Weekly output: Sudan Internet shutdown, 5G and smart cities, net neutrality, Facebook marketing itself

If you’ll have next Saturday morning free and a commute to George Mason University’s Fairfax campus wouldn’t be too bothersome, you can see me talk about privacy, security and other tech topics (while handing out random tech-event swag) at Washington Apple Pi’s general meeting. If this Apple user group’s schedule sticks to pattern, my spot will come up around 11 a.m.

6/12/2019: Sudan Internet shutdown, Al Jazeera

I made a Skype appearance on the Arabic-language news channel to talk about a frequent hobby of totalitarian governments: cutting off their citizens’ Internet access.

6/12/2019: Smart Cities Council—5G Networks: The Keys to Smart City Growth, CE Week

As the one person on this panel not working in the 5G or smart-cities spaces (as opposed to the Smart Cities Council’s Jason Nelson, Aero Wireless Group CEO Jim Lockwood, and Verizon 5G Labs manager Joshua Ness), I tried to ask the questions average customers and citizens might have about the advent of low-latency sensor networks in urban areas.

6/12/2019: The FCC said repealing net-neutrality rules would help consumers: It hasn’t, Yahoo Finance

I’ve had this piece on my to-do list since not long after the Federal Communications Commission’s 2015 net-neutrality rules expired last June. I didn’t get a reply out of every small Internet provider that FCC chair Ajit Pai had cited as a victim of net neutrality, but the responses I did receive did not confirm the upsides Pai forecast when leading the drive to kill the old rules.

6/15/2019: Facebook’s new promotional push, Al Jazeera

Asked to comment on a Wall Street Journal report that Facebook would step up its please-trust-us marketing efforts, I reminded viewers of its previous efforts to do just that. Did they convince you that the company had turned a corner? I didn’t think so.

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Another experiment in spending Facebook’s money on a Facebook ad

Last week, Facebook offered me a chance to play with the house’s money: a $10 ad credit to boost my ode to RFK Stadium, which the social network’s algorithms had seen drawing an outsized audience on my page there.

Facebook RFK-post ad reportLike the last time I got this freebie, I could target people for the ad by geography, interests (as perceived by Facebook), age range and gender. Unlike the last time, I got this warning, Facebook’s belated response to learning that its self-service ad system was not magically bigotry-proof: “Ad sets that use targeting terms related to social, religious or political issues may require additional review before your ads start running.”

The logical demographic to target for a post about RFK would have been the greater Washington area–but Facebook didn’t present any such option. In a hurry and on my phone, I told it to target users in D.C., Bethesda, Silver Spring, Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax.

Then I stuck with the default age range of 21 to 65+ and added the following interests: music festivals, Washington Redskins, Washington Nationals, D.C. United and local history. RFK being its dilapidated self, it’s too bad “peeling paint” wasn’t a choice.

Three days later, I got my results: The ad reached 847 people and yielded all of 26 clicks through to my post here. That leaves me nowhere near Russian propagandists in using money to get people’s attention on Facebook–even if in terms of reach I fared about as well as Sens. Mark Warner (D.-Va.) and Amy Klobuchar (D.-Minn.) did in their test purchase of ads to lure Hill staffers and reporters to a fake Facebook group.

But while I still see no reason to spend my own money on Facebook ads, I hope the site continues to throw out these freebies. It’s fascinating to see how the marketing machinery works from the inside; that alone easily justifies the time I put into my Facebook page.