TIME psychology

7 Things Every Facebook User Needs to Know, Backed by Research

Facebook
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Eric Barker writes Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

  • Your “relationship status” says a lot about how happy you probably are. What’s a really good sign? Men who listed their partnership status (“In a relationship with…”) and women whose profile picture displayed their partner both had happier relationships.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME legal

The Supreme Court Is About to Make a Big Decision About Facebook Free Speech

Facebook Threats Supreme Court Case Elonis
Till Jacket—Getty Images/Photononstop RM

The case could have big implications for how we use social media

The Supreme Court on Monday will consider whether violent language posted on social media is covered by the First Amendment’s protection of free speech.

The case, Elonis v. United States, hinges around the question of whether a Facebook message can be considered a “true threat,” or a threat a reasonable person would determine to be real. That would be an important distinction, because “true threats” don’t get First Amendment coverage. But it won’t be an easy problem to solve: While it can be easy to call a threat “true” if it’s given verbally, making that call gets harder when threats are posted online, where they lack the context, tone and other indicators of intent present in verbal communication. It’s also arguably easier to make threats online, especially if it’s done anonymously.

What happened?

A lower court had sentenced Pennsylvania man Anthony Elonis to about four years in federal prison over several Facebook posts threatening his estranged wife. The posts included, among other things, raps about slitting his wife’s throat and about how her protection order against him wouldn’t be enough to stop a bullet.

A sample:

There’s one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you. I’m not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts.

But how is that not a “true threat?”

Elonis contends his posts weren’t a threat to his wife but rather a therapeutic form of expression. It’s commonly accepted that violent images are often part of rap music and other media, and artistic expression is protected under the First Amendment, explaining Elonis’ legal strategy. Still, the issue of whether Elonis had the intent to threaten is not necessary for a threat to be deemed a “true threat.” That requires only for a reasonable person to believe a threat is authentic.

“The dividing line here is whether we’re judging the threat based on the intent of the speaker, or on the reaction of the people who read it and would’ve felt threatened. That’s really the key question,” said William McGeveran, a law professor at the University of Minnesota.

What if the court upholds Elonis’ conviction?

Several experts agree that such a decision could stifle freedom of speech online and offline, particularly among artists. If the court rules against Elonis, artists could be more hesitant to share anything that could be perceived as threatening — a slippery slope. On the other hand, such a ruling could increase the number of online harassment cases aggressively pursued by law enforcement. And there could also be a censorship effect on social media companies like Facebook.

“You have the potential for creating a chilling effect both on the part of speakers, but possibly even more on the part of entities that host potentially threatening speech,” said Paul Levy, an attorney at the Public Citizen Litigation Group. “If intent [to threat] isn’t needed [to prosecute], then it seems that the Facebooks of the world have to worry that they, too, can be prosecuted. It could have a serious censoring effect.”

What if the court rules in Elonis’ favor?

Some experts agree this is probably what the Court will do. In the past, the Supreme Court has demonstrated a commitment to protecting all kinds of speech, however vile or unpopular, by citing the First Amendment to protect everything from a filmmaker’s “animal crush” abuse videos to the Westboro Baptist Church’s anti-gay public speech.

“The First Amendment is one of the strongest protections of free speech in the whole world, and it’s a very rare thing to have a law that actually makes it a crime to express certain ideas,” said Marcia Hoffman, an attorney and special counsel to digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation.

But if the Court chooses to overturn Elonis’ conviction, that move might not provide a clearer definition of which online threats constitute a “real threat.” That would leave us legally in the dark when it comes to abuse over the Internet.

“Society is still struggling to really figure out how the Internet works and how it affects people, both users of the Internet and subjects of the speech on the Internet,” said William Marcell, a law professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “I think the court might want to buy a little bit more time to see if a threat over the Internet is really as serious as one face-to-face.”

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: November 25

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. “White people who are sick and tired of racism should work hard to become white allies.” Here’s how.

By Janee Woods in Quartz

2. We can’t afford to ignore the innovative history of developing countries as we face the impact of climate change.

By Calestous Juma at CNN

3. Aeroponics – growing plants in mist without any soil – may be the future of food.

By Bloomberg Businessweek

4. The Obama White House is still struggling to separate policy from politics, and Defense Secretary Hagel is the latest victim.

By David Rothkopf in Foreign Policy

5. Fewer, better standardized tests can boost student achievement.

By Marc Tucker, Linda Darling-Hammond and John Jackson in Education Week

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY facebook

Facebook Bus Drivers ‘Like’ The Teamsters, Vote to Unionize

Facebook bus drivers voted to join the Teamsters union to try to bridge the gap in wages between the drivers and their passengers.

TIME Companies

Netflix Is Now a Whopping One-Third of Peak Internet Traffic

US Online Streaming Giant Netflix : Illustration
In this photo illustration the Netflix logo is seen on September 19, 2014 in Paris, France. Pascal Le Segretain—Getty Images

But YouTube leads on mobile

Netflix now accounts for more than a third of all downstream Internet traffic during peak evening hours in North America, according to research firm Sandvine.

Netflix’s share of traffic during the second half of 2014 rose to 34.89%, up from 34.21% in the first half of the year, Sandvine found in its biannual report. The figure is the highest for Netflix in Sandvine’s publicly available data since 2011. The streaming service has long dominated downstream Internet usage — a point that’s sparked battles between it and Internet Service Providers like Comcast and Verizon, which have argued Netflix should pay up for the bandwidth it uses.

While Netflix’s share inched up slightly, other tech companies also made gains. Facebook, which has been pushing video heavily this year, saw its traffic share increase from 1.99% to 2.98%. Amazon Video, Netflix’s most direct competitor, rose from a share of 1.9% to 2.58%. YouTube’s share also increased, rising from 13.19% to 14.09%. These gains in traffic came at the expense of iTunes and bitTorrent, which both had their shares dip below 3%.

These figures don’t account for Internet connections made via cellular data networks on mobile devices. On that front, YouTube is the leader with a 19.75% share, and Facebook is right behind it with a 19.05% share.

TIME apps

This Is the 1 Thing Facebook Can’t Figure Out

Facebook Creative Labs Apps
Peter Macdiarmid—Getty Images

Can Facebook make a popular standalone app?

Facebook has a good track record of pulling off big things. One-sixth of the world’s population is on the social media platform, which, by the way, is also developing laser-based Internet to connect the rest of the humanity while its CEO finds time to pick up Mandarin Chinese.

But if there’s one project that’s stumped the company, it’s the very thing that made Facebook what it is today: Creating the Next Big Thing, particularly in the form of a new mobile app. Facebook has recently released several apps separate from its primary offering, hoping one will be a hit. Its most recent attempt, Groups, takes the social media platform’s group messaging feature and spins it off into a separate mobile app. Before Groups arrived on Tuesday, there was Rooms, an anonymous chatroom app, Slingshot, a Snapchat-style disappearing messages app, Paper, a Facebook app redesigned for mobile devices and a much-mocked “Facebook for celebrities.”

Rooms and Slingshot are standouts because they’re the company’s first attempts at designing a completely new app outside its core platform. And while Slingshot feels very much like a Snapchat clone, Rooms, with its focus on old-school online chatting’s anonymity, is curiously distant from Facebook’s real-life focus. That makes it special among other apps from Facebook Creative Labs, a Facebook initiative that seeks to create new platforms to “support the diverse ways people want to connect and share.”

While the Facebook Creative Labs’ mission statement doesn’t say anything about building mainstream ways to connect, making popular apps seems an implied goal of a company that wants to be as much of a daily presence as running water. However, most of Facebook’s standalone apps have seen their rankings nosedive since their debuts, according to data from business intelligence firm App Annie. (Groups is still too new to track.)

Facebook does have a proven, if unpopular, way to get people to download its standalone apps — it can force them to do so. Several months ago, Facebook removed the messaging feature from its primary mobile app, telling users to go download the separate Messenger app instead if they wanted to keep privately messaging their Facebook friends. Messenger quickly climbed to the top of the app rankings and mostly remained there, despite poor reviews from users upset over the split.

But Facebook, like other social media companies, has shown it has another option, too: Finding successful apps outside the company’s walls and snatching them up in big-money acquisitions. Facebook’s desire to capture top-notch, widely-embraced apps — and keep them out of rivals’ hands — helps explain why the company paid nearly $1 billion for photo-sharing app Instagram and a jaw-dropping $19 billion for the WhatsApp messaging app, with both deals involving a mixture of cash and Facebook stock.

Whether Facebook can ever come up with a new mobile app that people really love — or if it should even bother trying — is an open question. But that clearly hasn’t stopped Facebook from trying to think up the “next Snapchat,” even if some of its attempts, like the now-extinct Poke and Camera, have totally flopped. As CEO Mark Zuckerberg said himself, the failure of new products has been “humbling.” As a company on top of its own particular mountain, Facebook can afford to learn by trial and error. So until it adds one of its own creations to its portfolio of big-name apps, expect it to keep trying.

TIME Companies

Facebook Shuttle Drivers Vote to Join a Union

FRANCE-LOGO-FACEBOOK
The Facebook logo is seen on a tablet screen on Dec. 4, 2012, in Paris Lionel Bonaventure—AFP/Getty Images

The drivers want higher wages and better shifts

Facebook’s shuttle-bus drivers voted to unionize on Wednesday in an effort to secure higher wages and better shifts.

The drivers voted to join the Teamsters union by a margin of 43 to 28, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Leaders of the union’s Northern California chapter — Teamsters Local 853 — said that the drivers want better pay and changes to the current shift system, which has them working two three-hour shifts in the morning and evening with a six-hour gap in between.

Facebook’s shuttles, operated by a company called Loop Transportation, ferry the tech giant’s employees from San Francisco and other areas to its headquarters in Menlo Park.

Loop issued a statement accepting their drivers’ wishes. “Even though we don’t feel that our drivers’ interests are best served by union representation, our drivers have spoken and we will now begin the negotiation process,” the statement said.

Facebook reportedly declined to comment.

[WSJ]

MONEY Tech

Why “Facebook at Work” Might Not Work

Facebook at work on tablet
Alamy

Enterprise software is indeed a very lucrative space, but the time, energy, and development resources that it would require for Facebook to meaningfully challenge are simply too high.

This isn’t the first time, and it might not be the last. Dominant social network Facebook FACEBOOK INC. FB 0.1031% is reportedly looking to challenge LinkedIn LINKEDIN CORP. LNKD -0.0309% in the enterprise segment, among others. The Financial Times reported that the social kingpin is developing a new “Facebook at Work” site geared toward corporate settings.

The service is said to feature ways to communicate with colleagues, connect with other professionals, and collaborate on documents. Personal profiles and professional profiles would be segregated for the sake of privacy, and would be free initially. Beyond LinkedIn, this service means Facebook would compete with other large enterprise software makers like Google GOOGLE INC. GOOG 0.2702% and Microsoft , as well as start-ups such as Slack.

Does Facebook have a chance? Let’s look at all of these areas where Facebook wants to make a dent.

Connecting people

Helping people make professional connections is LinkedIn’s claim to fame, and the company has established an incredibly strong business in connecting recruiters with job candidates. Before even considering monetization methods, Facebook is a much larger overall network, which means it has a shot at growing its position here.

At last count, Facebook boasted 1.35 billion monthly active users, or MAUs, worldwide. That’s over four times LinkedIn’s count of 331 million registered members. Of that total, 89.7 million members log in on a monthly basis. LinkedIn reports these as unique visiting members, but in practice they are the same as MAUs for the sake of comparison.

“Facebook at Work” is unlikely to tap into Facebook’s entire network, since its rollout is still speculative and would likely be on a small scale. Still, there’s definitely some long-term potential here if Facebook builds out the rumored service, and eventually integrates it with its broader network.

Communicating with colleagues

Microsoft Exchange is the dominant player in enterprise email, but a slew of popular chat applications are also used in the workplace. Slack has been skyrocketing in popularity recently, and is now one of the fastest-growing enterprise software applications ever.

The key to Slack’s success is the ability to integrate with a plethora of third-party services that are already popular within the enterprise segment, creating a platform out of the enterprise messaging service. Slack also has powerful search features to help workers find what they’re looking for. The start-up’s blistering growth has already attracted the attention of high-profile venture capitalists. Slack recently raised $120 million at a $1.1 billion valuation.

In general, messaging is becoming an increasingly competitive arena. Facebook has both Messenger and WhatsApp under its blue belt, so the company undoubtedly has plenty of experience with developing messaging products and services. Facebook might have some strength in consumer-oriented messaging, but it seemingly lacks the deep integrations that rival services like Slack can offer.

Playing well with others

On the collaboration front, Microsoft acquired Yammer in 2012 for $1.2 billion. Yammer is a private social network that integrates with collaboration software and business applications, and is now part of Office 365. Yammer is a big part of Microsoft’s strategy with collaboration software as it transitions away from SharePoint.

Microsoft also recently partnered with Dropbox. By integrating the other’s services, Microsoft and Dropbox will bolster the collaborative features that are critical to each company’s enterprise customers. Google Apps for Business has also been winning customers from Microsoft for years, becoming a notable player in the collaboration space in the process.

This is easily the most important area of enterprise software, since employee collaboration is so critical to productivity. This is also where Facebook likely brings the least to the table. Current providers of collaborative tools offer comprehensive feature sets and have become very entrenched in the enterprise. Facebook will face a steep uphill battle in this area.

We don’t know what we don’t know

To be fair, not much is known about “Facebook at Work.” The company reportedly uses the product internally, and only began testing it at other companies within the past year or so.

Facebook’s current portfolio of consumer offerings might not be representative of what it hopes to offer the enterprise space. However, it’s hard to imagine the company could develop a full-featured offering that spans all of these areas in under a year when incumbents have spent many more years specializing and catering to these precise needs.

On top of that, Facebook is predominantly associated with personal social networking. The ability to separate personal and professional activity might be an attempt to blur the line, but consumer connotations aren’t easily shifted. Besides, aren’t Facebook’s privacy settings cumbersome enough already?

Shares of LinkedIn fell 5% of the news that Facebook could be developing a competing service, so it seems there is indeed some investor concern. However, history doesn’t inspire much confidence in Facebook’s professional abilities, which should downplay these fears.

Facebook acqui-hired job-search site Pursuit in 2011, but hasn’t done much in the job listing space that LinkedIn is disrupting. Third-party professional networking service BranchOut attempted to carve out a niche within Facebook as a free application (casually known as the “LinkedIn within Facebook”), but failed spectacularly and is now trying to sell itself.

The risk is that Facebook could become distracted by its pursuit of the enterprise segment, rather than focus on key business developments, notably building out the infrastructure for video ads or determining some type of monetization strategy for WhatsApp.

As an investor, I do like when Facebook takes calculated risks, such as Paper or Home, even if they fail. But those were inherently low risks with high potential rewards. Enterprise software is indeed a very lucrative space, but the time, energy, and development resources that it would require for Facebook to meaningfully challenge are simply too high.

TIME Social Media

Facebook’s Newest App Lets You Chat in Small Groups

Facebook Groups Facebook

But don't worry — Groups will still be accessible from the main Facebook app

Facebook introduced on Tuesday a standalone app for Groups, an existing Facebook feature for sharing messages with small numbers of contacts.

The Groups app was built “with the people who use Groups the most in mind,” such as those who use it communicate with coworkers, fellow students or distant friends, according to Facebook’s press release.

The Groups app features a list of user’s Groups on a single screen, in addition to a notifications page providing updates on what’s going on throughout all of a user’s groups. There’s also a discovery feature to suggest groups of interest based on a user’s likes or friends.

Unlike Facebook Messenger, which Facebook moved entirely to a standalone app, the Groups function will still be available in the main Facebook app. All told, the Groups app appears similar to WhatsApp, a group messaging app that Facebook purchased in October in a deal worth about $19 billion.

The Groups app is a product of Facebook Creative Labs, a Facebook initiative to designs apps that facilitate new ways of communication. Facebook has also recently released standalone apps for chatting anonymously and for sending self-destructing messages.

Groups is now available for free download on iPhone and Android devices.

TIME Security

WhatsApp Is Making Your Messages Way More Secure

New feature makes it harder for law enforcement to access contents

The latest update to the WhatsApp messaging service announced Tuesday includes end-to-end encryption by default, which means the content of a message is only decrypted and readable when it reaches its recipient. Encrypted texts via the TextSecure protocol will now be nearly impossible for law enforcement officials or WhatsApp to access.

The new feature was created using open-source code created by the development community at Open Whisper Systems. For now the feature is only available on Android devices, but in a blog post Open Whisper Systems says it plans to expand to other mobile platforms. The encryption only applies to basic texts right now, and group messages and photo messages don’t get the extra security boost.

The new encryption protocol backs up WhatsApp’s longstanding mantra of valuing people’s security over access to users’ data. CEO Jan Koum famously wrote a missive against using data mining to serve ads on social networks years before selling the company to Facebook for about $22 billion.

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