One more proof that humanity is doomed to repeat the same mistakes over and over again until either humanity is edited out of genotype altogether or the end of days happens.


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Part 1: "Advocates Ask FTC 'To Hold Facebook Accountable' For In-Game Purchases By Kids"




In 2011, Glynnis Bohannon gave her 12-year-old son permission to charge $20 on her credit card to play a game on Facebook called Ninja Saga. Neither of them saw any signs that the credit card information had been stored and was racking up charges as her son played and made additional in-game purchases. Bohannon says her son didn't realize it would end up costing nearly $1,000.

Bohannon was the main plaintiff in a 2012 class-action lawsuit that Facebook settled in 2016. The suit was brought on behalf of parents whose minor children unknowingly made purchases on their parents' credit cards.

[...]

In another document, cited in a release by the advocacy groups, Facebook employees called an underage girl a "whale" — a term used by casinos to refer to someone who spends a lot of money.

Parents also say Facebook made it challenging to find out how to report what had happened and often would not reimburse parents

Among the revelations from the unsealed documents is that Facebook employees did come up with ways to prevent children from unwittingly stacking up charges on their parents' credit cards. But employees were told it would cut into Facebook revenues. According to one document, Facebook told developers not to avoid what it called "friendly fraud.".

Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, says the unsealed documents show "the attitude of the company and the culture that underlay these decisions and the deceptive practices. So that alone speaks volumes and says we need to crack down on this."

[...]

In the 2016 settlement, Facebook agreed to make certain changes to its practices. For example, it had to inform app developers that any purchases made by minors could be voided.
Amazon Offers Refunds For Children's Unauthorized In-App Purchases

But Steyer of Common Sense Media says the settlement isn't sufficient. "At least it brought to light some of the unfair and deceptive practices and the privacy violations. But it didn't really protect all children and families and consumers in this country, which is the job of the FTC.

Facebook isn't the only tech company to engage in this kind of conduct. Apple, Google and Amazon have been accused of similar behavior. Settlement agreements with the FTC required those companies to modify their billing practices to ensure express consent from parents for in-app purchases. The settlements also required tens of millions in refunds.

ZUCKERBERG: Now we're going to change this, and we're going to make it so that now everyone has to choose to share their own data with an app themselves. So we think that this is a really important step for giving people power and control.
SHAHANI: Sounds great - only, in the same month Zuckerberg gave that speech, regulators say the company began to use facial recognition tracking on some 60 million users - again, without consent. Rohit Chopra is an FTC commissioner who voted against entering the settlement with Facebook.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, Facebook kept handing over user data secretly without consent to dozens of outside developers. Mark Zuckerberg said one thing while his company did another. It was not an isolated incident. In 2018, he did it again - this time, not on his own stage but in front of the entire country.

Editor's note on March 1: For the record, Facebook is among NPR's financial supporters.

Part 2: Swiggity Swooty, Succ's Coming For Dat Booty
Facebook’s Tara Stewart had foreseen this exact problem a few months earlier. She even noted that Ninja games were especially problematic, and had developed a method that would have stopped Bohannon’s 12-year-old son from unwittingly spending money. But Facebook had not implemented her recommendation. And as he sat there, avoiding the dry heat of the Arizona desert, the 12-year-old boy was duped into spending several hundred dollars on his mom’s charge card.

The memo stated, “Friendly Fraud – what it is, why it’s challenging, and why you shouldn’t try to block it.” “Friendly fraud” is the term Facebook used when children spent money on games without their parents’ permission.

Facebook made clear that game developers should let children spend money even without their parents’ permission.

The company was focused on revenue, not blocking friendly fraud. Its stated philosophy on chargebacks was “maximizing revenue,” according to the memo.

“There is a huge need to educate developers,” Elizabeth Williges, a Facebook employee wrote in the memo. It was sent to the head of Facebook’s payment operations and other employees, including Tara Stewart.

Rather than trying to stop children from making costly mistakes, the document stated that developers should just give free virtual items to users who complain, things such as flaming swords, extra lives and other in-game enhancements.

This was better than refunding money to kids because, as the Facebook employee said in her message, “Virtual goods bear no cost.”

And for those customers who turned to their credit cards for help, Facebook was devising another strategy. It would design a program that automatically disputed customer’s chargeback requests, without even bothering to review the merits of those requests, according to another unsealed document.

Part 3: Down the rabbit whale hole

But mobile games and slot machines aren't just about winning.

"One gambler told me ... 'I get irritated when I win a jackpot,' and I kept hearing that over and over again," she says.

This puzzled Schüll. Why play the game, if not to win?

"I think it's a kind of escape, the retreat from the world, the comfort," she says. "So people actually describe [slot machines] as being reassuring and predictable, which is really counter-intuitive. But it makes sense if you sit and watch people play."

"I think that it can be applied more broadly than just [to] slot machines," she says. "It can be applied to compulsive email checking, or eBay auctions, or playlists, where you're constantly using this media to modulate your mood, and you just have it available right there at your fingertips."

ΔFosB [FBJ murine osteosarcoma viral oncogene homolog B] also plays an important role in regulating behavioral responses to natural rewards, such as palatable food, sex, and exercise. Natural rewards, similar to drugs of abuse, induce gene expression of ΔFosB in the nucleus accumbens, and chronic acquisition of these rewards can result in a similar pathological addictive state through ΔFosB overexpression Consequently, ΔFosB is the key mechanism involved in addictions to natural rewards (i.e., behavioral addictions) as well; in particular, ΔFosB in the nucleus accumbens is critical for the reinforcing effects of sexual reward. Research on the interaction between natural and drug rewards suggests that dopaminergic psychostimulants (e.g., amphetamine) and sexual behavior act on similar biomolecular mechanisms to induce ΔFosB in the nucleus accumbens and possess bidirectional reward cross-sensitization effects (in simplest terms, this means that when either amphetamine or sex is perceived as "more alluring or desirable" through reward sensitization, this effect occurs with the other as well) that are mediated through ΔFosB. This phenomenon is notable since, in humans, a dopamine dysregulation syndrome, characterized by drug-induced compulsive engagement in natural rewards (specifically, sexual activity, shopping, and gambling), has also been observed in some individuals taking dopaminergic medications.


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