Twitter Tests Vanishing Tweets to Keep Up With Snapchat, Facebook

Twitter logo
(FILES) In this file photo taken on May 2, 2019 logos of US social network Twitter are displayed on the screen of smartphones, in Nantes, western France. (Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP)

 

Twitter said Wednesday it is testing a way for users to “think aloud” with tweets that vanish after a day instead of having posts linger.

The ability to send ephemeral tweets called “Fleets” is being tried out in Brazil, according to the San Francisco-based social media platform.

If more widely implemented, Twitter would match the disappearing posts first made popular by Snapchat and later adopted by Facebook and other platforms.

“We are experimenting with a new way for you to ‘think aloud’ on Twitter, with no likes, retweets or public comments,” the company said in a message posted from its @TwitterBrasil account.

“The name of this is Fleets. Want to know the best? They disappear after 24 hours.”

Twitter product lead Kayvon Beykpour said the new format could encourage people to share thoughts they might not have expressed in a permanent tweet.

“This is a substantial change to Twitter, so we’re excited to learn by testing it (starting with the rollout today in Brazil) and seeing how our customers use it,” Beykpour tweeted.

-AFP

 

Facebook Cancels Developers Conference Due To Coronavirus

Breaking Up Facebook Isn't The Answer, Says Zuckerberg
This file photo taken on February 18, 2019 shows the US social media Facebook logo displayed on a tablet in Paris. Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP.

 

Facebook on Thursday canceled its annual F8 developers conference, the biggest annual event for the US tech giant, over fears about the possible spread of the novel coronavirus.

The gathering in the Silicon Valley city of San Jose — which had been set for early May — typically draws thousands of software makers from around the world who collaborate with the tech giant on its platform.

“In light of the growing concerns around COVID-19, we’ve made the difficult decision to cancel the in-person component of F8 this year, in order to prioritize the health and safety of our developer partners, employees and everyone who helps put F8 on,” Facebook said.

Face-to-face interaction at the conference center in San Jose will be replaced with presentations streamed online. F8 sessions and demonstrations usually span its “family” of offerings including the main social network, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp and virtual reality unit Oculus.

“This was a tough call to make — F8 is an incredibly important event for Facebook and it’s one of our favorite ways to celebrate all of you from around the world,” director of platform partnerships Konstantinos Papamiltiadis said in a message to developers.

“We explored other ways to keep the in-person part of F8, but it’s important to us to host an inclusive event and it didn’t feel right to have F8 without our international developers in attendance.”

The World Health Organization declared Thursday that the new coronavirus epidemic was at a “decisive point” as countries across the globe battled to contain the deadly outbreak.

Alarm is growing as China is no longer the only breeding ground for COVID-19, with other countries including South Korea and Italy becoming hotbeds of infection, raising fears of a pandemic.

The virus has already killed more than 2,700 people, mostly in China — where it first emerged in December — and infected more than 81,000 in over 45 countries.

US public health officials confirmed a coronavirus case in Northern California, the first of unknown origin out of about 60 cases, and have told Americans to be ready to cancel mass gatherings and work from home.

The epidemic has prompted warnings of a financial impact from tech giants including Apple and Microsoft.

Both Facebook and Microsoft said Thursday they were withdrawing from the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco set for March.

AFP

Facebook’s ‘Supreme Court’ To Be Ready In Months

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the annual F8 summit at the San Jose McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California on May 1, 2018.  JOSH EDELSON / AFP

 

Facebook said on Tuesday its “supreme court,” designed to be the final word in content removal disputes, should be in operation in a few months, as it named a British human rights activist to a key post.

The social network said that former Article 19 executive director Thomas Hughes would be the staff director of the oversight board, which is being developed to settle questions on what content is removed from Facebook or Instagram.

Hughes told reporters he sees the new post as “aligned to what I’ve been doing for the last couple of decades,” on protecting human rights and freedom of expression.

The plan for an oversight board was proposed by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in 2018, to make difficult calls on what is appropriate content for Facebook. The company initially planned to bring it into operation by the end of 2019.

The move is billed as part of an effort by Facebook to balance freedom of speech with concerns over manipulation of the social network for abuse or deception, particularly heading into the US presidential election this year.

“Over time, I believe this body will play an important role in our overall governance,” Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said in a post last year.

In September, Facebook finalized its “charter” for the new body. And on Tuesday, it unveiled its bylaws — subject to review when the board is in place — that set out the process for dealing with complaints and disputes.

The bylaws revealed on Tuesday allow people 15 days to petition the board regarding posts removed from Facebook or Instagram.

The board would make a decision within a maximum of 90 days.

Facebook executives said the time limits are guidelines and that the board would seek to weigh each case on the potential harm it may cause.

“Given the large number of content decisions Facebook makes, as well as the time it will take to hear cases, we expect the board will choose cases that have the greatest potential to guide Facebook’s future decisions and policies,” the California-based social network said.

The board will initially focus on disputes over removed content, expanding to address complaints regarding controversial posts allowed to remain on the platform, according to Facebook.

The board will have as many as 40 members hearing the appeals in a panel headed by three co-chairs.

Facebook will select the initial three co-chairs, and those positions will subsequently be selected by the board and trustees of the panel.

AFP

Facebook To Boost Site Safety With 1,000 More UK Staff

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the opening keynote introducing new Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram privacy features at the Facebook F8 Conference at McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California on April 30, 2019.  Amy Osborne / AFP

 

Facebook on Tuesday said it plans to create 1,000 more London-based jobs this year to improve safety on the social network with the aid of artificial intelligence.

The new roles will increase the number of staff at the company’s largest engineering hub outside the United States to more than 4,000.

“The UK is a world leader in both innovation and creativity. That’s why I’m excited that we plan to hire an additional 1,000 people in London this year alone,” said Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg.

She said that many of the new roles would help Facebook to “address the challenges of an open internet and develop artificial intelligence to find and remove harmful content more quickly.

“They will also help us build the tools that help small businesses grow, compete with larger companies and create new jobs.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed the move, saying that “the UK is successfully creating both homegrown firms at the forefront of cutting-edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence, whilst attracting established global tech giants like Facebook”.

AFP

Facebook Exec Says It Helped Put Trump In White House

Facebook’s hardware vice president Andrew Bosworth gestures as he speaks during an AFP interview on September 17, 2019 in San Francisco, California.

 

 

A senior Facebook executive on Tuesday said the world’s biggest social network unintentionally helped put Donald Trump in the White House but warned against dramatic rule changes.

The Trump campaign did effectively use Facebook to rally support for his presidential run, and the social network should be mindful of that without making moves that stifle free political discourse, Andrew Bosworth said in a lengthy post on his personal Facebook page triggered by The New York Times publishing an internal memo he wrote.

“So was Facebook responsible for Donald Trump getting elected?” Bosworth asked.

“I think the answer is yes, but not for the reasons anyone thinks.”

Bosworth contended Trump was not elected because of Russia or misinformation or Cambridge Analytica, but rather because he ran “the single best digital ad campaign I’ve ever seen from any advertiser.”

Since Facebook has the same ad policies in place now, the outcome of the 2020 election could be the same as it was four years ago, he added.

Facebook has maintained a hands-off policy on political ads, in contrast with Google which in November placed restrictions on how advertisers can target specific groups of voters.

“As tempting as it is to use the tools available to us to change the outcome, I am confident we must never do that or we will become that which we fear,” Bosworth wrote.

That doesn’t mean Facebook should not draw a line when it comes to how it is used, he reasoned. Clearly inciting violence, thwarting voting, and other blatant transgressions should be banned, but voters should be trusted to decide what kind of leaders they want to elect, according to Bosworth.

“If we don’t want hate-mongering politicians then we must not elect them,” Bosworth wrote.

“If we change the outcomes without winning the minds of the people who will be ruled then we have a democracy in name only. If we limit what information people have access to and what they can say then we have no democracy at all.”

– War rooms –
Bosworth’s comments came with Facebook under pressure to better protect user data and prevent its services from being used to spread misinformation, exacerbate social divides and sway political opinions as was the case in 2016 in the US.

Keeping the social network secure while thwarting misinformation and fending off the competition with new features were among priorities laid out by executives at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Tuesday.

“The innovation piece is important to us while we keep people in the company focused on security,” said Facebook vice president of global marketing solutions Carolyn Everson.

Facebook provided visitors a look at a revamped “Privacy Checkup” tool for users which is rolling out this week.

“What is top of mind for me is regulation and how the privacy landscape is developing,” Everson said.

“We would like help on the regulatory front for privacy and security.”

Facebook priorities this year include preventing the platform from being used by malevolent actors to influence the US election, according to Everson.

The social network is in nearly 200 countries around the world, where scores of elections take place annually and will apply lessons learned through experience to the US, Everson said.

Facebook will once again have a “war room” to coordinate responses to the election or voter manipulation efforts by state actors or others in real-time.

“The war room model has been working around the world,” Everson said.

“We have 70 to 90 elections each year, so we have been getting better. War rooms are part of our strategy.”

Facebook will ban hyper-realistic deepfake videos ahead of the US election but will still allow heavily edited clips so long as they are parody or satire.

Everson re-affirmed Facebook will stick with its controversial policy of allowing politicians to post information proven to be false.

“We do not believe we are in the position to be the arbiter of truth, but we have been clear that we are continuing to evaluate how we can do it better,” Everson said.

“We don’t want people to mislead on our platform.”

Facebook last month took down a network of accounts it said was using fake identities while spreading pro-Trump messages at the social network and its Instagram service.

Trump Says Zuckerberg Told Him He’s Facebook’s ‘Number One’

(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 11, 2019 US President Donald Trump gestures as he arrives for a “Keep America Great” rally at Sudduth Coliseum at the Lake Charles Civic Center in Lake Charles, Louisiana.
SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

President Donald Trump boasted Monday that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg told him at dinner he is “number one” on the global social media platform.

“I had dinner with Mark Zuckerberg the other day and he said ‘I’d like to congratulate you… you are number one on Facebook,'” Trump said.

The president, speaking in a live interview with right-wing radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, did not specify when the dinner happened.

A spokesman for Facebook said the last such dinner took place in October.

The president noted the importance of social media to his messaging, which depends on bypassing much of the professional news media, which he accuses of bias against him.

READ ALSO: Indonesian Jailed For Life As UK’s ‘Most Prolific’ Rapist

Trump, who has nearly 70 million followers on Twitter, told Limbaugh that without the platform, “I think we’d be lost.”

“We wouldn’t be able to get the truth out,” he said.

US social media platforms have come under criticism for enabling misinformation and fake news in the build-up to the 2020 presidential election.

Trump himself has repeatedly used Facebook and Twitter to push untrue statements and conspiracy theories.

Both those platforms have responded by saying they will not attempt to weed out lies from politicians because their statements fall under the category of “newsworthy” content.

Trump is number one on Facebook in terms of political ad spending, leading to accusations that the company is unduly influenced by the Republican.

At the October dinner at the White House, Trump and Zuckerberg were reportedly joined by Facebook board member Peter Thiel.

After, Democratic presidential candidate Senator Elizabeth Warren called for transparency over Facebook’s links to Trump.

“What did they talk about?” Warren tweeted.

AFP

Benin Jails Journalist Over Facebook Post

South African Pastor Sentenced Over Gay Slurs
File Photo

 

Benin Republic sentenced an investigative journalist to 18 months in prison on Tuesday for comments he posted on social media, his lawyer told AFP.

Ignace Sossou quoted on his Facebook and Twitter pages comments made by Benin’s public prosecutor Mario Metonou at a media event to discuss fake news on December 17.

The comments made by the official appeared to criticise the government’s attitude towards freedom of expression.

“The internet outage on (legislative) polling day on April 28 is an admission of weakness on the part of those in power,” the prosecutor reportedly said.

Sossou “has been convicted of harassment through electronic communications”, his lawyer, Prisca Ogoubi told AFP.

The former French colony has typically been seen as among West Africa’s most stable democracies. But Benin has been facing a political crisis since controversial parliamentary elections in April sparked mass protests.

President Patrice Talon, a former business magnate who came to power in 2016, has been accused of becoming increasingly authoritarian and has carried out a concerted crackdown on his opponents that has driven key rivals into exile.

Last week, Benin’s media regulatory authority suspended the radio station of Sebastien Ajavon, a Beninese businessman and opponent in exile.

Sossou works for the online news website Benin web TV and collaborates with several news organisations such as the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and the 3i Network.

He had already been sentenced to a suspended prison sentence on a separate charge of “publishing fake news” after he reported on offshore accounts and front companies targeting Beninese and French businessmen.

In a statement on Tuesday, the 3i Network called for Sossou’s immediate release, stating that his conviction was “completely contrary to the… spirit of respect for press freedom”.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked Benin 96th in its press freedom index this year.

AFP

Facebook Worker Payroll Data Stolen From Car

Breaking Up Facebook Isn't The Answer, Says Zuckerberg
This file photo taken on February 18, 2019 shows the US social media Facebook logo displayed on a tablet in Paris. French Senate approved in the night between May 21 and May 22, 2019 a new tax on digital giants (“Gafa”), such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple, carried through Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire.
Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

Facebook on Friday alerted employees that hard drives rich with information about those on the social network’s payroll were stolen from a car last month.

“We have seen no evidence of abuse and believe this was a smash and grab crime rather than an attempt to steal employee information,” Facebook said in response to an AFP inquiry.

“This theft impacts current and former Facebook employees only and no Facebook user data was involved.”

The drives contained names, bank account numbers and other personal data of some 29,000 people who were on Facebook’s payroll in the US last year, according to the California-based internet titan, which confirmed a Bloomberg report.

The car was being used by a member of the payroll department, and the hard drives were not supposed to have left the Facebook campus. The data storage hardware was in a bag the worker left in the car, according to a spokesperson for the company.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we have notified the current and former employees whose information we believe was stored on the equipment and are offering them free identity theft and credit monitoring services,” Facebook said, adding that it was working with police investigating the theft.

Disciplinary action was said to be taken in the matter, but details were not shared.

Word of the theft came as Facebook faces continued pressure to earn trust when it comes to how well it safeguards user data.

EU To Check How Facebook, Google Use Data

The European Commission said Monday it had begun a “preliminary investigation” into how Facebook and Google collect personal data and what they do with it.

“The Commission has sent out questionnaires as part of a preliminary investigation into Google’s and Facebook’s data practices,” a Commission spokeswoman told AFP.

“These investigations concern the way data is gathered, processed, used and monetised including for advertising purposes,” she added.

The Commission did not say who exactly the questionnaires were sent to. It is a step that could lead to a formal investigation.

Facebook vice president Nick Clegg was asked about the probe during a press conference in Brussels but did not answer directly.

Facebook faces investigations worldwide, he said.

Clegg nonetheless warned EU regulators not to let themselves get misled by faulty reasoning when it comes to data.

“This phrase you often hear that data is oil is deeply unhelpful because data is nothing like oil,” Clegg said.

“It’s not something that you suck out of the ground and burn in a vehicle engine and that’s it. Data is infinitely divisible and infinitely sharable,” he added.

“Data is something that you can both share and keep at the same time,” Clegg noted.

“For a data intensive companies like FB we would urge regulators and legislators not to be trapped by analog parallels which don’t apply to the digital world,” he said.

A Google spokesman said in an e-mail to AFP: “We use data to make our services more useful and to show relevant advertising, and we give people the controls to manage, delete or transfer their data.

“We will continue to engage with the Commission and others on this important discussion for our industry.”

In September 2016, European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager warned that she would keep a close eye on companies that collect and use data such as Facebook, WhatsApp or Google.

Since she began working at the commission in November 2014, Vestager has hit Google with three major fines for abusing its dominant market position in different sectors.

Vestager has been promoted to vice president in the new European Commission and still holds the competition portfolio in addition to a new one on regulation of the digital sector.

Meanwhile on Monday, Facebook announced a new tool for Irish users to easily transfer photos and video footage towards Google Photos, which is owned by its competitor.

Facebook said it would extend the service at some point to other countries and internet platforms.

AFP

Instagram, Facebook Experience Shutdown

 

This handout image obtained November 4, 2019 courtesy of Facebook, shows the new company logo for Facebook. Eric BARADAT / FACEBOOK / AFP

 

Users of popular social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram, reported on Thursday the services were down.

Some users said they could not make new posts on either platform.

It is yet unclear what went wrong but Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, tweeted on Thursday that it was aware of the problem.

“We’re aware that some people are currently having trouble accessing Facebook’s family of apps, including Instagram,” the tweet from Instagram said. “We’re working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible.”

This is not the first time users have experienced disruptions of Facebook’s services. In March 2019, Facebook went down for more than 14 hours. Instagram was also affected at the time.

Facebook Buys Maker Of Hit Virtual Reality Game ‘Beat Saber’

In this file photo taken on October 23, 2019 Facebook employee Elza Uzmanoff tries out an Oculus device at the company’s corporate headquarters campus in Menlo Park, California. Facebook-owned Oculus on November 26, 2019, said it is buying the studio behind hit virtual reality game “Beat Saber” as it looks to expand VR technology to wider audiences. PHOTO: Josh Edelson / AFP

 

Facebook-owned Oculus on Tuesday said it is buying the studio behind hit virtual reality game “Beat Saber” as it looks to expand VR technology to wider audiences.

Oculus, which makes Rift and Quest VR headgear, did not disclose financial terms of the deal to acquire Prague-based Beat Games.

“Beat Games is joining us in our quest to bring VR to more people around the world,” Oculus director of augmented and virtual reality content Mike Verdu said in a blog post.

“Beat Games’ accomplishments are already impressive, but Facebook and the Beat Games team know that there is so much more that can be done across VR, games, and music.”

Verdu assured players that the studio would continue to ship content and updates for “Beat Saber” on platforms where it is already available.

In the virtual game, players use light sabers to slash oncoming, large cubes to the beat of music, sometimes twisting or ducking to avoid oncoming walls.

“VR reimagines old genres and invents new ones,” Verdu said.

Oculus is exploring ways, including acquisitions, to accelerate the adoption of virtual reality technology, which Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has heralded as the next major computing platform.

“With the resources and know-how that we can offer, Beat Games will be able to accelerate, adding more music and more exciting features to ‘Beat Saber’ as well as bringing the game to more people,” Verdu said.

Facebook is planning a virtual social community where users of its Oculus headgear can “explore new places” via its Horizon virtual world, which is set for a beta launch in 2020.

Oculus users will be able to choose an avatar and interact with others in the virtual community, Facebook said earlier this year.

Horizon will replace earlier versions of the social VR community Facebook Spaces and Oculus Rooms.

Oculus remains a small part of Facebook, whose core social network and other platforms reach more than two billion people worldwide.

Analysts expect sales of 1.3 million units in 2019 of the Oculu

Facebook Takes Down Billions Of Fake Accounts

Breaking Up Facebook Isn't The Answer, Says Zuckerberg
This file photo taken on February 18, 2019 shows the US social media Facebook logo displayed on a tablet in Paris. French Senate approved in the night between May 21 and May 22, 2019 a new tax on digital giants (“Gafa”), such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple, carried through Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire. PHOTO: Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

Facebook on Wednesday said it has taken down some 5.4 billion fake accounts this year in a sign of the persistent battle on social media against manipulation and misinformation.

Amid growing efforts to create fraudulent accounts, Facebook said it has stepped up its defenses and often removes the accounts within minutes of their being created.

“We have improved our ability to detect and block attempts to create fake, abusive accounts,” the internet firm said in its latest transparency report.

“We can estimate that every day, we prevent millions of attempts to create fake accounts using these detection systems.”

Facebook believes that fake accounts — where someone pretends to be a person or entity which does not exist — represented about five percent of its worldwide active users during the second and third quarters of this year.

The social network has invested heavily in finding and taking down accounts crafted to deceive people about where information is originating, particular when spread as part of coordinated campaigns with political or social agendas.

The detailed report also showed that government demands for user information hit a new high, led by the US.

Overall requests by governments for Facebook user data rose 16 percent to 128,617 in the first half of this year.

“Of the total volume, the US continues to submit the largest number of requests, followed by India, the UK, Germany and France,” the report stated.

Facebook received 50,741 requests from the US for information regarding 82,461 accounts, with roughly two-thirds of those done in a way prohibiting the social network from letting users know about inquiries, the report showed.

“We always scrutinize every government request we receive for account data to make sure it is legally valid,” Facebook deputy general counsel Chris Sonderby said in an online post about the latest figures.

“This is true no matter which government makes the request.”

Curbing the disturbing

In a detailed transparency report that, for the first time, included photo and video-oriented social network Instagram, Facebook also highlighted progress tackling terror, hate, suicide, child porn, and drug related posts.

“While we are pleased with this progress, these technologies are not perfect and we know that mistakes can still happen,” Facebook said.

“That’s why we continue to invest in systems that enable us to improve our accuracy in removing content that violates our policies while safeguarding content that discusses or condemns hate speech.”

Facebook reported that it removed about 11.6 million pieces of content that broke is rules banning child nudity or sexual exploitation of children from the main social network, compared with half that amount in the first three months of this year..

Some 754,000 pieces of such banned content were removed from Instagram in the recently ended quarter, up from 512,000 in the prior three-month period, according to Facebook.

Millions of pieces of content related to drug sales were also removed from Facebook and Instagram in the recently ended quarter, the report indicted.

In a conference call discussing the report, Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg and other executives stressed how combining company resources allowed it to better tackle unwanted content and activity at both Instagram and the leading social network.

Zuckerberg has responded to political rhetoric calling for the breakup of Facebook, in part, by arguing that such a move would actually make it harder to fight problems such as malicious content or activities.

“This is something we invest billions of dollars into every year,” Zuckerberg said of the battle to keep Facebook safe and secure for users.

“That certainly weighs on profits, but there is no question it is the right thing to do.”

Zuckerberg renewed his call for regulation that called for all internet firms to openly disclose details about the efficiency of efforts to stop the spread of harmful content on their platforms.

“If we can’t understand the true prevalence of harmful content across systems, we can’t stop it,” Zuckerberg said.

AFP