Yeung / Forbes]

And now, for your semi-regular surveillance update: FBI and ICE agents are scanning millions of Americans’ faces without their knowledge or consent, according to records shared with the Washington Post. The Post reports that these agencies have turned state driver’s license databases into a facial-recognition free-for-all.

The big deal: Law enforcement officials accessing biometric data taken from criminal suspects is nothing new, but scanning the faces of millions of Americans who haven’t been accused of a crime is unprecedented.

What happens now? Congress never authorized this kind of system, and the Post reports that “Democratic and Republican lawmakers are criticizing the technology as a dangerous, pervasive and error-prone surveillance tool.”
[Drew Harwell / The Washington Post]

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