All posts in “social media”

Facebook expands fact-checking program, adopts new technology for fighting fake news

Facebook this morning announced an expansion of its fact-checking program and other actions it’s taking to combat the scourge of fake news on its social network. The company, which was found to be compromised by Russian trolls whose disinformation campaigns around the November 2016 presidential election reached 150 million Americans, has been increasing its efforts at fact-checking news through a combination of technology and human review in the months since.

The company began fact-checking news on its site last spring, with help from independent third-party fact-checkers certified through the non-partisan International Fact-Checking Network.

These fact checkers rate the accuracy of the story, allowing Facebook to take action on those rated false by lowering them in the News Feed, and reduced the distribution of those Pages that are repeat offenders.

Today, Facebook says it has expanded this program to 14 countries around the world, and plans to roll it out to more countries by year-end. It also claims the impact of fact-checking reduced the distribution of fake news by an average of 80 percent.

The company additionally announced the expansion of its program for fact-checking photos and video to four countries.

First unveiled this spring, Facebook has been working to fact-check things like manipulated videos or misused photos where images are taken out of context in order to push a political agenda. This is a huge issue, because memes have become a popular way of rallying people around a cause on the internet, but they often do so by completely misrepresenting the facts by using images from different events, places, and times.

One current example of this is the photo used by Drudge Report showing young boys holding guns in a story about the U.S.-Mexico border battle. The photo was actually taken nowhere near the border, but rather was snapped in Syria in 2012 and was captioned by the photographer: “Four young Syrian boys with toy guns are posing in front of my camera during my visit to Azaz, Syria. Most people I met were giving the peace sign. This little city was taken by the Free Syrian Army in the summer of 2012 during the Battle of Azaz.”

Using fake or misleading images to stoke fear, disgust, or hatred of another group of people is a common way photos and videos are misused online, and they deserve fact-checking as well.

Facebook also says it’s now taking advantage of new machine learning technology to help it find duplicates of already debunked stories. And it will work with fact-checking partners to use Schema.org‘s Claim Review, an open-source framework that will allow fact-checkers to share ratings with Facebook so the company can act more quickly, especially in times of crisis.

The company is also expanding its efforts in downranking fake news by using machine learning to demote foreign Pages that are spreading financially-motivated hoaxes to people in other countries.

In the weeks ahead, an elections research commission working in partnership with Facebook to measure the volume and effect of misinformation on the social network will launch its website and its first request for proposals.

The company had already announced its plans to further investigate the role social media plans in elections and in democracy. This commission will receive access to privacy-protected data sets with a sample of links that people engaged with on Facebook, which will allow it to understand what sort of content is being shared, says Facebook. The company claim the research will “help keep us accountable and track our progress.”

We’ll see!

Facebook lets some group admins charge members for access

A hazy proposition.
A hazy proposition.

Image: Alexander Koerner/Getty

You already give Facebook your data, so why not throw a little cold, hard cash into the mix as well. 

Just bear with me here. So, you’re following your favorite creator on the social network created in a dorm room, but because of that pesky algorithm her posts never show up in your Newsfeed. That’s OK, you can still join her group! And now, thanks to a subscription-group test announced today by the advertising juggernaut, you may just have the pleasure of paying for that special access. 

According to a Wednesday press release, Facebook is trying out giving group admins the ability to charge their members subscription fees for special sub-groups. TechCrunch reports that the fees will range from $4.99 to $29.99 a month.  

Yes, that’s right, you may end up needing to pay almost $360 for an annual Facebook group subscription. 

Now, to be clear, at present only a select few group admins have the ability to charge fees. And while TechCrunch reports that for now most of that money will go to the organization or person leading the group, that could change at any point in the future. After all, it’s not like this would be the first time Facebook altered the terms of a product to favor its bottom line.

Oh, and Apple and Android will get paid as the fee is billed through them (they take a percentage). 

As for which group admins have access to this new and shiny feature, Facebook provides some helpful examples. 

“One such community leader looking to support her work, Sarah Mueller, started a group called Declutter My Home as a way to inspire and motivate others to tidy up their apartment or house,” reads the company’s press release. “The group quickly became an active community for helping tens of thousands of people across the world to reduce clutter in their spaces. With her new subscription group, Organize My Home, members will be able to work together on bite-sized projects, and have access to easily actionable checklists, tutorials, live videos and more to help with home organization.”

Sounds fun! Other groups given the power to charge fees include Grown and Flown Parents: College Admissions and Affordability, and Meal Planning Central Premium.

So bust out your credit card and head over to Facebook dot com — the digital operators are standing by. 

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Pew: Social media still growing in emerging markets but stalled elsewhere

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s (so far) five-year project to expand access to the Internet in emerging markets makes plenty of business sense when you look at the latest report by the Pew Research Center — which shows social media use has plateaued across developed markets but continues to rise in the developing world.

In 2015-16, roughly four-in-ten adults across the emerging nations surveyed by Pew said they used social networking sites, and as of 2017, a majority (53%) use social media. Whereas, over the same period, social media use has generally been flat in many of the advanced economies surveyed.

Internet use and smartphone ownership have also stayed level in developed markets over the same period vs rising in emerging economies.

Pew polled more than 40,000 respondents in 37 countries over a roughly three month period in February to May last year for this piece of research.

The results show how developing markets are of clear and vital importance for social behemoth Facebook as a means to eke continued growth out of its primary ~15-year-old platform — plus also for the wider suite of social products it’s acquired around that. (Pew’s research asked people about multiple different social media sites, with suggested examples being country-specific — though Facebook and Twitter were staples.)

Especially — as Pew also found — of those who use the internet, people in developing countries often turn out to be more likely than their counterparts in advanced economies to network via social platforms such as Facebook (and Twitter) .

Which in turn suggests there are major upsides for social platforms getting into an emerging Internet economy early enough to establish themselves as a go-to networking service.

This dynamic doubtless explains why Facebook has been so leaden in its response to some very stark risks attached to how its social products accelerate the spread and consumption of misinformation in some developing countries, such as Myanmar and India.

Pulling the plug on its social products in emerging markets essentially means pulling the plug on business growth.

Though, in the face of rising political risk attached to Facebook’s own business and growing controversies attached to various products it offers, the company has reportedly rowed back from offering its ‘Free Basics’ Internet.org package in more than half a dozen countries in recent months, according to analysis by The Outline.

In March, for example, the UN warned that Facebook’s platform was contributing to the spread of hate speech and ethnic violence in crisis-hit Myanmar.

The company has also faced specific questions from US and EU lawmakers about its activities in the country — with scrutiny on the company dialed up to 11 after a major global privacy scandal that broke this spring.

And, in recent months, Facebook policy staffers have had to spend substantial quantities of man-hours penning multi-page explanations for all sorts of aspects of the company’s operations to try to appease angry politicians. So it looks pretty safe to conclude that the days of Facebook being able to pass off Internet.org-fueled business expansion as a ‘humanitarian mission’ are well and truly done.

(Its new ‘humanitarian project’ is a new matchmaking feature — which really looks like an attempt to rekindle stalled growth in mature markets.)

Given how the social media usage gap is closing between developed vs developing countries’ there’s also perhaps a question mark over how much longer Facebook can generally rely on tapping emerging markets to pump its business growth.

Although Pew’s survey highlights some pretty major variations in usage even across developed markets, with social media being hugely popular in Northern America and the Middle East, for example, but more of a patchwork story in Europe where usage is “far from ubiquitous” — such as in Germany where 87% of people use the internet but less than half say they use social media.

Cultural barriers to social media addiction are perhaps rather harder for a multinational giant to defeat than infrastructure challenges or even economic barriers (though Facebook does not appear to be giving up on that front either).

Outside Europe, nations with still major growth potential on the social media front include India, Indonesia and nations in sub-Saharan Africa, according to the Pew research. And Internet access remains a major barrier to social growth in many of these markets.

“Across the 39 countries [surveyed], a median of 75% say they either use the internet occasionally or own a smartphone, our definition of internet use,” it writes. “In many advanced economies, nine-in-ten or more use the internet, led by South Korea (96%). Greece (66%) is the only advanced economy surveyed where fewer than seven-in-ten report using the internet. Conversely, internet use is below seven-in-ten in 13 of the 22 emerging and developing economies surveyed. Among these countries, it is lowest in India and Tanzania, at a quarter of the adult population. Regionally, internet use is lowest in sub-Saharan Africa, where a median of 41% across six countries use the internet. South Africa (59%) is the only country in the region where at least half the population is online.”

India, Indonesia and sub-Saharan Africa are also regions where Facebook has pushed its controversial Internet.org ‘free web’ initiative. Although India banned zero-rated mobile services in 2016 on net neutrality grounds. And Facebook now appears to be at least partially rowing back on this front itself in other markets.

In parallel, the company has also been working on a more moonshot-y solar-powered high altitude drone engineering to try to bring Internet access (and thus social media access) to remoter areas that lack a reliable Internet connection. Although this project remains experimental — and has yet to deliver any commercial services.

Pew’s research also found various digital divides persisting within the surveyed countries, related to age, education, income and in some cases gender still differentiating who uses the Internet and who does not; and who is active on social media and who is inactive.

Across the globe, for example, it found younger adults are much more likely to report using social media than their older counterparts.

While in some emerging and developing countries, men are much more likely to use social media  than women — in Tunisia, for example, 49% of men use social networking sites, compared with just 28% of women. Yet in advanced countries, it found social networking is often more popular among women.

Pew also found significant differences in social media use across other demographic groups: Those with higher levels of education and those with higher incomes were found to be more likely to use social network sites.

Facebook tightens its policies on gun-related advertising

Facebook announces additional restrictions on firearm-related advertising.
Facebook announces additional restrictions on firearm-related advertising.

Image: NURPHOTO VIA GETTY IMAGES

Facebook is tightening up its rules on advertising gun accessories to minors.

The social media giant announced it would restrict the advertising of weapon accessories, such as optics, belt accessories and holsters, to those over the age of 18. It is not outright banning the advertising of these kinds of items.

The changes start from Jun. 21, and advertisers will be required to restrict their audience when publishing an advertisement on the platform.

“Unlike posts from friends or Pages, ads receive paid distribution. This means we have an even higher standard for what is allowed and why we have chosen to limit weapons accessories to an adults only audience,” Facebook said in its blog post.

Facebook has banned the sale of firearms and ammunition on the platform since 2014, but there has been pressure on major companies to act on gun control following school shootings in Santa Fe and Parkland earlier this year.

The decision follows changes by YouTube in March, who banned the promotion of gun sales on the video platform — resulting in firearm vloggers moving to PornHub. 

Of course, real change on guns can only come from lawmakers.

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Instagram is no longer notifying users when you screenshot their story

Phew?
Phew?

Image: Lili Sams/Mashable

In January, Instagram started testing an interesting new feature: It would notify users when someone took a screenshot of their stories. 

According to BuzzFeed, though, Instagram is no longer testing the feature. 

Instagram Stories, just like Snapchat Stories, are designed to be ephemeral — meaning they are only available for a short period of time, and then they’re gone forever. This limitation can obviously be avoided in numerous ways, with taking a screenshot or recording a video being the most obvious. But many users who would think of doing so would likely pause if they thought the person who posted the video would be notified that their story is being screenshotted/recorded. 

And while Snapchat already has a similar feature in place, Instagram was apparently only testing it on a limited number of users.

The feature is a double-edged sword. Some users are certainly glad that it’s harder to turn their temporary content into permanent recordings or stills. On the other hand, you can never really stop this from happening; for example, one could always take a photo or a video of the story with another phone. 

Mashable has reached out to Instagram for comment, and we’ll update the story when we hear from them. 

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