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Facebook became Meta – and the company’s dangerous behavior came into sharp focus in 2021: 4 essential reads

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Eric Smalley, The Conversation

Facebook renamed itself Meta in 2021, but the year was more notable for revelations about the company’s bad behavior.

Meta, née Facebook, had a rough year in 2021, in public opinion if not financially. Revelations from whistle-blower Frances Haugen, first detailed in a Wall Street Journal investigative series and then presented in congressional testimony, show that the company was aware of the harm it was causing.

Growing concerns about misinformation, emotional manipulation and psychological harm came to a head this year when Haugen released internal company documents showing that the company’s own research confirmed the societal and individual harm its Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp platforms cause.

The Conversation gathered four articles from our archives that delve into research that explains Meta’s problematic behaviour.

1. Addicted to engagement

At the root of Meta’s harmfulness is its set of algorithms, the rules the company uses to choose what content you see. The algorithms are designed to boost the company’s profits, but they also allow misinformation to thrive.

The algorithms work by increasing engagement – in other words, by provoking a response from the company’s users. Indiana University’s Filippo Menczer, who studies the spread of information and misinformation in social networks, explains that engagement plays into people’s tendency to favor posts that seem popular. “When social media tells people an item is going viral, their cognitive biases kick in and translate into the irresistible urge to pay attention to it and share it,” he wrote.

One result is that low-quality information that gets an initial boost can garner more attention than it otherwise deserves. Worse, this dynamic can be gamed by people aiming to spread misinformation.

“People aiming to manipulate the information market have created fake accounts, like trolls and social bots, and organized fake networks,” Menczer wrote. “They have flooded the network to create the appearance that a conspiracy theory or a political candidate is popular, tricking both platform algorithms and people’s cognitive biases at once.”

2. Kneecapping teen girls’ self-esteem

Some of the most disturbing revelations concern the harm Meta’s Instagram social media platform causes adolescents, particularly teen girls. University of Kentucky psychologist Christia Spears Brown explains that Instagram can lead teens to objectify themselves by focusing on how their bodies appear to others. It also can lead them to make unrealistic comparisons of themselves with celebrities and filtered and retouched images of their peers.

Even when teens know the comparisons are unrealistic, they end up feeling worse about themselves. “Even in studies in which participants knew the photos they were shown on Instagram were retouched and reshaped, adolescent girls still felt worse about their bodies after viewing them,” she wrote.

“The choices being made inside of Facebook are disastrous for our children,” whistleblower Frances Haugen told Congress.

The problem is widespread because Instagram is where teens tend to hang out online. “Teens are more likely to log on to Instagram than any other social media site. It is a ubiquitous part of adolescent life,” Brown writes. “Yet studies consistently show that the more often teens use Instagram, the worse their overall well-being, self-esteem, life satisfaction, mood and body image.”

3. Fudging the numbers on harm

Meta has, not surprisingly, pushed back against claims of harm despite the revelations in the leaked internal documents. The company has provided research that shows that its platforms do not cause harm in the way many researchers describe, and claims that the overall picture from all research on harm is unclear.

University of Washington computational social scientist Joseph Bak-Coleman explains that Meta’s research can be both accurate and misleading. The explanation lies in averages. Meta’s studies look at effects on the average user. Given that Meta’s social media platforms have billions of users, harm to many thousands of people can be lost when all of the users’ experiences are averaged together.

“The inability of this type of research to capture the smaller but still significant numbers of people at risk – the tail of the distribution – is made worse by the need to measure a range of human experiences in discrete increments,” he wrote.

4. Hiding the numbers on misinformation

Just as evidence of emotional and psychological harm can be lost in averages, evidence of the spread of misinformation can be lost without the context of another type of math: fractions. Despite substantial efforts to track misinformation on social media, it’s impossible to know the scope of the problem without knowing the number of overall posts social media users see each day. And that’s information Meta doesn’t make available to researchers.

The overall number of posts is the denominator to the misinformation numerator in the fraction that tells you how bad the misinformation problem is, explains UMass Amherst’s Ethan Zuckerman, who studies social and civic media.

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The denominator problem is compounded by the distribution problem, which is the need to figure out where misinformation is concentrated. “Simply counting instances of misinformation found on a social media platform leaves two key questions unanswered: How likely are users to encounter misinformation, and are certain users especially likely to be affected by misinformation?” he wrote.

This lack of information isn’t unique to Meta. “No social media platform makes it possible for researchers to accurately calculate how prominent a particular piece of content is across its platform,” Zuckerman wrote.

Editor’s note: This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation’s archives.The Conversation

Eric Smalley, Science + Technology Editor, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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How to Get Organic Traffic From Google Search?

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Organic Traffic From Google Search

After reading this post today, you will know “How to Get Organic Traffic from Google Search”. Consider this post as your ultimate guide or cheat sheet that will help you build amazing “Content that Ranks on Google” and “Massive Traffic to Your Website”.

Important Disclaimer

Before diving deep down right into the topic, I would like to clear a few things.

1-Getting Organic Traffic from Google search is NOT a Myth

2-You do not need to be an SEO Expert or Guru to Rank your content on the First Page of Google Search Results

3-But DO NOT think, that it is a piece of cake, or after reading, you can change a few settings on your website, and voila.

4-To get the best results, and maximum impact, read this post and compare it to writing style, and how you are writing the content.

5-Make points, if something or any term used in the article is not clear, google it. You may ask in the comments section if something is not clear.

Remember! Your goal should not be only to read this article, but also to understand the logic and theory behind it.

Also Read: Scammers Are Using Fake Job Ads to Steal People’s Identities

Why do You Want Traffic from Google Search?

It is no secret that Google Search Engine is one of the largest search engines in the market. It is estimated that Google processes around 5.6 Billion searches in a dayAccording to research, from January 2010 till January 2022, Google Search Engine has dominated the Search Engine Market and held from 85% to 91.22% market share, as compared to other search engines like Bing, Yahoo, Baidu, and Yandex. So there is no doubt that anyone entering the world of the Internet, regardless of small or a big corporation, a news agency, an e-commerce business, or just a simple blogger, wants to get Ranked on the 1st page of Google Search Results.

Think of Your Target Audience

Your target audience is the most crucial aspect of getting Organic Traffic to your Website. It makes it easier to write powerful content when you know your audience, i.e. For whom you are writing? i.e., country, gender; interest and age, etc.

For example, if your target audience is toddlers and mothers, you will not write complex phrases or terms. It would make more sense to write simple phrases, use colorful images, etc.

Similarly, if you are writing for a mature audience, you should write according to their interest, and level.

What I want you to understand, is that you should know your audience confidently, what they like, gender, age, and other demographics. It will help to create the right and targeted content.

Keyword Research

If you are a newbie in content writing or blogging, then you must understand the term “Keyword” and everything associated with it. Short Tail Keyword(STK), Long Tail Keyword(LTK), Related Keywords, etc.

There is no point in creating tons of content without doing proper Keyword Research. You should always search before writing the content.

In simple terms, Keyword/s is/are the term/s that people search over the internet. A Short Tail Keyword is between 1 to 2 words, and any search term which is more than 3 keywords is considered as Long Tail Keyword.

Related Keywords are the search terms that Google suggests that people are also searching for.

The Wrong Way

Most people just think of a topic, perhaps search for its difficulty level, and then start writing. But later after publishing the post, they get disappointed when they see that their post has landed on 50th to 100th position in Google search results.

How to Do Proper Keyword Research? The Right Way

Whenever you are presented with a topic, do not start writing bluntly. A professional and right approach demands that you should do proper Keyword Research.

A Keyword Research means that you use a tool to find the following about the Keyword:

  • How many people are searching for that keyword in a given location?
  • What is the level of Competition on that Keywords?
  • How many EXPECTED Backlinks are required for the post to get ranked on the First Page of Google Search Results?

There are several Free & Paid Tools available that make it easier for you to do Keyword Research. In the Free version, you will get limited results but just enough to get the job done.

For Example, Ahref Free Keyword DifficultyUbersuggest Keyword Explorer, tool, etc. I will not explain here how you should use these tools, because there are many videos on YouTube showing you how to use them in different languages.

Also Read: Curious Kids: why can’t we put a space station on the Moon?

Primary Keyword

Your 1st goal should be, finding a keyword that has low difficulty and some search volume. The ideal keyword for a new website is to find keywords that have 0KD and over 100 searches.

In many cases, you will find that your Primary Keyword has a higher Keyword Difficultly. The easiest way would be to find a keyword that is closer to your keyword with low keyword difficulty. For this, you can use another Free Tool from Ahref, called Keyword Generator. Sometimes you do not know Primary Keyword, or your client has given you a generic topic and asked to find the Best Keyword. All you need is to write the main topic and select the country. This tool will give you all the keywords related to that topic according to their Search Volume, Keyword Difficulty.

SERP Analysis- Go Deeper

Many content writers or bloggers start writing simply after checking the Keyword Difficulty. In some cases, they do succeed in getting ranked on the first or second page. Or perhaps, they are simply hired content writers who just write for their clients and have no interest whatsoever if their article gets ranked or not.

If you fall into the above category, then it is ok, you did your job. But if you want to rank your article, then you should also learn about SERP Analysis.

SERP is the short form of the “Search Engine Result Page”. If your primary goal is to get massive traffic from Google Search, then you must know how to do SERP Analysis.

SERP Analysis, for a given Keyword, means, that you do technical analysis of the articles and sites that are ranking on the first page of Google Search Result. You can use Ahref SERP Free Tool to do SERP Analysis.

In SERP, for the keyword of the targeted country, you look for the following:

  • AR (Ahrefs Rating)
  • DR (Domain Rating)
  • Backlinks
  • Domains
  • Traffic
  • Keywords

AR shows the strength of the website, with #1 as the strongest and goes up to Millions. In other words, sites with lower AR are very difficult to compete with. The AR rating depends upon the backlink profile.

DR stands for Domain Rating. It starts from 0 to 100. Higher DR means the website has higher authority and will be difficult to compete. DR depends on how many Backlinks you have from other authority domains.

Backlinks show the number of backlinks from other websites for that particular page. Other metrics, Traffic, and Keywords are not too important.

How to do Correct SERP Analysis

This is the most crucial part of doing the Keyword Research. Just by looking at the KD will not guarantee to be ranked on the first page of Google Search Results, even if KD is 0 for a given Keyword.

I would recommend you to do a simple test yourself. Find a Keyword with low difficulty and check it in SERP Tools. In many cases, you will find, the sites which have stronger AR, higher DR, and maximum no of Backlinks will be ranked on the 1st three positions of the Google Search Result.

Ultimate Goal

So your ultimate goal would be to find a keyword that has all the following characteristics:

  • Low KD
  • Lower AR (Higher AR means lower Strengths)
  • Lower DR
  • Less number of Backlinks

I hope many of you would now understand why their post was landing on the 5th to 10th page and what were they missing in their efforts to get on the first page.

Bonus Tip| Going Further Deeper  

Let’s suppose, you have found the Perfect Keyword but want to make sure that, you have landed on the first page. If your answer is yes, then learn 2 search strings “inurl:” and “allintitle:”.

The above 2 search strings help you to find the number of competitors for a given Keyword on Google. As part of the On-Page SEO, you should always include Primary Keyword in the URL, and the title of the article.

What does inurl: & allintitle: do?  

When you search a keyword, Google will show you millions or billions of search results. This is because Google will include everything in the results, including results that are direct or indirect to the topic. But using inurl: and allintitle: will help you get more authentic results and the correct level of competition.

Once you know the correct number of the competitor, you can do small changes to your URL and title to have higher chances to land on the first page.

For Example, let’s say my target Keyword is “Organic Traffic” and I search it on Google.

Google Search Result

Google Search Result without any search string

You will see that Google has 1,160,000,000 Organic Traffic results. Remember, it will include everything related to this topic.

Now let’s use inurl: to search the same keyword.

Search Result using inurl

Google Search Result using search string inurl[/caption]

Now just by using inurl: we see Google has 879,000 search results. In fact, inurl: strings mean, we are forcing Google to show only those results which have our keyword “Organic Traffic” in their URL.

Check the result when we use allintitle: This search string forces Google to show results with Organic Traffic in its main title.

Search Result using allintitle

Google Search Result using search string allintitle [/caption]

The results show there are only 38,900 results.

I hope you got the idea and importance of these 2 search strings. You can now do small changes to your keyword by adding a word two at the beginning or, at the end of your keyword will help you find the perfect title.

Conclusion

I am sure now, that you have understood, that organic traffic is not a myth nor it is rocket science. You do not need to be an SEO Guru or a Geek to get your article on the first page of Google Search Results. You just need to evaluate the authority of your website and do a comprehensive Keyword & SERP Analysis.

If your website or client’s website is relatively new, then you should target the keywords that have lower difficulty, and SERP Analysis shows the high probability for a new website to get ranked. In SERP you should see if there are Domains that have AR Rank in Millions, Lower DR, and fewer Backlinks.

Once you have found, such a keyword, in addition to using “inurl:” and “allintitle:” search strings to find a title that will work as icing on the cake and help you to land on the first page of Google Search Result.

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Can Wealthy Nations Stop Buying Russian Oil?

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Can wealthy nations stops buying Russian oil?
Amy Myers Jaffe, Tufts University

One option the U.S. and other nations have for ratcheting up pressure on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine is reducing their Russian energy purchases. U.K. Foreign Minister Liz Truss has proposed that the G7 nations – the U.S., U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan – impose limits on their Russian oil and gas imports. Global energy policy expert Amy Myers Jaffe explains how this strategy might work and how it could affect international oil markets, which have already been roiled by the conflict.

How important is Russia as a global oil supplier?

Russia produces close to 11 million barrels per day of crude oil. It uses roughly half of this output for its own internal demand, which presumably has increased due to higher military fuel requirements, and exports 5 million to 6 million barrels per day. Today Russia is the second-largest crude oil producer in the world, behind the U.S. and ahead of Saudi Arabia, but sometimes that order shifts.

About half of Russia’s exported oil – roughly 2.5 million barrels per day – is shipped to European countries, including Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Finland, Lithuania, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria. Nearly one-third of it arrives in Europe via the Druzhba Pipeline through Belarus. These 700,000 barrels per day in pipeline shipments would be an obvious target for some kind of sanctions, either by banning financial payments or refusing deliveries via spur lines at the Belarus border.

In 2019, European stopped accepting deliveries for several months from the Druzhba line when crude oil flowing through it became contaminated with organic chlorides that could have damaged oil refineries during processing. Russia’s oil shipments fell noticeably as it redirected flows to avoid the Druzhba line.

The remaining export shipments of Russian crude oil to Europe come mainly by ship from various ports.

China is another large buyer: It imports 1.6 million barrels per day of Russian crude oil. Half comes via a special direct pipeline, the Eastern Siberia Pacific Ocean pipeline, which also services other customers via a port at its end point, including Japan and South Korea.

 

Also Read: How much damage could a Russian cyberattack do in the US?

How would Russia be affected if other nations reduce imports of its oil?

Sanctions against Russia’s oil industry would have a greater impact than limiting natural gas flows because Russia’s oil receipts are higher and more critical to its state budget. Russia earned over US$110 billion in 2021 from oil exports, twice as much as its earnings from natural gas sales abroad.

Since oil is a relatively fungible global commodity, much of Russia’s crude exports to Europe and other participating G-7 countries might wind up being sent somewhere else. That would free up other supplies from sources such as Norway and Saudi Arabia to be redirected back to Europe.

Russia’s oil has high sulfur and other impurities, so refining it requires specialized equipment – it can’t be sold just anywhere. But other Asian buyers can take it, including India and Thailand. And Russia has special supply arrangements with countries like Cuba and Venezuela.

It’s already clear, though, that Russia is having trouble redirecting its crude oil sales. At the start of the invasion of Ukraine, European refiners began shunning spot cargoes for fears that sanctions might be forthcoming.

India bought Russian crude cargoes that were already at sea, at a sharp discount. Markets would likely respond to a G-7 oil ceiling by further discounting Russian crude. We saw the same pattern in the past when countries sanctioned Venezuelan and Iranian oil: Those nations still found buyers, but at reduced prices.

Russia is no 3rd Oil Producing Country in the world

 

Can European nations get oil from other sources?

Oil shipments are arguably easier to reroute than natural gas, which has to be super-chilled to liquefy it for ship transport, then converted back to gas at its destination port. That means Russia’s crude oil may potentially be easier for European countries to replace and reroute than its natural gas, which relies more heavily on pipeline delivery, depending on market conditions.

To ensure replacement barrels are available, Europe and the U.S. could simultaneously increase crude oil sales from their national strategic stocks to lessen the blow of any restrictions on Russian crude oil imports to the G-7. The U.S. is already selling 1.3 million barrels per day from its Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and it could increase these flows. China has also released oil from its national strategic stocks to help ease oil prices.

The U.S. and other G-7 members would also likely ask Middle East countries to relax destination restrictions on their crude oil shipments and press countries like China and India to redirect other oils of similar quality to Russian oil back to Europe if and when they increase their purchases from Moscow. Such steps would lower the chances of G-7 restrictions on Russian oil imports raising global prices.

It’s not certain that China and India would cooperate, but it would be in their interests to do so. They are major oil importers and would not want to see higher crude oil prices.

How would global oil prices be affected if G-7 nations buy less Russian oil?

It would depend on what other steps governments take in response to rerouting of Russian oil exports. Nations are already acting to prepare global markets for shifts in liquefied natural gas flows in case of reduced purchases from Russia.

G-7 energy diplomacy is likely to involve other oil capitals that might be willing to export more oil to alleviate disruption of crude oil sales from Russia. Most exporters are maxed out in terms of crude oil production, but a few of the largest Middle East producers could surge their output in the short term to put an extra 1 million barrels per day or more onto the market.

U.S.-Saudi relations could face a test. Riyadh has access to large stores of crude oil in its vast global tank system and its tankers that float at sea. In 2014, when Russia invaded Crimea, U.S. allies in the Persian Gulf held over 70 million barrels in storage near Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates. They did this as a threat to Russia that a price war would ensue if Russian troops moved beyond that peninsula. Russia stayed in Crimea, so the oil was not released.

[Over 150,000 readers rely on The Conversation’s newsletters to understand the world. Sign up today.]

Saudi Arabia has instituted price wars that hurt Russia’s economy in 1986, 1998, 2009 and again briefly in 2020. But today’s oil market conditions make a price war an unlikely outcome, given the existing tight balance between supply and demand. The only scenario that could trigger a price war now would be if global demand were to contract suddenly because of a recession.The Conversation

Amy Myers Jaffe, Research professor, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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How much damage could a Russian Cyberattack do in the US?

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How much damage could a Russian cyberattack do in the US?

Scott Jasper, Naval Postgraduate School

U.S. intelligence analysts have determined that Moscow would consider a cyberattack against the U.S. as the Ukraine crisis grows.

As a scholar of Russian cyber operations, I know the Kremlin has the capacity to damage critical U.S. infrastructure systems.

Federal officials have been bracing for this. In January 2022 the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued an alert that outlined the Russian cyberattack threat, with technical details of sophisticated Russian-led hacking from recent years. That included a complicated digital break-in that targeted the U.S. energy industry and gained access to the control rooms of U.S. electric utilities. According to Homeland Security officials, the hackers “could have thrown switches” and knocked out power to the public – but did not.

Also Read: What are False Flag Attacks?

In mid-February 2022, federal cybersecurity experts met with executives from big U.S. banks to discuss defenses against Russian hacking attempts.

In Ukraine, the Russian offensive began Feb. 23, 2022, with cyberattacks aimed at overloading and shutting down bank and government websites. In addition there were reports of software capable of corrupting data having been secretly installed on hundreds of computers owned by large Ukrainian organizations in the financial, defense and information technology services industries.

Also Read: Cyberattacks | Local governments are attractive targets for hackers

That malicious software spilled outside Ukraine – it was found on computers in Lithuania and Latvia – which is reminiscent of the NotPetya attack. In 2017, a piece of malware that initially seemed to be ransomware was unleashed on Ukraine and spread widely, causing more than $10 billion in collateral damage to major international companies. The NotPetya attack was ultimately attributed to a Russian military unit.

U.S. officials have also highlighted that Russian cyberwarriors can gain access and remain undetected for long periods in key systems in the U.S.

Russian Foreign Intelligence Service hackers did this in 2020 when they gained access to SolarWinds software, used by many companies and government agencies to manage their computer networks. After initially breaking into the system, the Russians stayed undetected for seven months, even disabling antivirus software and using stolen login credentials to appear like legitimate users.

Also Read: Scammers Are Using Fake Job Ads to Steal People’s Identities

This attack gave Russians access inside at least nine U.S. federal agencies and around 100 private companies, many in information technology and cybersecurity.

It’s impossible to be certain there aren’t more Russian government hackers lurking undetected in critical companies and systems in the U.S. And wherever they are, they may have the ability to cause substantial damage.

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