Tag Archives: Facebook

Facebook Messenger now lets you prove you’re “OMW!” in real-time

Just a few days after Google added live location sharing to Maps, now Facebook is doing something similar on Messenger. You could already share your location on the app, but it was basically just a quick snapshot of your location on a map. Now you can see where your friends are in real time as they move around a city, which will come in handy for all those times your friends are “on their way” but haven’t even finished taking a shower (or make it harder for you to lie about where you are).   To try it out, simply tap…

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Facebook bars developers from using data to create surveillance tools

Facebook Mobile App

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc barred software developers on Monday from using the massive social network’s data to create surveillance tools, closing off a process that had been exploited by U.S. police departments to track protesters

Facebook, its Instagram unit and rival Twitter Inc came under fire last year from privacy advocates after the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said in a report that police were using location data and other user information to spy on protesters in places such as Ferguson, Missouri.

In response to the ACLU report, the companies shut off the data access of Geofeedia, a Chicago-based data vendor that said it works with organizations to “leverage social media,” but Facebook policy had not explicitly barred such use of data in the future.

“Our goal is to make our policy explicit,” Rob Sherman, Facebook’s deputy chief privacy officer, said in a post on the social network on Monday. He was not immediately available for an interview.

The change would help build “a community where people can feel safe making their voices heard,” Sherman said.

Racially charged protests broke out in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson in the aftermath of the August 2014 shooting of black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer.

In a 2015 email message, a Geofeedia employee touted its “great success” covering the protests, according to the ACLU report based on government records.

Representatives of Geofeedia could not immediately be reached for comment on Monday. The company has worked with more than 500 law enforcement agencies, the ACLU said.

Geofeedia Chief Executive Officer Phil Harris said in October that the company was committed to privacy and would work to build on civil rights protections.

Major social media platforms including Twitter and Alphabet Inc’s YouTube have taken action or implemented policies similar to Facebook’s, said Nicole Ozer, technology and civil liberties policy director at the ACLU of Northern California.

Ozer praised the companies’ action but said they should have stopped such use of data earlier. “It shouldn’t take a public records request from the ACLU for these companies to know what their developers are doing,” she said.

It was also unclear how the companies would enforce their policies, said Malkia Cyril, executive director of the Center for Media Justice, a nonprofit that opposes government use of social media for surveillance.

Inside corporations, “is the will there, without constant activist pressure, to enforce these rules?” Cyril said.

(Reporting by David Ingram; Editing by Bernard Orr)


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Google and Facebook to help French newsrooms combat ‘fake news’ ahead of presidential election

Google / Google France

Google and Facebook are to help a host of French news organizations combat the growing scourge of fake news ahead of the upcoming French presidential election campaign.

With CrossCheck, Google has partnered with First Draft and Facebook to support a coalition of notable newsrooms — including Le Monde, Agence France-Presse (AFP), France Télévisions, BuzzFeed, Global Voices, and Les Echos — to help the French electorate “make sense of what and who to trust in their social media feeds, web searches, and general online news consumption,” according to David Dieudonné, Google’s News Lab lead in France.

“With combined expertise from across media and technology, CrossCheck aims to ensure hoaxes, rumours, and false claims are swiftly debunked, and misleading or confusing stories are accurately reported,” said Dieudonné. “With the French presidential election approaching, journalists from across France and beyond will work together to find and verify content circulating publicly online, whether it is photographs, videos, memes, comment threads, or news sites.”

Though it’s far from a new phenomenon, the “fake news” problem has received renewed attention in the wake of two notable political events in the past twelve months — Brexit and the U.S. presidency. The extent to which hoaxes and fake news articles influenced the outcome of those political campaigns is up for debate, but technology companies and news organizations are embracing new tools as concerns grow over the online spread of false information, or “alternative facts.”

Already this year, Le Monde has launched an anti-fake news platform constituting a suite of fact-checking products powered by a database of hundreds of “unreliable” source websites. And Facebook, for its part, has already introduced fake-news thwarting tools in some countries, including Germany. Moreover, back in November, Facebook acquired CrowdTangle, an analytics tool that tracks how links are shared on social media services — which could help measure the spread of viral content. Facebook’s support of CrossCheck will also include broader “media literacy efforts that will help to explain the [news] verification process” while keeping “relevant audiences up to date with confirmed and disputed information relating to the election,” according to First Draft.

Google too has been pushing to help stymie the spread of false information online, and last September it partnered with First Draft and other news organizations to launch Electionland ahead of the U.S. presidential election.

The French presidential election takes place on April 23, 2017, and if no candidate wins a majority, a follow-up election between the top two candidates will take place two weeks later. Now with CrossCheck, news organizations will be able to tap collectively fact-checked sources for their own articles and broadcasts.

However, it’s not entirely clear whether any of this will ultimately make much difference, given the belief held by some that people don’t make decision based on facts.

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Facebook employees protest travel ban by boycotting flying

Facebook VP Regina Dugan

While some of Facebook’s top executives have already spoken out against President Trump’s immigration moratorium, other company employees are protesting the ban by boycotting flying.

A handful of Facebook employees have committed to either fly less or completely boycott flying for the next 90 days in protest of Trump’s order, which bars people from seven predominantly Muslim countries from entering the US for 90 days and bars the admission of all refugees for 120 days.

The protest was organized by Facebook vice president of engineering Regina Dugan, according to a post on her Facebook page Friday. Dugan was poached by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg from Google in early 2016 to lead the social giant’s mysterious Building 8 hardware division.

“Last Sunday, I felt heartbroken,” Dugan wrote Friday in reference to Trump’s executive order. “And I decided that I had to do something. Before I knew it, a small rag tag team of citizen coders had formed. A designer made a logo. We put down words, took shifts, encouraged each other through sleepless nights. Two days later, nofly90.com was live.”

Dugan’s website explains that the boycott is intended to make a statement “that is hard to ignore.”

“Approximately 2 million people fly each day in the United States,” it reads. “If one out of every ten of those people boycott air travel for 90 days, it will make a $ 5B statement. And that is a roar that is hard to ignore.”

“The boycott of public buses in Montgomery lasted 381 days,” the website continues. “Now it is our turn.”

Some Facebook employees, including several who work within Dugan’s Building 8 division, have shared the website with the hashtag “#nofly90.” Employees from Google and other tech companies have also shared the hashtag.

A Facebook spokesperson told Business Insider that the company wasn’t affiliated with Dugan’s protest and that no company resources were used to create the website.

Mark Zuckerberg was one of first in a long string of tech CEOs to speak out against Trump’s order last week. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg later came out and said that the ban defies “the heart and values that define the best of our nation.”

This story originally appeared on Www.businessinsider.com. Copyright 2017

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Facebook reportedly creating app to bring videos to the television

Facebook video search on mobile.

Facebook is reportedly working on a way to bring its video content to your television. The social networking company could be developing an app that lets you stream premium content it curates through set-top boxes such as Apple TV.

The Wall Street Journal shared that the unnamed app is one of several projects Facebook is undertaking to shift itself from a mobile-first to a video-first entity. By extending itself beyond the confines of a mobile phone or computer and onto additional screen real estate, the thought is it would not only improve ad load, but increase opportunities for targeting and providing quality ads to people watching videos on their televisions.

Facebook declined to comment.

In July, Facebook chief financial officer Dave Wehner made a remark that concerned advertisers, suggesting that the total number of ads the company would be able to show each user would be “a relative non-factor” for predicting Facebook’s future revenue growth a year from then. The following quarter, it warned investors that its ad revenue growth would be slowing down in 2017, which is now.

So in order to find ways to expand its advertising, Facebook is looking at the television. As a vocal proponent of videos — look at the push towards Facebook Live, Instagram Stories and Live, Messenger Daysurfacing longer videos within News Feed, and more — why not combine it with ads? This is where pre- and post-roll ads could fit in.

Other social companies have launched apps for set-top boxes, including YouTube and Twitter’s Periscope. However, YouTube, which continues to be a major player in the online video space, is the only one that appears to have any way to monetize what’s shown on the television. Facebook’s entry could certainly shake up the market and give YouTube a run for its money.

All eyes will be on Facebook tomorrow as the company declares its fourth quarter earnings results to see if its status as an advertising behemoth has changed.

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Nokia teases yet another Android phone in a cryptic Facebook post

Nokia is finally getting busy. Shortly after announcing plans to launch its first Android handset later this year, it appears the Finnish company has more surprises in store – and quite possibly another smartphone on the way. In a new Facebook post teasing the arrival of its forthcoming Nokia 6, the company dropped a cryptic clue suggesting “more announcements” will follow on February 26. While the date coincides with the start of Mobile World Congress, the phone-maker has refused to give out any further details as to what these “announcements” could involve – but it seems the company may unveil an…

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Facebook says people sent 63 billion WhatsApp messages on New Year’s Eve


Facebook-owned WhatsApp today announced that people sent 63 billion messages on New Year’s Eve, setting a new record for the app that lets people have chats and make voice and video calls.

Within those 63 billion messages, there were 7.9 billion images and 2.4 billion videos, a WhatsApp spokesperson told VentureBeat in an email.

For the sake of comparison, Messenger and WhatsApp combined were sending 60 billion messages per day, Facebook cofounder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said at the company’s F8 developer conference in April, as the Verge reported.

In January 2015, WhatsApp cofounder Jan Koum said that people were sending 30 billion messages per day on WhatsApp. By February 2016, that number was 42 billion.

People were sending 15 billion messages per day on Telegram as of February 2016. And in 2014, people were sending 40 billion iMessages per day, according to Bloomberg.

Facebook acquired WhatsApp in 2014, and WhatsApp now has more than 1 billion monthly active users. In April, WhatsApp enabled WhatsApp end-to-end encryption by default.

The SMS message protocol was at one point handling 20 billion messages per day, Andreessen Horowitz’s Benedict Evans wrote in a 2015 blog post.

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For publishers, Facebook is the devil

(left to right) Gregory Gittrich of Mashable, Tom Dotan of The Information and Blaise Zerega of VentureBeat onstage at Web Summit 2016 in Lisbon.

One might argue that Facebook behaved with imperious disdain, or callous indifference at best, in its treatment of publishers in the final month of 2016. The social media giant admitted misreporting publishers’ Instant Articles, as well as multiple errors regarding the estimated reach of posts, measurement of reactions to streamed videos, its Graph API, and more. This series of revelations came just weeks after the company had made similar disclosures about problems with other video and ad measurement metrics, which had affected both publishers and advertisers.

Facebook’s troubling announcements also came on the heels of its fake news fiasco, which erupted after the U.S. presidential election. CEO Mark Zuckerberg initially downplayed his company’s role in the election results, saying, “Personally, I think the idea that fake news on Facebook — of which it’s a small amount of content — influenced the election in any way is a pretty crazy idea.” However, the absurdity of his position was brought home by President Barack Obama’s pointed rejoinder. “If we are not serious about facts and what’s true and what’s not, if we can’t discriminate between serious arguments and propaganda, then we have problems,” Obama said in a news conference in Germany in November.

Following the U.S presidential election, Facebook says it is undertaking measures to root out fake news and de-prioritize such posts in users’ newsfeeds. However, for publishers who watched fake news overtake their carefully reported news stories, these steps may feel like too little too late. And the measures may prove too blunt an instrument, as this tweet from Rebecca Schoenkopf of Wonkette suggests:

Meanwhile — before Facebook’s December problems were revealed — I had the honor of debating Mashable chief content officer Gregory Gittrich at Web Summit 2016. The motion was Social media dilutes your brand — Publishing direct content on social media, over time, negatively impacts your brand integrity. Our moderator was Tom Dotan, a reporter at The Information. Gittrich’s smart argument about embracing social media carried the day. After the debate, the audience voted against the motion by a show of hands.

Below is a transcript of my argument delivered on November 10, 2016, edited slightly for clarity and brevity. Caveat: Given the forum, some of my remarks were intentionally hyperbolic in order to make a point.

Social media dilutes your brand

Publishing direct content on social media, over time, negatively impacts your brand integrity.

TODAY, if you’re a publisher, Facebook is the devil. And the devil is offering you a deal:


Take your core product, your journalism, and give it to us. The snake beckons…I’ve got this wonderful temptation, only it’s not an apple, it’s Instant Articles. If you give us all your content, you’ll need fewer engineers — we’ve got a WordPress plugin. And you’ll need fewer salespeople, we’ve got ad sales covered for you. Just give us your content, and we’ll do the rest.

It’s a seductive message, particularly tempting for traditional media companies searching for profits and needing to cut costs. It’s tempting for new media companies seeking eyeballs, growth, scale — whatever buzzwords their VC investors demand of them.

But instant articles are a deal with the devil. And you will get burned.

I will provide you with three reasons why publishing directly to social media will harm your brand over time. And by social media, I’m going to be talking about Facebook, although my argument applies to all platforms.

First, Mark Zuckerberg’s interests are Facebook’s interests, not yours. By publishing directly to Facebook, you will surrender your commercial and editorial destiny.

Second, Facebook is a social network, not a media platform. It can be useful for marketing, but it’s not suited for the direct publication, consumption, and distribution of your journalism.

Third, Facebook takes over and effectively rebrands your brand — your unique look, feel, and reader experience becomes common. You will surrender and abandon that which sets your brand apart, what makes it special.

All right, now let me offer some points to back up each of my reasons.

One: Facebook has time and again revealed itself be self-interested.

Anybody remember what happened to Zynga? The game maker was kicked to the curb when Zuckerberg decided that games were getting in the way. Simply put, publishers are the new Zynga and can be kicked to the curb whenever Facebook feels like it. In fact, in many ways, they already have.

Consider the preferential treatment given videos directly uploaded to Facebook, as opposed to YouTube videos being shared. All of sudden, Facebook has amassed a library of videos and detailed information about people’s viewing habits, all of which is used — not to show me the video I want, but one that best serves Facebook’s business interests and drives ad revenue.

The same is happening with Instant Articles. Publishers are giving ­Facebook a trove of content, a very valuable asset that is often produced at great cost. Yet Facebook can choose to display it — or not.

Which, of course, brings me to the notorious Facebook algorithm, which, as we all know, has time and again de-prioritized journalism in favor of pictures of your cousin, recipes from my Aunt, and so on.

In 2015, after some initial changes to the algorithm, sites like Huffington Post reported a traffic drop of 60 percent over a 10-month period; BuzzFeed witnessed a 40 percent reduction in referrals.

And earlier this year, according to a report in Digiday, traffic for publishers declined about 20 percent from January to March: “The data showed the biggest drops came from publishers that have been heavily invested in Instant Articles.”

More recently, the number of people seeing the average post published on a publisher’s Facebook Page has been cut in half. From January 2016 through mid-July 2016, publishers’ Facebook Pages have experienced a 52 percent decline in organic reach, according to social publishing tool SocialFlow. That statistic is based on the company’s analysis of roughly 300 media companies that use its tool to manage their Facebook Pages, which include the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Condé Nast, and Time Inc.

And just in June, after another tweak, at VentureBeat we saw an instant drop of 10 percent, and then another drop of 10 percent through September.

And if this doesn’t convince you of Facebook’s self-interest, let me mention the massive over-reporting of video views — by 60 to 80 percent — that Facebook admitted to this September.

Meanwhile, Facebook reported $ 7 billion in revenue in Q3 and 1.79 billion users. 

Two: Facebook is a social network, not a digital media platform, like a website.

Instant articles are designed for a news feed, accessed via a mobile device. They offer none of the richness of information, like a searchable archive of a website or app.

Further, while obvious, the fact that Facebook controls all the data concerning your readers will hamper your ability to serve them and make money.

Facebook’s goal is to keep its users — they’re called users, not readers — on its platform, and not to drive them to your site, where you can better monetize them. In this way, Instant Articles are the trap keeping people inside the walled garden.

Even as Facebook seems to offer publishers more ways to make a little bit of money, very few publishers will get good deals and make any meaningful revenue, as Bloomberg CEO Justin Smith said yesterday.

In fact, at VentureBeat we often see — and anecdotally, it seems to be increasing — stories blow up on Facebook in terms of interaction, reach, and so on, but result in scant traffic back to our site.

It’s wonderful that people comment and share, but there’s little tangible benefit for us. 

Three: Facebook sets the rules for your brand’s look, feel, and reader experience. You will surrender and abandon that which sets your brand apart, what makes it special.

Publishers live in a multi-platform world and understand the need to tailor content to specific devices and platforms, and it’s here that Instant Articles really hurts your brand.

Consider what would happen to your experience of The National Geographic — a magazine famous for its glorious photography, like the young Afghan girl with piercing green eyes or a majestic lion roaming a South African nature preserve.

As an instant article, a Nat Geo story gets reduced to the lowest common denominator, in terms of format. There’s no longer anything special. A couple of images and some words — no different than, dare I say, a Mashable or VentureBeat story.

And why should this surprise anyone? Facebook was built for social sharing, not for media publishing.


One: Facebook’s interests are not your interests. They are competing with you for ad dollars and readers.

Second: Facebook is a social network, not a media platform.

Third: Facebook’s Instant articles will reduce your brand to the lowest common denominator.

Finally: Don’t be tempted. Don’t do a deal with the devil. Don’t bite the apple.

After the debate ended, I received very positive feedback from several Web Summit attendees and was also taken to task by an audience member who misunderstood some of my purposefully exaggerated sentiment. There was so much more to talk about regarding Facebook’s relationship with publishers: censorship and the “Napalm Girl” photo, perceived bias of human editors, and many other relevant topics.

Greg Gittrich was an able foe, and it was fun debating him. Here is my favorite comment from a listener:


Web Summit 2016 comment blaise zerega facebook


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Facebook takes on Google Doodle with News Feed messages

Google’s Doodles are a simple but effective way for the search engine to mark holidays and current events without interrupting the search experience. Now Facebook is revealing its own take with News Feed messages about holidays and events. The messages show up atop your feed, and like Google Doodles, they may be themed around holidays or specific moments in history. However, Facebook seems to be placing a larger emphasis around current events as well, highlighting interesting things happening in local communities. In one example, Facebook suggests you check out the supermoon, along with a link explaining what’s so special about…

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Facebook launches analytics dashboard to track Messenger bot performance

Message Received[1]

Facebook will now allow people with Messenger bots to track them and get detailed information about their bot’s performance and its users, the company said today.

The move makes Facebook one of the first major chat app platforms to provide analytics for its bot makers. More than 34,000 developers have made Messenger bots since the platform launched in April.

In combination with News Feed ads for bots that were made available last week, companies, startups, and everyone else making bots can now track and target fans based on metrics  like age, gender, education, interests, country, and language.

Analytics for bots can be tracked with the Facebook Analytics for Apps dashboard.

The new bots dashboard will show things like number of messages sent and received, number of blocked messages, and the number of people who engage with a bot but are later transferred to a human agent.

Analytics for Apps helps creators make decisions about product market fit and how to tailor products for users, said product manager Josh Twist.

“We have this belief at Facebook that if you want to grow, it’s not just about acquiring users, it’s about retaining them, about keeping them engaged, about building a better consumer product,” Twist said.

To convert chats into customers, the app dashboard provides the same metrics Facebook uses to measure its own success, he said.

“We believe the right way to hypothesize around those things is two-fold: one is understanding your customer’s behavior, understanding what they do, [but then] experiment based on that, look for insights, drive your ability to create hypotheses, and then test by changing something in your application and measuring to see how you achieve that.”

The ability to include website metrics in Analytics for Apps was added in September, so now the dashboard can combine data across apps, websites, and bots.

“Businesses that have bots as well as apps and websites can build cross-platform funnels to understand whether interaction with their bot results in increased engagement with their other platforms — or, in other words, do bots help drive customer loyalty” a Facebook spokesperson told VentureBeat in an email.

Facebook also announced today that promising early-stage companies that create bots can now apply to become part of the FbStart program.

The FbStart program offers 1:1 support from Facebook staff and up to $ 80,000 in free services from partners like ZenDesk, Salesforce, and Amazon Web Services.

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