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It’s still really easy to game Facebook’s algorithm

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Meta’s accounting of the most popular content on Facebook continues to be a confusing mess to untangle. The company released the of its “widely viewed content report,” which details some of the most-viewed Facebook posts in the United States.

And, once again, the latest report raises questions about the company’s ability to limit the spread of what Meta euphemistically refers to as “lower-quality posts.” Between January and March of this year, six of the top 20 most popular links on Facebook were from a spammy website that has since been banned by the company for inauthentic behavior.

“In this report, there were pieces of content that have since been removed from Facebook for violating our policies of Inauthentic Behavior,” the company wrote in a . “The removed links were all from the same domain, and links to that domain are no longer allowed on Facebook.”

The links all came from a Vietnam-based “news” site called Naye News. Unfortunately, Facebook didn’t share details about the actual URLs that went viral and were later removed, so there’s not much we can glean about the actual content. What we do know is that Naye News, which as Bloomberg reporter Davey Alba has never before appeared in a widely viewed content report, was able to reach a vast number of Facebook users before the company banned it. Links to Naye News appeared six times on the list of the top 20 URLs, including the two top spots. Together, these links got more than 112 million views, according to the report.

This website wasn’t the only source of questionable content that made it into the top most-viewed list. The fourth-most popular link on the list was a YouTube clip from a town hall meeting with Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson, featuring a nurse making claims about COVID-19 treatments.

During a call with reporters, head of Facebook Integrity Anna Stepanov, said that links to the YouTube video were demoted in News Feed after it was debunked by fact checkers. The company also added warning labels to discourage it from being reshared. “Without these features, this link would likely have received even more reach,” Stepanov said.

But even with those measures, the link was still viewed more than 22.1 million times on Facebook. That’s more than the number of views on the original YouTube video, which currently has about 6.5 million views.

Meanwhile, another URL on the report, which got 12.3 million views, is a link to a website called “heaveemotions.com,” that now redirects to a website that appears to be meant to trick visitors into installing malware. On Facebook though, the link originally rendered a preview with meme-style text that reads: “They told me the virus is everywhere. I told them so is God. Can I get an Amen? I Bet you won’t repost.”

This looks like a typical meme but it now links to a website that appears to be filled with malware.

Screenshot/ Facebook

It’s not the first time overtly spammy content has appeared in one of these reports. In the last version of this report, the top Facebook Page was one later removed by the company for breaking its rules. Reporter Ryan Broderick later the page’s origins as a Sri Lankan content farm.

The reports, which Meta began releasing in part to suggesting far-right personalities consistently dominate the platform, are one of the only windows the company offers into what’s popular on Facebook. That’s been a key question for researchers trying to study the platform and how information, and misinformation, spreads across it. But researchers have also raised questions about how Meta was compiling these reports, which in the past have surfaced .

Notably, Meta now says it’s changing the way it evaluates what content is the most “widely viewed” on its platform. Previous reports identifying the top links on Facebook were based on any public post that contained a URL, even if the was just appended to the body of a text post. This meant that popular Pages could effectively spam their followers with random links — like to a website representing former Green Bay Packers football players — embedded in a text or photo post.

Researchers had widely criticized this approach as a widely distributed text post with a link at the end is a lot different than a link post in which the linked content is fully rendered as a preview. Now, Meta is reversing course. “Moving forward, links will need to render a preview in order to be counted as a view, as that more accurately represents what people are seeing.”

Even so, these reports are still only a limited look at what’s most popular on Facebook. The company says the list of the top 20 most-viewed links — the list that included Naye News and COVID-19 misinformation — “collectively accounted for 0.03% of all Feed content views in the US during Q1 2022.” But as always with Facebook, its sheer size means that even a fraction of a percent can equate to millions of views. At the very least, these reports show that it’s still relatively easy to game Facebook’s algorithms and spread “low quality” content.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.





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‘Axie Infinity’ hack victims will only get back around a third of what they lost

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Sky Mavis, the developer of blockchain game Axie Infinity, says it will start reimbursing the victims of a $617 million hack that took place earlier this year. The attackers took $25.5 million in USDC (a stablecoin that’s pegged to the value of the US dollar) and 173,600 ether, which was worth around $591.2 million at the time. The FBI claimed North Korean state-backed hacker groups were behind the attack.

Impacted Axie Infinity players will be able to withdraw one ether token for each one they lost in the hack, Sky Mavis told Bloomberg (the company didn’t mention a USDC reimbursement). However, as with other cryptocurrencies, the value of Ethereum has plummeted since the attack in March. 

Because of that, Sky Mavis will return around $216.5 million to users. It’s possible that the price of Ethereum will rise again, but as things stand, affected users will get back around a third of what they lost.

In April, Sky Mavis raised $150 million in funding to help it pay back the victims. The developer plans to reimburse affected users on June 28th, when it restarts the Ronin software bridge that the hackers targeted. 

Axie Infinity is widely considered the most popular play-to-earn game. Players collect and mint NFTs representing creatures that battle each other, Pokémon-style. These NFTs can be sold to other players, with Sky Mavis charging a transaction fee. By February, Axie Infinity had facilitated $4 billion in NFT sales.

However, the NFT market has all but bottomed out, which has had a significant impact on Axie Infinity. For one thing, according to Bloomberg, the daily active user count dropped from 2.7 million in November to a quarter of that by the end of May.

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.



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Snoop Dogg and Eminem’s Bored Ape music video is here to try and sell us on tokens

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The last couple of weeks have had a lot of bad news for some in the “web3” space, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at announcements in and around the recently-ended NFT.NYC and ApeFest 2022 events. The Bored Ape Yacht Club’s (BAYC) annual event in particular brought in musicians like The Roots, LCD Soundsystem, Haim, Lil Baby, Lil Wayne, and others to perform for its members. On the final day of the event, guests saw the premiere of this video from two of the celebrities who’ve purchased tokens, Eminem and Snoop Dogg.

The video is for a new song, From The D 2 The LBC, that isn’t the most memorable of collaborations and is mostly about smoking weed, but it constantly splices in images of the cartoon apes. Many BAYC members were disappointed in February when both men performed in the Super Bowl halftime show, and despite appearing during an event that featured crypto ads seemingly every few minutes, failed to highlight their web3 endeavors.

The price of ApeCoin has dropped 39 percent in the last month to $4.51 after peaking in late April at more than $23, while Bitcoin and Ethereum’s values are also about 38 percent lower than they were 12 months ago. The Wall Street Journal wrote on May 3rd that “NFT Sales Are Flatlining,” and the numbers haven’t improved overall since then. That report cited an NFT from Snoop’s own collection, Doggy #4292, that sold for more than $33k several months ago. Its owner currently lists the item for sale at a price of nearly $11 million, and while the highest bid at the time of the article was $210, right now someone is offering $1,218. You can see the animation or download high-res still of it from its source website right here, for free.

Despite that, now BAYC owners can point to music that uses characters from the club they spent so much money to join. Plus, they did get to see the real Snoop Dogg perform, not the fake one that some web3 company fooled people with this week during NFT.NYC.

The rappers’ NFTs were both acquired via third parties in December, near the time prices for Bitcoin and Ethereum’s most recent peaks. In a deal executed by the digital agency Six, it cost 123.45 ETH to obtain Eminem’s Bored Ape #9055. At the time, that was worth about $460,000 but it’s now equivalent to around $150,000.

The ape icon associated with Snoop Dogg, #6723, was moved in a transfer from the previous owner’s wallet, not a sale with a price recorded on the blockchain, which was enabled by MoonPay. The company has focused on making it easy for celebrities to buy high-priced NFTs, although it also makes it difficult to track exactly how these celebrity-affiliated tokens were obtained, and who actually paid the much-publicized prices.

Opening up the ability for token owners to use the images of the apes for their creative or business endeavors is a part of the Bored Ape Yacht Club’s strategy, even if it’s unclear why or how that will increase the appeal to people who haven’t spent six figures on an NFT. The way they see it, this is the beginning of a new media industry, with intellectual property rights linked to digital tokens with monetization that trickles down to everyone associated.

The truth about NFTs and copyright is a lot more complicated than that — you can follow our explanation of the state of things right here. But for now, the parties go on, with plenty of things for BAYC owners Yuga Labs to sell to members who are sticking around, like merchandise and promises of land in a metaverse that hasn’t launched yet.





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Paralyzed race driver completes Goodwood hill climb using head movement to steer

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Former Indy Racing League competitor Sam Schmidt is continuing to break new ground for accessible driving technology. The Arrow McLaren SP team co-owner has completed the signature hill climb at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed using head movements and his breath to steer — the first time anyone has demonstrated the feature at the UK event. Schmidt drove a McLaren 720S Spider modified by Arrow Electronics to track his head using infrared cameras. He controlled acceleration and braking by inhaling and exhaling through a “sip-and-puff” device. The racer also wore a semi-autonomous exoskeleton concept, the SAM Suit, that helps him walk.

Schmidt became quadriplegic in 2000 when he injured his spinal cord in a practice lap crash. He has long been an advocate for paralysis treatment, and in 2014 partnered with Arrow to drive a Corvette using a combination of head tracking, sip-and-puff and voice controls. In 2016, became the first American with a license to use an autonomous vehicle on highways, using a Corvette to drive in Nevada.

While alternative mobility solutions can return some level of autonomy to those no longer able to operate a vehicle for one reason or another, it’s not entirely clear what role Arrow’s technology might play in the future. We’ve reached out to the company for details on where it sees projects like the SAM heading. Arrow will also be racing against self-driving tech, which is becoming closer to a practical reality, with Level 3 autonomy already reaching public roads. With that said, completely driverless cars (Level 5 autonomy) will take years to arrive.

Update 6/24/22 7:27pm ET: Reached for comment, an Arrow spokesperson told Engadget that while SAM “is not precisely open source” the tech may be “available for future development if Arrow approves.”

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.



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