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Facebook’s ‘Like’ button may be putting words in your mouth

Molly Wood Jul 16, 2012

Facebook’s ‘Like’ button may be putting words in your mouth

Molly Wood Jul 16, 2012

Fire can be a valuable tool. It can keep you warm; it can also burn down your house. You have to manage it carefully. 

Same could be said of Facebook. Great way to connect with people, but you gotta be careful.

Ed Bott writes for ZDNet. Ed, what did you find on Facebook?

Ed Bott: What I found was all sorts of unusual things beginning to appear at the top of my newsfeed, especially political messages from people who, I had no idea felt so strongly about those political issues.

Moe: What kind of messages?

Bott:They tended to be from both sides of the spectrum, but what it says is, “Jane Doe likes this page.” And then underneath it it says “recent post.” And they’re not from Jane Doe, but Jane Doe’s name is at the top of them and you really have to think it through to realize that Jane Doe didn’t post that herself. And I started looking into it more, and this is happening from pages that people have “liked.”

Moe: So by way of liking the organization, there is an implicit endorsement of what that organization says at any particular time. I can like Guns N Roses, even if I don’t like the “Chinese Democracy” album.

Bott: Exactly. And what’s insidious about this is that this might be a page that you clicked like on three months, six months, even a year ago. When, you know, they posted a picture of a kitten one day, and you said, “Isn’t that cute” and you clicked the “like” button and then six months later you discover they have a thing for death metal. And then all of a sudden they’re telling all of your friends about the latest album from some death metal band and you go, “How did this happen?”

Moe: I don’t know, Ed, if I find anybody that’s into kittens and death metal, I’m liking that one. That sounds pretty cool. Is there a way to turn it off?

Bott: These things are going to appear at the top of the feed and there is no way to stop them from appearing. You can hide them individually, but you can’t make them disappear from your feed. The only way you can stop them is to go in and un-like the pages that are sending these messages out and that have your name on top of them.

Moe: Alright, well, let me play devil’s advocate here if I could. If these are organizations that someone chose to “like.” They have then opted into that organization. Aren’t they the responsible ones for hitting “like” in the first place?

Bott: The fact that I like an organization in the abstract doesn’t mean that I like every single message that they have. And in fact, there might be specific messages that that organization sends that I disagree with. I certainly don’t want my name attached to that particular message, just because I happen to like the organization as a whole.

Reached for comment, a Facebook spokesperson said: “To help people find new Pages, events, and other interesting information, people may now see posts from a Page a friend likes. These posts will include the social context from your friends who like the Page and will respect all existing settings.”

So it’s not a bug, it’s there on purpose.


The Imagine Cup is an annual international student technology competition put on by Microsoft. The 2012 gold medal winner was Team quadSquad from Ukraine. They designed and built some pretty amazing gloves. “You just put the glove on, you do gestures, and a smartphone will vocalize it and convert it into speech,” says Anton Stepanov of the winning team.

The gloves translate sign language into text. That text is translated to voice and sent to a smartphone. So if your friend talks to you in sign language and you don’t understand sign language, you can hear what they’re saying.

The gloves are lightweight, but packed with gyroscopes and compasses. Stepanov says, “They help us to get information about the position of each glove in space. Then we capture this data to our system, it takes from five to 10 times to teach the system each word. That’s how it works.”

Obviously, the gloves are a few years from going on sale. But they’re on the way.

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