Connect with us

Social

Facebook’s Flood of Languages Leave It Struggling to Monitor Content

Published

on

Facebook’s struggles with hate speech and other types of problematic content are being hampered by the company’s inability to keep up with a flood of new languages as mobile phones bring social media to every corner of the globe.

The company offers its 2.3 billion users features such as menus and prompts in 111 different languages, deemed to be officially supported. Reuters has found another 31 widely spoken languages on Facebook that do not have official support.

Detailed rules known as “community standards,” which bar users from posting offensive material including hate speech and celebrations of violence, were translated in only 41 languages out of the 111 supported as of early March, Reuters found.

Facebook’s 15,000-strong content moderation workforce speaks about 50 tongues, though the company said it hires professional translators when needed. Automated tools for identifying hate speech work in about 30.

The language deficit complicates Facebook’s battle to rein in harmful content and the damage it can cause, including to the company itself. Countries including Australia, Singapore and the UK are now threatening harsh new regulations, punishable by steep fines or jail time for executives, if it fails to promptly remove objectionable posts.

The community standards are updated monthly and run to about 9,400 words in English.

Monika Bickert, the Facebook vice president in charge of the standards, has previously told Reuters that they were “a heavy lift to translate into all those different languages.”

A Facebook spokeswoman said this week the rules are translated case by case depending on whether a language has a critical mass of usage and whether Facebook is a primary information source for speakers. The spokeswoman said there was no specific number for critical mass.

She said among priorities for translations are Khmer, the official language in Cambodia, and Sinhala, the dominant language in Sri Lanka, where the government blocked Facebook this week to stem rumors about devastating Easter Sunday bombings.

A Reuters report found last year that hate speech on Facebook that helped foster ethnic cleansing in Myanmar went unchecked in part because the company was slow to add moderation tools and staff for the local language.

Facebook says it now offers the rules in Burmese and has more than 100 speakers of the language among its workforce.

The spokeswoman said Facebook’s efforts to protect people from harmful content had “a level of language investment that surpasses most any technology company.”

But human rights officials say Facebook is in jeopardy of a repeat of the Myanmar problems in other strife-torn nations where its language capabilities have not kept up with the impact of social media.

“These are supposed to be the rules of the road and both customers and regulators should insist social media platforms make the rules known and effectively police them,” said Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch’s Asia Division. “Failure to do so opens the door to serious abuses.”

Abuse in Fijian
Mohammed Saneem, the supervisor of elections in Fiji, said he felt the impact of the language gap during elections in the South Pacific nation in November last year. Racist comments proliferated on Facebook in Fijian, which the social network does not support. Saneem said he dedicated a staffer to emailing posts and translations to a Facebook employee in Singapore to seek removals.

Facebook said it did not request translations, and it gave Reuters a post-election letter from Saneem praising its “timely and effective assistance.”

Saneem told Reuters that he valued the help but had expected pro-active measures from Facebook.

“If they are allowing users to post in their language, there should be guidelines available in the same language,” he said.

Similar issues abound in African nations such as Ethiopia, where deadly ethnic clashes among a population of 107 million have been accompanied by ugly Facebook content. Much of it is in Amharic, a language supported by Facebook. But Amharic users looking up rules get them in English.

At least 652 million people worldwide speak languages supported by Facebook but where rules are not translated, according to data from language encyclopedia Ethnologue. Another 230 million or more speak one of the 31 languages that do not have official support.

Facebook uses automated software as a key defense against prohibited content. Developed using a type of artificial intelligence known as machine learning, these tools identify hate speech in about 30 languages and “terrorist propaganda” in 19, the company said.

Machine learning requires massive volumes of data to train computers, and a scarcity of text in other languages presents a challenge in rapidly growing the tools, Guy Rosen, the Facebook vice president who oversees automated policy enforcement, has told Reuters.

facebook reuters graphics 2 Facebook

Growth regions
Beyond the automation and a few official fact-checkers, Facebook relies on users to report problematic content. That creates a major issue where community standards are not understood or even known to exist.

Ebele Okobi, Facebook’s director of public policy for Africa, told Reuters in March that the continent had the world’s lowest rates of user reporting.

“A lot of people don’t even know that there are community standards,” Okobi said.

Facebook has bought radio advertisements in Nigeria and worked with local organisations to change that, she said. It also has held talks with African education officials to introduce social media etiquette into the curriculum, she said.

Simultaneously, Facebook is partnering with wireless carriers and other groups to expand Internet access in countries including Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo where it has yet to officially support widely-used languages such as Luganda and Kituba. Asked this week about the expansions without language support, Facebook declined to comment.

The company announced in February it would soon have its first 100 sub-Saharan Africa-based content moderators at an outsourcing facility in Nairobi. They will join existing teams in reviewing content in Somali, Oromo and other languages.

But the community standards are not translated into Somali or Oromo. Posts in Somali from last year celebrating the al-Shabaab militant group remained on Facebook for months despite a ban on glorifying organisations or acts that Facebook designates as terrorist.

“Disbelievers and apostates, die with your anger,” read one post seen by Reuters this month that praised the killing of a Sufi cleric.

After Reuters inquired about the post, Facebook said it took down the author’s account because it violated policies.

Ability to derail
Posts in Amharic reviewed by Reuters this month attacked the Oromo and Tigray ethnic populations in vicious terms that clearly violated Facebook’s ban on discussing ethnic groups using “violent or dehumanising speech, statements of inferiority, or calls for exclusion.”

Facebook removed the two posts Reuters inquired about. The company added that it had erred in allowing one of them, from December 2017, to remain online following an earlier user report.

For officials such as Saneem in Fiji, Facebook’s efforts to improve content moderation and language support are painfully slow. Saneem said he warned Facebook months in advance of the election in the archipelago of 900,000 people. Most of them use Facebook, with half writing in English and half in Fijian, he estimated.

“Social media has the ability to completely derail an election,” Saneem said.

Other social media companies face the same problem to varying degrees.

Facebook-owned Instagram said its 1,179-word community guidelines are in 30 out of 51 languages offered to users. WhatsApp, owned by Facebook as well, has terms in nine of 58 supported languages, Reuters found.

Alphabet’s YouTube presents community guidelines in 40 of 80 available languages, Reuters found. Twitter’s rules are in 37 of 47 supported languages, and Snap Inc’s in 13 out of 21.

“A lot of misinformation gets spread around and the problem with the content publishers is the reluctance to deal with it,” Saneem said. “They do owe a duty of care.”

© Thomson Reuters 2019

Source link

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Social

Tracking Klarna’s plunging valuation – TechCrunch

Published

on

Welcome to The Interchange! If you received this in your inbox, thank you for signing up and your vote of confidence. If you’re reading this as a post on our site, sign up here so you can receive it directly in the future. Every week, I’ll take a look at the hottest fintech news of the previous week. This will include everything from funding rounds to trends to an analysis of a particular space to hot takes on a particular company or phenomenon. There’s a lot of fintech news out there and it’s my job to stay on top of it — and make sense of it — so you can stay in the know. — Mary Ann

A humbling time for Klarna

Welp, I had a whole other topic planned for my intro today and then the Klarna news hit.

In case you missed it, on July 1, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Swedish buy now, pay later behemoth and upstart bank is reportedly raising $650 million at a $6.5 billion valuation, giving new meaning to the phrase “down round.” The news was shocking, to say the least. Why, you ask? Well, in June of 2021, Klarna was valued at $45.6 billion after closing on a $639 million round of funding — making it the highest-valued private fintech in Europe at that time.

When Klarna confirmed that raise on June 10, 2021, CEO and founder Sebastian Siemiatkowski sat down with me (via Zoom) in an exclusive interview, detailing why he was so excited about the company’s “explosive growth” in the U.S. and how it planned to use its new capital in part to continue to grow there and globally. He also said that an IPO was still in its sights “but not anytime soon.” The company then had 18 million users in the U.S.

Fast-forward to 2022. As of February, Klarna had 23 million monthly active users in the U.S. and 147 million globally. It reported 32% higher revenue of $1.42 billion for 2021.

By May, Klarna had laid off 10% of its workforce, or 700 people.

As TC’s Romain Dillet reported, the company didn’t name a single reason for the layoffs. Instead, Siemiatkowski listed different macro and geopolitical factors that led to the decision.

“When we set our business plans for 2022 in the autumn of last year, it was a very different world than the one we are in today,” he said. “Since then, we have seen a tragic and unnecessary war in Ukraine unfold, a shift in consumer sentiment, a steep increase in inflation, a highly volatile stock market and a likely recession.”

Now the company could be slashing its valuation by an astounding 1/7 to $6.5 billion. Notably, Klarna has not confirmed this, but, startlingly, the projection for the company’s alleged latest funding round and new valuation has steadily declined in recent weeks. The Wall Street Journal reported on June 16 that Klarna was considering raising capital at a valuation of around $15 billion. Even that new figure represented both a dramatic decline from Klarna’s mid-2021 valuation of more than $45 billion and the $30 billion figure it was reported to be targeting earlier this year, as our own Alex Wilhelm noted here. So from $45 billion to $30 billion to $15 billion to $6.5 billion. It’s hard to imagine it going even more downhill from here.

It’s also important to note, though, that Klarna is not the only BNPL provider that has seen a decline in valuation. As another tech enthusiast tweeted on Friday, competitor Affirm’s stock is also down significantly. On July 1 alone, shares were down 5% to $17.13 at the time of my writing this at about 2:30 p.m. CT, giving Affirm a market cap of $4.9 billion. That’s down from a 52-week-high of $176.65. Ouch.

Image Credits: Twitter

Weekly News

Speaking of valuations, Alex examined how after financial technology startups saw their fortunes rise during the venture capital boom in 2021, they’re now suffering from a slump of a similar scale. The damage, he wrote, is not unidimensional. Instead, pain around the fintech sphere is varied and multifactorial.

The layoffs in fintech continue. Amount, a company that reached unicorn status last year, recently laid off 18% of its workforce. The exact number of how many people were affected is not known, but when TechCrunch reported on its last raise in May of 2021, the company said that it had 400 employees. If that is still the case, then about 72 people were let go. Amount was spun out of Avant — an online lender that has raised over $600 million in equity — in January of 2020 to provide enterprise software built specifically for the banking industry. It partners with banks and financial institutions to “rapidly digitize their financial infrastructure and compete in the retail lending and buy now, pay later sectors,” CEO Adam Hughes told TechCrunch last year.

The Federal Trade Commission is suing Walmart for sitting by while scammers bilked customers out of more than $197 million, the agency alleged in a statement. It’s seeking a court order that would force Walmart to give money back to customers, on top of civil fines. In a brief response, Walmart described the lawsuit as both “factually flawed and legally baseless.” Money transfer scams are widespread, and they can involve everything from promises to share an inheritance to lies about a family emergency. They happen just about everywhere, from Zelle, Venmo and Cash App to crypto ATMs and popular dating apps. In this case, the FTC alleges that Walmart “turned a blind eye to fraud” that went down inside its stores.

Robinhood made headlines three times over the past week. First, Taylor looked at how the stock trading and investing app was blindsided by the surge in interest from the first big “meme stock” after Redditors and other retail investors rallied around $GME and sent its price into the stratosphere. Jacqueline Melnik then addressed the rumors that FTX is looking to acquire Robinhood in this piece. And then Alex broke down for us why a crypto exchange might want to buy Robinhood in the first place.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), less than 2% of financial institutions’ CEOs are women, and for executive board members the figure is less than 20%. Why does this matter? Apart from the obvious lack of opportunities for talented women, there are broader implications for business resilience as well as economic policy at national and international levels. Read more at Fintech Futures.

Cash App last week launched Round Ups, allowing customers to invest their spare change into a stock of their choice or bitcoin every time they use their Cash Card. Cash App said the product would allow Cash Card users “to seamlessly accumulate bitcoin and stock investments through everyday purchases.”

If you haven’t heard yet, there is a fintech conference on the water coming to San Diego, California, on August 10. Fintech Fest 1.0 is bridging together leaders from Brex, Encore Bank, Mastercard, Checkout.com, Figment, Sift and many others for business meetings and discussions on the largest boat on the West Coast. You can get 40% off ticket prices this week only.

Speaking of discounts, be sure to take advantage of this amazing deal. TechCrunch+ is having an Independence Day sale! Save 50% on an annual subscription here. More information here. And the two-for-one ticket to TechCrunch Disrupt sale will expire on July 5.

Funding and M&A

Seen on TechCrunch

Drive now, pay later: Startups make EVs more accessible by putting off the biggest bill

A look into how Conversion Capital plans to back early-stage fintech startups out of its new 6x larger fund

HomeLister wants to make selling your home more of a DIY affair, and cheaper

Brazilian motorcycle rental startup Mottu revs up with $40M to help more Latin Americans become couriers

Here’s Carta’s response to venture becoming more global

Sava, a spend management platform for African businesses, gets $2M pre-seed backing

And elsewhere

GoCardless goes after Plaid with Nordigen buy

Knox Financial to expand loan products with $50M in funding

Zilch draws $50M more funding to buck BNPL industry woes

That’s it for this week. For our readers in the U.S., I really hope you’re enjoying the long weekend and Happy Independence Day. And to all of you, have a wonderful week ahead. To borrow from my dear friend and colleague Natasha, you can support me by forwarding this newsletter to a friend or following me on Twitter. Xoxo, Mary Ann

Continue Reading

Social

Equity crowdfunding appears immune to market volatility, on track for its best year yet – TechCrunch

Published

on

Equity crowdfunding — or community raises, as the fundraising platforms involved prefer to call it — has grown steadily over the last few years. Regulations governing the process continue to evolve in the market’s favor, and 2022’s venture funding pullback may be the final piece needed to quiet the fundraising strategy’s naysayers for good.

This year looks poised to be monumental for equity crowdfunding, which entails raising capital through specific filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, including Reg CF and Reg A, from a mix of investors that don’t have to be accredited.

Over the past few years, equity crowdfunding has shed much of the stigma that used to imply that only companies that weren’t good enough for VC raised this way. Some traditional VCs have even scouted on the platforms or encouraged their portfolio companies to pursue the process. But with the fundraising climate now showing cloudy skies, equity crowdfunding is getting ready for a field day.


TechCrunch+ is having an Independence Day sale! Save 50% on an annual subscription here. (More on TechCrunch+ here if you need it!)


More than $215 million was invested in startups on equity crowdfunding platforms this year through the end of May, according to the Arora Project, a Republic-owned platform that curates crowdfunding initiatives and tracks data, up from around $200 million in the same period last year. Crowdfunding campaigns raised a total of $502 million in 2021.

While that isn’t too big of a leap, industry players are encouraged by the growth and see scope for more improvement later in the year, as crowdfunding typically sees an uptick around the fourth quarter.

Continue Reading

Social

The 2022 McLaren GT is a fresh take on a classic recipe  – TechCrunch

Published

on

There’s a reason the term “daily driver sports car” exists. It’s because typically, purpose-built performance cars suffer from an inherent lack of usability: they’re loud, uncomfortable and they require pristine driving conditions. What’s more, they’re often bereft of the accessories we’ve grown used to, and when they’re included, they’re usually subpar. 

These might sound like small concessions for the chance to drive a top-tier performance vehicle, but try spending upwards of $200,000 on a car that makes you miserable half the time. Thanks to improvements in technology and manufacturing, the line between sport and luxury is blurrier than ever. 

Making fun cars more accessible is a good thing, but they should at least feel different from your daily commuter. Few modern sports cars distinguish themselves like this better than ones from McLaren Automotive, so much so that I was slightly worried that its latest vehicle, the McLaren GT, would lose those particular characteristics as a consequence of making the car more accommodating. While some rough edges have been smoothed out, for better or for worse, the luxury overhaul has been a bit overstated, yet the characteristic McLaren charm remains. 

Nuts and Bolts

Image Credits: Alex Kalogianni

The McLaren GT is a mid-engine rear-wheel drive two-seater that acts as McLaren Automotive’s entry level model. It’s powered by a 4.0-liter twin-turbo V8, a variant of the motor found in other models across the lineup fitted with smaller turbochargers. This iteration drops the total power output, but delivers power lower in the rev band, making peak power more accessible sooner. It generates 612 horsepower and 465 pound-feet of torque which is routed to the rear wheels by way of a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. 

With the help of launch control, the McLaren GT can sprint from 0 to 60 in 3.1 seconds and can top out at 203 mph. 

As with all McLaren cars, the GT is built on a carbon fiber chassis that contributes to its light 3,384-pound curb weight. It’s also fitted with electro-hydraulic steering, which goes a long way in delivering its distinct driving feel. It all rides on an adaptive damping system and  20-inch front wheels and 21-inch rears. 

As a GT, this McLaren is meant for extended drives and thus its defining feature is the 14.8 cubic feet of storage space that sits behind the driver and on top of the mid-mounted engine.

It also features an active dynamics panel that allows drivers to customize the car’s behavior, a 1,200-watt Bowers & Wilkins sound system and the latest iteration of McLaren’s bespoke infotainment system. This is the heart of the McLaren GT’s user interface and sits in a 7-inch touchscreen in the center of the dash. Along with entertainment functions, it pairs with mobile devices via Bluetooth, gives access to a handful of car settings like ambient lighting and features HERE-powered satellite navigation. 

This screen is supported by a 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster behind the steering wheel. Some of the above info is pushed to that screen such as turn-by-turn directions, though its main function is providing immediate car behavior information. The typical speedometer and tachometer are of course present, but there are also tire pressure displays and other status indicators. This screen reconfigures itself depending on drive mode to better position more vital info while in a track or dynamic setting. 

The UX

The big mission statement for the McLaren GT is that it’s a better balance between the driving dynamics that McLarens are known for and creature comforts. Every sports car maker tackles this particular dish with its own recipe and for its part, McLaren Automotive goes heavy on performance and light on user-friendliness. The McLaren GT is meant to be its most approachable car yet, but thankfully, the extra dollop of refinement doesn’t overpower the distinct McLaren umami underneath.

Sliding under the dihedral doors and into the GT reveals a very performance-oriented cockpit. Two ergonomic seats are divided by a very small armrest and the sparse cabin is dominated by a leather-and-steel steering wheel flanked by two wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Behind this is the aforementioned 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster that can be accessed by one of the few stalks protruding from the steering column. The 7-inch touchscreen sits above the active dynamics panel and drive select buttons while the Bowers & Wilkins speakers stare at you from the doors like a hawk’s eye.

McLaren GT interior cockpit

Image Credits: Alex Kalogianni

All of this is the first indication that the McLaren GT isn’t going to stray too far from its sports car roots: this cabin is nearly identical to the one in the 570S. Naturally, there are minor differences, including additional sound baffling. But one could go from car to car and be hard-pressed to spot them.

The next is the sensation of how purpose-built the car feels. All of the luxurious touches can’t hide the fact that you’re sitting in the carbon fiber monocell of a race-ready vehicle. 

The McLaren GT doesn’t do quiet. Once the twin-turbo V8 fires up, it’s your soundtrack throughout the drive, Bowers & Wilkins be damned. From here on out, the McLaren GT demands the driver to be laser focused on the act of driving, as none of the half-minded lollygagging we’re used to doing in daily traffic will fly. The steering feedback is ample, the brakes require a very heavy foot and the haunches of the athletic-looking sports car obscures much of the rearward visibility. 

When allowed to gallop, the GT is enthusiastic with its acceleration and the sensation between all the systems working to keep the McLaren on course is palpable. Its electro-hydraulic steering communicates the road’s surface conditions fluidly, and its heft gives drivers something substantial to embrace. This system combo feels more responsive to the fully-electronic power steering that we’re used to, it’s meatier and heavier, but mechanically so, not with just pre-programmed motorized resistance. Same goes for the suspension and active dampers, as it’s easy to feel every bit of the McLaren GT doing its job. 

How it executes its task is also determined by the active dynamics settings. Two knobs for handling and power each have three settings, Normal, Sport and Track. Normal is the most docile settings, keeping the car’s ride as comfortable as it can be with all of the usual drive assists on, and with the engine at its most tame. Sport causes the car’s overall handling to be a touch more aggressive and relaxes some of the stability control, and it also heightens the throttle response, as well as the transmission’s affinity for lower gears. Track is the McLaren’s most aggressive setting: Handling? Rigid. Traction control? Off. Engine and transmission? Unrestrained. 

One of the most wonderful attributes of the McLaren GT and indeed one that it shares with its super sibling the 570S, there is very little in the way of electronic hand-holding. This lack of a computerized safety net demands a higher application of driver skill and thus it makes crisp maneuvers very rewarding, just as it makes slip-ups nerve-wracking. Think of the experience as somewhere between a Lotus Evora and the Audi R8 V10. 

Living La Vida Macca

As exciting as it is to live life on the razor’s edge with the McLaren GT, the bits in-between succumb to the usual supercar user-unfriendliness. A series of parking sensors and a backup camera make positioning the precious GT around much easier, as is a push-button nose-raising feature, which is a huge relief.

This eases some of the usual daily sports car frustrations, but the true heart of the GT’s problems lay with the in-car interface. 

For as good as the car is mechanically, its in-house developed operating system is a particularly glaring weak point. McLaren knows this. Frankly, it used to be worse.

The 10-core-processor-powered “Infotainment system II” is faster and more responsive than the units found in previous McLaren vehicles. Familiar swipes and pinch-and-zoom functions make using the touchpad easy, though finding the desired menu is another matter. More often than not, it will require a passenger-side co-pilot to give it the necessary attention or for the driver to pull off the road to sort things out. This could be something as simple as trying to select a music input source, but its most frustrating when it comes to navigation. 

Despite the upgrade, the built-in system still feels far less intuitive and limited by current standards. Punch in the address and if it finds it, there are limited routes to choose from, if any alternatives. Deviate from the route and it will stubbornly insist that you find your way back long before it decides to re-route itself. There were also instances of inaccurate road data pushed our way, directing us to turn on roads that weren’t there, or sometimes not recognizing ones that were. 

As the GT is not Apple CarPlay or Android Auto compatible, drivers are out of luck when it comes to alternative navigation systems like Google Maps or Waze. Indeed, the heavily-bezeled touchscreen’s size and orientation mirrors that of a smartphone, and there were many times we wished we could simply suction-cup our own phone over it just to find our way back home.

This doesn’t bode well for a car meant for long car journeys, nor does the 14.8 cubic feet of storage space function as intended. The extra room that sits atop the engine means whatever is laid across it is subject to a great deal of heat. It’s great for a couple pairs of skis but not so great for cargo such as electronics.

The McLaren GT is a true sports car and none of its down-tuning or soft appointments take away from that. In fact, it’s arguable that they don’t go far enough to substantially differentiate this car from others in the lineup or to live up to its Grand Tourer moniker. That’s certainly the case when it comes to its tech.

McLaren could’ve kept everything mechanically identical to its sibling cars and the GT could have set itself apart with a more robust, user-friendly road-trip oriented interface, easier to maps, bigger screens to facilitate easier access and 360-degree parking cameras, and more modern mobile device compatibility, just to name a few features we wished it had. As it stands, the $205,000 McLaren GT is a true entry-level sports car that sticks to the classics.

It delivers on the full experience, but in terms of tech, it’s a lateral step. 

Continue Reading

Trending