Google+ to be shut down soon

Google has announced that they are closing the consumer functionality of Google+, their social media platform, due lack of adoption and an API bug that leaked the personal information of up to 500,000 Google+ accounts. [Internally Google+ will still be used.]

Google is claiming that the bug [so far] was not misused and shutting the service due to the security complexity [I guess look at Facebook] in addition to what they claimed they has so few users actually used the service for any length of time.

gplusIn a blog statement, they said that “The consumer version of Google+ currently has low usage and engagement: 90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds.” I would assume that is an average as it’s almost impossible to be on for 5 seconds.

Or maybe they shut it down because they know they can’t compete against Facebook.

I still remember early on that if you created a Google/Gmail account, they would automatically create a Google+ account for you without telling you. It was possibly [on purpose] their way to catch up to Facebook in the number of accounts. But if you didn’t know you had an account, how could you use it? Google could say they have 500,000 Google+ accounts.

While at it, I wonder if that 500,000 accounts number is legitimate. From previous reports, it wasn’t doing that well.

Another web site said there are 34 million unique visitors per month which is not that impressive for 395 million supposedly active accounts – not 500 million – and two-third are male and a bit more than half are from the US.

If you claim to have 500,000 accounts, why would you shut down the service permanently instead of keeping it alive and fixing the bug? 500,000 accounts doesn’t seem to be “due lack of adoption”.

But according to a report by the Wall Street Journal, the bug in the Google+ API existed between 2015 and March 2018, which was when Google discovered and fixed the bug. So, if fixed, why shut it down? But then they added “disclosing the incident would likely trigger “immediate regulatory interest”

In any case, this is Google’s third social media platform that they have closed up.

Google+ will slowly wind down over the next few months.

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Another two resignations, more scandals, typical Trump week

National security adviser H.R. McMaster has resigned [did he really?] and will be replaced by former US ambassador and Fox News analyst John Bolton. McMaster claims he is leaving the military and retiring from public service. Bolton’s hard edged, hawkish views on issues like North Korea, Iraq and Syria make him a controversial pick.

As recently as March 8, the White House was denying reports that McMaster was on his way out, with White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders declaring on “Fox & Friends” that “General McMaster’s not going anywhere.” The Pentagon had been quietly looking to see if there is a four-star military job suited for McMaster.

Donald Trump’s lead lawyer, John Dowd, has resigned from his personal legal team handling the response to the Russia investigation. Dowd, who has urged Trump to cooperate with special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe and resist attacking him publicly, resigned as his disagreements with Trump intensified and Trump stepped up his attacks on the special counsel.

At least four defense attorneys at major law firms were approached to join Trump’s legal team in recent weeks. This includes a former US Solicitor General and 2 lawyers that have worked for previous presidents. All turned Trump down, for various reasons, including concern that the President doesn’t listen to his lawyers and that their law firms represented other clients that would pose conflicts.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said he received “assurances” that Trump is not considering firing special counsel Robert Mueller. “The special counsel should be free to follow through with his investigation to its completion without interference,” Ryan said during a House GOP leadership news conference on Capitol Hill. “Absolutely, I am confident that he will be allowed to do that.”

But Trump’s approach to the ongoing special counsel investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election as his rhetoric and his legal team have begun to reflect an increased focus on winning the fight for public opinion rather than cooperating with the actual probe. This include tweets like “Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime.”

“A total WITCH HUNT with massive conflicts of interest!” Trump tweeted of the special counsel investigation. “”Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans?” Except Mueller himself and Mueller’s boss [Rod Rosenstein] are both Republicans. Unsure about those under Mueller but there are more than 13.

Trump admitted that a majority of Americans may not be ready to support the death penalty for “the really bad pushers and abusers.” “It’s possible,” Trump said. “It’s possible that our country is not ready for that and I can understand it, maybe. Although personally I can’t understand that.” He added: “I think unless you do that, unless you have really, really powerful penalties led by the death penalty for the really bad pushers and abusers, we are going to get nowhere.” Maybe the pushers, but abusers?

Trump said his administration would be addressing the problem of overprescribing of opioids, adding that the Department of Justice is looking “very seriously” into bringing litigation against drug companies. “We’ll ensure opioid addiction is not subsidized by the American tax payer.” As if people are getting their opiods exclusively from drug companies.

Trump, who as a candidate used the Clinton Foundation to slam his opponent Hillary Clinton, heralded an opioid program backed by the Clinton family foundation. Trump touted the work of Adapt Pharma, a program that makes Narcan — a type of drug that can save someone who is overdosing on opioids — more available in colleges and universities. The program was made possible in 2017 because of a partnership with the Clinton Foundation.

Maybe a bit tongue and cheek, Chelsea Clinton, someone who has been critical of Trump throughout his administration, thanked the President for mentioning the effort.

Trump signed the $1.3 trillion spending bill to keep the federal government open until September, then excoriated Congress for passing the plan in the first place. “I said to Congress, I will never sign another bill like this again,” Trump said. And yet we know how much we take his word for. Right? He had threatened a veto early. More Fake Presidential News.

In a post bill signing conference/speech, Trump also called on Congress to give him a “line item veto” for all government spending bills, echoing a desire expressed by previous presidents who lamented parts of congressional legislation. He also called on Congress to get rid of the filibuster and “go to 51 votes in the Senate” in order to have “success” in Congress.

The Supreme Court has previously found that the line-item veto violated the Presentment Clause of the Constitution, which says the President does not have the power to unilaterally amend or repeal legislation (Clinton v. City of New York). Most senators oppose giving up the filibuster rule, which was designed to ensure the minority party has some say in the legislative process.

During his speech, Trump argued that Democrats have stood in the way of DACA recipients gaining permanent legal status, while casting Republicans as would-be saviors. “The Democrats fought us, they just fought every single inch of the way. They did not want DACA in this bill.” Will anyone believe him?

A $#.6 billion cut in spending offered by Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was chopped from the final bill.

Trump lamented the “ridiculous situation that took place over the last week,” saying the bill was quickly put together and lawmakers were given little time to read through it. At 2300 pages, I doubt it but it would be quite a read. Then again, the government would of shut down after today. Who’s to blame there? I thought he was commenting about the many things that happened in his administration. Scandals, resignations [really firings, right?], etc.

Trump tweeted “Got $1.6 Billion to start Wall on Southern Border, rest will be forthcoming.” $1.6 billion doesn’t go to [sic] far when building the Trump Wall. With the probably corruption in building the mess, expect just a few hundred feet if lucky.

Trump claimed during his speech that the stock markets were doing well. Unsure which stock market he was looking at as the Dow Jones dropped 425 that day. The market sold off after Trump announced plans to impose tariffs on about $50 billion of Chinese imports to retaliate for theft of intellectual property. 1100 points were lost in two days in the Dow Jones. The worry is that a tit-for-tat escalation between the two largest economies in the world will ruin the solid economic backdrop

After saying that Canada and Mexico received exemptions for any tariffs, the administration says that tariffs will be imposed on May 1st, if the NAFTA deal is not signed by then. No one is really surprised that Trump changed his mind…. again. The European Union, Argentina, Brazil, South Korea and Australia will not be subject to the trade penalties with [so far] no strings attached.

Meanwhile it looks like Trump is caving in again as he had thrown out the requirement that all vehicles sold in the US must have 50% or more American content. With that gone, an updated NAFTA agree is more likely – assuming Trump drops removing Article 19 [which is the trade arbitration – US has lost every time to Canada].

Cambridge Analytica, a data firm with ties to Trump’s campaign, reportedly gained access to information about 50 million Facebook users. The data was collected by a professor for academic purposes in accordance with Facebook rules, the company said. But then the information was transferred to third parties, including Cambridge Analytica. The transfer violated Facebook policies.

One of the first uses of a trove of Facebook data on tens of millions of Americans that has thrown Facebook and Cambridge Analytica into crisis was in 2014 by a super PAC run by John Bolton, Trump’s new national security adviser.

A former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, who allegedly had a nine-month affair with Trump is suing the company that kept her original account from publication. Shortly before the presidential election, American Media Inc., the company that owns The National Enquirer, paid $150,000 to McDougal, but did not run her story in a tabloid maneuver known as “catch and kill.” The contract did not require the Enquirer to run the story and required McDougal’s silence. American Media is owned by a major Trump supporter.

The Trump administration has offered a two-and-a-half-year extension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. In exchange, the Trump administration wants $25 billion for the proposed Trump Wall with Mexico and other security measures. Democrats say for that amount, DACA recipients and people who might qualify for the program must get more: a chance at citizenship.

Trump initially didn’t congratulate Vladimir Poutine after his landslide election “win”. Poutine spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that maybe Trump’s schedule didn’t allow it and suggested he might call later. Maybe he’s too busy tweeting rants against Robert Mueller and doesn’t have time to congratulate Poutine in a tweet.

The White House said that it is “not surprised by the outcome” of Sunday’s election, and that no congratulatory call was planned. That quote sounds interesting. Trump did contact Poutine later and quite a few Republicans were upset that he did so – especially when not bringing up the subject of the election meddling or the fact that Poutine’s election win was suspicious.

Trump tweeted “I called President Putin of Russia to congratulate him on his election victory (in past, Obama called him also). The Fake News Media is crazed because they wanted me to excoriate him.” The difference was 6 years ago, Vladimir Poutine wasn’t turning into a corrupt dictator who has amassed billions that should of gone to the people and his government wasn’t known to be involved in hacking US elections.

Trump was infuriated after it quickly leaked that he had been directly instructed by his national security advisers in briefing materials not to congratulate Russian President Vladimir Putin on his recent election victory during their call. Warnings from multiple national security advisers and briefing materials that said “DO NOT CONGRATULATE” was included.

Trump will hire an attorney to join his personal legal team who has alleged that he is being framed by a group of FBI and Justice Department officials. Former US Attorney for the District of Columbia Joe DiGenova will be joining the legal team. This comes two months after DiGenova appeared on Fox News to allege that FBI and Justice Department officials carried out “a brazen plot to illegally exonerate Hillary Clinton and, if she didn’t win the election, to then frame Donald Trump with a falsely created crime.”

Wondering if fired Deputy Director Andrew McCabe will launch a lawsuit in case he can’t get his pension – although it sounds like he has had at least two offers from the Democrats to work at a federal agency [any that can have him] for at least a couple of days.

After McCabe’s firing, there is still rumbling that Robert Mueller will be next. Trump gloated in tweets at McCabe and then came around to attack Mueller and his Russian investigation. But senior Republics have warned him that firing Mueller will cross the line and probably open a constitutional crisis. It would be “the beginning of the end of (Donald Trump’s) presidency,” predicted South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham.

Trump said Rick Saccone lost the Pennsylvania special election, despite the fact that he has not yet conceded the race. “We’re 5-0 and then we lost by 300 votes the other night, right? 300 out of 200-twenty-some-odd-thousand votes.” He said in a speech – but Saccone lost by 700.

Former FBI director James Comey’s book “A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership,” won’t be released until April 17 but is already a number one best seller.

A long-time Fox News analyst, Ralph Peters, sharply criticized the network, denouncing the outlet as a “propaganda machine” devoted to Trump, and saying that it was “wittingly harming our system of government for profit,” in a stunning internal email announcing his exit from the company.

 

Changes coming to some Skype users in January

If you use Skype and Facebook and you are logging into Skype with Facebook, you will have to replace your Facebook account in Skype with a Microsoft ID [account] such as one used for Email [Hotmail/Live] by January 10th.

[I personally don’t know anyone who is logging into Skype with a Facebook account.]
So as of January 11th, you can only use a Skype name or a Microsoft ID account.

Microsoft claims they have 300 million registered Skype users [out of 1 billion Microsoft IDs]. This will drop the total a bit.

How do you know what kind of account you have? Well, if configured, the upper left corner of your main screen gives you and indication. Skype names should just be your login name. Microsoft ID accounts may be your Email address or something that begins with “Live:”. You can verify by going into your profile.

 

Facebook block clickbait ads, hopefully others follow

Finally, someone is doing something about clickbait ads.

Clickbait ads are those ads that show up on various web sites that announce something like “6-year-old saves grandmother. You won’t believe what happened next” or “A jaw dropping 0% interest rate on new loans.”

When you click on the link, it may bring you to the intended site but you also may experience pop-up web pages [where who knows what you will get]. As the advertiser is not too “kosher” regarding their ethics, who knows what kind of ads you would get. Porn? Scam site? Phishing site?

Facebook has announced it will use a new anti-clickbait algorithm that it is now rolling out to detect and remove these clickbait ads. The algorithm primarily looks for phrases often used in clickbait headlines but not in legitimate headlines, similar to email spam filters.

Clickbait is one of the most complained about parts of the News Feed on Facebook.

Facebook won’t be publicly publishing the multi-page document of guidelines for defining clickbait because “a big part of this is actually spam, and if you expose exactly what we’re doing and how we’re doing it, they reverse in engineer it and figure out how to get around it.”

Freedom of speech or illegal

A man from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania has his case going to the US Supreme Court because whether it is free-speech rights of people who use violent or threatening language on Facebook and other social media.

The man was sentenced to nearly four years in prison for posting graphically violent rap lyrics on Facebook about killing his estranged wife, shooting up a kindergarten class and attacking an FBI agent.

His wife feared for her life after seeing the comments on Facebook. A female FBI agent went to his home to investigate and after she left he posted violent comments about the agent.

Some may say comments on Facebook, Twitter and other social media can be hasty, impulsive and easily misinterpreted. They point out that a message on Facebook intended for a small group could be taken out of context when viewed by a wider audience. But to do so on multiple occasions?

The man said he was just venting his anger over a broken marriage and never meant to threaten anyone. Lawyers for the man argue that the government must prove he actually intended his comments to threaten others. The man also claims that rapper Eminem also used similar language in his songs.

A jury convicted the man of violating a federal law that makes it a crime to threaten another person. A federal appeals court rejected his claim that his comments were protected by the First Amendment.

The Supreme Court has said that “true threats” to harm another person are not protected speech under the First Amendment – but distinguished between this type of speech and protected speech.

If I am corrected about US law, if you utter a death threat to someone directly, what would be the difference between that or saying the same thing on Facebook or twitter – where way more people could see the threat.

Interesting to note that in Quebec, a politician threw his hat into the ring recently. Shortly after he received what was considered by some as a death threat from a man on Facebook and Twitter. Provincial police are investigating. Canadian laws do differ from the US. We’ll see what the outcome of this one is.

But clearly the man from Bethlehem is not “playing with a full deck” [i.e. missing a few screws].

Another Facebook scam

If you receive an Email that says it is coming from Facebook and your messages [shouldn’t that be posts?] will be removed, don’t believe it.

It is a scam. They’re hunting for your login information. [And some bad grammar. Should be “… and a lot HAS happened…]

Here is a sample:

fb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to protect yourself when using Facebook

One thing I’ve noticed with some people on Facebook [FB for short] is the amount of information they give out. Some give out some basic information. Others seem to want to give out every part of their life.

Just remember, information you give out on Facebook can be seen by many people [maybe even the world].

Part of the problem is that some information could lead to identity theft. FB [and other social sites] are a treasure trove of information.

As well, looking for a job? The public view [i.e. they are not you’re friend] may give away too much information. Would they hire you if you are into death metal bands or a Celine Dion fan? 🙂

There is an easy way to see what your FB account will look to others.

First. Go to your home page.

Second, click on the little down arrow to the right of Activity Log and select View As….

home page

By default, it shows your FB page as if the person viewing your page isn’t a friend of yours [but has a FB account].

You will see this black bar like below at the top reminding you that your Public view shown. See what kind of information it is giving out.

[In one case, I was looking up a non-friend, and I found out where she lived – way too much information.]

bar

Too much information? [Hopefully not too little!] Go to your account settings and adjust where necessary.

Now from that black bar, if you click on View as Specific Person you can choose one of your friend and see how your page will look to them.

Another way to limit what is viewed, when you post something, is that little pull-down menu [as in below].

friends

At all costs, avoid Public. This means non-friends can see what you posted. Unsure why Only Me would be needed. Custom allows you to do a pick and choose [i.e. certain friend or groups or exclude some friends or groups]. You can also choose Close Friends and Family.  If your friends don’t need to know about family stuff, then don’t choose Friends!

You can also create groups. For example, friends who play Mah-jong or soccer, like a certain band, cat lovers, family plus those who aren’t officially related but are like family, etc.

Make sure vital personal information [you birthday, where you live, etc.] are kept out of public viewing. You even may want to not include or restrict it. Probably most of your [true life] friends know your birthday already, your address, etc. So why publicize it?

To get back to your regular page, just click on the Facebook logo at the top left of the page.