Gather a mob and Facebook will now let you make political demands. Tomorrow Facebook will encounter a slew of fresh complexities with the launch of Community Actions, its News Feed petition feature. Community Actions could unite neighbors to request change from their local and national elected officials and government agencies. But it could also provide vocal interest groups a bully pulpit from which to pressure politicians and bureaucrats with their fringe agendas.
Community Actions embodies the central challenge facing Facebook. Every tool it designs for positive expression and connectivity can be subverted for polarization and misinformation. Facebook’s membership has swelled into such a ripe target for exploitation that it draws out the worst of humanity. You can imagine misuses like “Crack down on [minority group]” that are offensive or even dangerous but some see as legitimate. The question is whether Facebook puts in the forethought and aftercare to safeguard its new tools with proper policy and moderation. Otherwise each new feature is another liability.
Community Actions start to roll out to the US tomorrow after several weeks of testing in a couple of markets. Users can add a title, description, and image to their Community Action, and tag relevant government agencies and officials who’ll be notified. The goal is to make the Community Action go viral and get people to hit the “Support” button. Community Actions have their own discussion feed where people can leave comments, create fundraisers, and organize Facebook Events or Call Your Rep campaigns. Facebook displays the numbers of supporters behind a Community Action, but you’ll only be able to see the names of those you’re friends with or that are Pages or public figures.
Facebook is purposefully trying to focus Community Actions to be more narrowly concentrated on spurring government action than just any random cause. That means it won’t immediately replace Change.org petitions that can range from the civilian to the absurd. But one-click Support straight from the News Feed could massively reduce the friction to signing up, and thereby attract organizations and individuals seeking to maximize the size of their mob.
You can check out some examples here of Community Actions here like a non-profit Colorado Rising calling for the governor to put a moratorium on oil and gas drilling, citizens asking the a Florida’s mayor and state officials to build a performing arts center, and a Philadelphia neighborhood association requesting that the city put in crosswalks by the library. I fully expect one of the first big Community Actions will be the social network’s users asking Senators to shut down Facebook or depose Mark Zuckerberg.
The launch follows other civic-minded Facebook features like its Town Hall and Candidate Info for assessing politicians, Community Help for finding assistance after a disaster, and local news digest Today In. A Facebook spokesperson who gave us the first look at Community Actions provided this statement:
“Building informed and civically engaged communities is at the core of Facebook’s mission. Every day, people come together on Facebook to advocate for causes they care about, including by contacting their elected officials, launching a fundraiser, or starting a group. Through these and other tools, we have seen people marshal support for and get results on issues that matter to them. Community Action is another way for people to advocate for changes in their communities and partner with elected officials and government agencies on solutions.”
The question will be where Facebook’s moderators draw the line on what’s appropriate as a Community Action, and the ensuing calls of bias that line will trigger. Facebook is employing a combination of user flagging, proactive algorithmic detection, and human enforcers to manage the feature. But what the left might call harassment, the right might call free expression. If Facebook allows controversial Community Actions to persist, it could be viewed as complicit with their campaigns, but could be criticized for censorship if it takes one down. Like fake news and trending topics, the feature could become the social network’s latest can of worms.
Facebook is trying to prioritize local Actions where community members have a real stake. It lets user display “constituent” badges so their elected officials know they aren’t just a distant rabble-rouser. It’s why Facebook will not allow President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence to be tagged in Community Actions. But you’re free to tag all your state representatives demanding nude parks, apparently.
Another issue is how people can stand up against a Community Action. Only those who Support one may join in its discussion feed. That might lead trolls to falsely pledge their backing just to stir up trouble in the comments. Otherwise, Facebook tells me users will have to share a Community Action to their own feed with a message of disapproval, or launch their own in protest. My concern is that an agitated but niche group could drive a sense of false equivocacy by using Facebook Groups or message threads to make it look like there’s as much or more support for a vulgar cause or against of a just one. A politician could be backed into a corner and forced to acknowledge radicals or bad-faith actors lest they look negligent
While Facebook’s spokesperson says initial tests didn’t surface many troubles, the company is trying to balance safety with efficiency and it will consider how to evolve the feature in response to emergent behaviors. The trouble is that open access draws out the trolls and grifters seeking to fragment society. Facebook will have to assume the thorny responsibility of shepherding the product towards righteousness and defining what that even means. If it succeeds, there’s an amazing opportunity here for citizens to band together to exert consensus upon government. A chorus of voices carries much further than a single cry.
Orbital Marine Power O2 begins grid-connected power generation
Orbital Marine Power has announced that the world’s most powerful tidal turbine has begun grid-connected power generation at the European Marine Energy Center. O2 is a floating turbine anchored off the Fall of Warness and connected via a subsea cable to the local onshore electricity network. O2 is a 2MW offshore power generation unit.
The power generation device was manufactured and launched in Dundee earlier in 2021 before being towed to Orkney. The device being deployed is the culmination of more than 15 years of development in the UK. The turbine is 74 meters long and is expected to operate in offshore waters for the next 15 years.
Its 2MW of energy production can meet the annual electricity demand for around 2000 UK homes. The power it generates is clean and predictable, thanks to the fast-flowing waters where it is anchored. Public lenders enabled O2’s construction via an ethical investment platform called Abundance Investment. The Scottish government also supported it via the Saltire Tidal Energy Challenge Fund.
With its first power generating unit in place, Orbital is now looking to commercialize this technology via the deployment of multi-MW arrays. The company says UK suppliers delivered about 80 percent of the turbine, and its operation will bring long-term employment to coastal communities. Orbital also says that commercialization costs are expected to decrease significantly compared to the roll-out of the technology, which it says was previously demonstrated with both wind and solar energy.
O2 is designed with twin 1MW power generating nacelles at the end of a retractable leg structure that is designed for low-cost access to all major components for servicing throughout its lifetime. The turbine uses 10-meter blades to give more than 600 square meters of swept area to capture flowing tidal energy. Not only does the device produce enough electricity for about 2000 UK homes, it will offset about 2200 tonnes of carbon dioxide production yearly.
B&O Beoplay EQ wireless earphones feature Adaptive Active Noise Cancellation
Bang & Olufsen has unveiled a new set of wireless earphones that feature something it calls Adaptive Active Noise Cancellation. The noise cancellation feature eliminates surrounding noise and improves immersion with the music the wearer is listening to. The true wireless earphones are called the Beoplay EQ and also support wireless phone calls.
Bang & Olufsen‘s Adaptive Active Noise cancellation combines active noise cancellation with passive cancellation to block external noise. The earphones have a dedicated ANC DSP chip and six microphones to automatically adjust noise cancellation levels to create a more seamless listening experience. The six integrated microphones are also used for directional beamforming technology, providing clearer calls and speech quality.
While the earphones are smaller in-ear style compared to other offerings that Bang & Olufsen sells, they still offer long listening times. Beoplay EQ promises a powerful and authentic listening experience with up to 20 hours of total playtime per charge. The total playtime is expanded to 20 hours thanks to the aluminum charging case that provides an additional 6.5 hours of playtime with active noise cancellation turn on.
Integrated fast charging allows the Beoplay EQ to be charged for 20 minutes to provide two hours of playtime. Two colors are available, including Black Anthracite and Sand Gold Tone. Beoplay EQ was designed to be small, comfortable to wear, and offer a secure fit thanks to an ergonomic shape. They are sweat and water-resistant and ship with interchangeable air tips in different sizes for a custom fit.
Beoplay EQ earphones utilize aptX adaptive, Bluetooth 5.0, and are IP54 rated. In addition, the earphones support any Bluetooth device, have Microsoft Swift Pair technology, and are Made for iPhone. Beoplay EQ will be available to purchase on August 19 for $399.
OnePlus 7 and 7T Widevine DRM fix comes with a caveat
There has been a lot of griping about the quality and pace of OnePlus’ recent software updates, especially when OxygenOS 11 brought about major UI changes and, with it, some nasty bugs. OnePlus 7 and 7T owners, however, seem to have had it worse and have experienced the worst that the release has to offer. After two months since the issue appeared, OnePlus is finally rolling out the fix to a bug that locked users into watching SD quality streaming videos, but many users still aren’t satisfied with how the update is being handled.
Last May, owners of OnePlus 7/7 Pro and 7T/7T Pro phones reported losing access to the ability to watch HD videos on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and other streaming services. It was traced down to a still-unexplained bug from an OxygenOS 11 update that dropped the phone from Widevine DRM L1, which is required for HD or higher-res streaming, to L3, which only allows for SD content. Unsurprisingly, affected owners were none too happy, especially without an immediate solution.
Two months later, that solution finally comes with the OxygenOS 184.108.40.206 update for the OnePlus 7 and the OnePlus 7T. Unfortunately, it seems that not everyone who has installed the update is actually seeing any change on that front. Some have reported the need to clear the cache of affected apps like Netflix, which potentially means messing up some of the stored data in those apps.
Owners of these phones aren’t just complaining about the questionable quality of the fix. Some have pointed out how the latest update brings Android’s June security patches near the end of July, a week before Google releases the next round of security fixes for August.
It’s all too easy to see these complaints as just whining, but OnePlus 7 and 7T users have really had it bad. In addition to what is considered to be a very buggy OxygenOS 11 rollout, those owners feel let down by the unexplained removal of an always-on display feature that was present in previous betas. OnePlus has remained silent on that matter, but that didn’t stop the company from asking those users about how much they enjoy that non-existent AOD feature.
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