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Facebook’s Workplace, now with 5M paying users, adds drop-in video Rooms and more

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facebooks workplace now with 5m paying users adds drop in video rooms and more
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One of the biggest technology takeaways of the last couple of months has been that organizations need confident, wide-ranging digital strategies to stay afloat, and Facebook — in its wider bid to build products to serve businesses — is taking note. In the same week that the social network doubled down on business tools for small and medium enterprises with Shops, it is also sharpening its focus on larger enterprises and how they might use its platform.

Today, Facebook announced a number of new products coming to Workplace, its enterprise-focused chat and video platform, including Workplace versions of Rooms (its Houseparty video drop-in clone), Work Groups (a feature it launched on Facebook itself last October to create informal Groups for co-workers), more tools to make video conversations more interactive and enhanced tools for its Portal video hardware.

Alongside all that, Facebook also announced the general availability of Oculus for Business, an enterprise-focused version of its virtual reality headset and platform that plays on how spatial computing is starting to get adopted in a business setting, particularly in training and collaboration projects. It said that there are now more than 400 independent software vendors contributing products to the effort.

The new products are coming at a time when Facebook is focusing how its platform can be a natural tool for consumers who are already using it, to migrate to use it more for work purposes too.

This is something that Mark Zuckerberg has also been teasing out, with his own announcements and discussion today about moving more of Facebook’s staff to remote work. “This is all about a feeling of presence,” he said during his Live video, aimed at staff but broadcast publicly. “As we use these tools for work as well and eat our own dog food, we’ll advance the technology.”

Facebook is also responding to what is going on in the wider working world. Video conferencing and other communications services for remote teams are booming, a direct result of people having to work from home to fall in line with current COVID-19 social distancing measures.

That shift has led to a huge surge of usage and interest in communications tools like Zoom, Teams and Skype (from Microsoft) and Hangouts and Meet (Google’s video offerings).

Facebook itself has been no stranger to that trend: Workplace now has 5 million paying users (and millions more using it for free) — up by 2 million to the end of March. (For some, but not direct, comparison, Slack says it has 12 million daily users and more than 119,000 paying customers, which include many more individual users; Microsoft’s Teams most recent numbers from March are 44 million daily users, but it doesn’t break out which of those are paying.)

Interestingly, that number doesn’t include April or the first part of May, arguably the peak of measures for people to shelter in place in countries outside of Asia (where many put in measures earlier).

“We will see the impact of COVID-19 a few weeks from now,” Julien Codorniou, VP for Workplace, said in an interview. He added that he doesn’t think that the softened economy, and subsequent layoffs for some large employers, will have had an impact on growth, despite Facebook’s customer list including big players from the hospitality and retail sectors (Walmart, Virgin Atlantic and Booking.com are among its many customers in those sectors).

“Usage has stayed the same,” he said. “They know they will have to go back to work at some point and they have to keep their [employee] community engaged. Workplace became mission-critical overnight.”

The new features getting launched today are interesting in part because they are not necessarily so much about expanding the Workplace ecosystem with more links to outside apps — that was one strategy that Workplace has chased in previous iterations to keep up with Slack and enhance its toolset — as it is about enhancing the Facebook-native set of features that it would like people to use. It might speak to Facebook accepting that its strongest play is to accentuate its social features rather than try to position itself as an all-in-one productivity platform (which might come naturally as a result; or might not).

Work Groups — basically smaller groups you could create on Facebook to chat directly to your colleagues outside of your wider circle of friends — was an odd one to launch outside of Workplace, but Codorniou said it was very intentional: the idea was to give a wider set of Facebook users a taste of how they might use Facebook in a work context, and to hopefully drive more usage of Facebook as a result.

The fact that the Rooms feature is now coming to Workplace itself will be one way to entice more of those users — there are now 20 million (yes, that’s right: the power of Facebook scale) — to migrate their usage to Workplace to take up other tools on offer there. For those on Workplace already, it’s another way to boost engagement on the platform.

Rooms are also an import from the consumer side of the business. Rooms was Facebook’s informal attempt to bring in a bit of the spontaneity of other apps like Houseparty (which is a part of Epic Games), but tapping into the social graph that you already have on Facebook. It’s a relatively new feature, only getting launched at the end of April, so it’s interesting to see it making such a quick appearance on Workplace. (Live took significantly longer to get imported.)

The key element of Rooms that will stand out for Workplace users is that those who are on Workplace already can use it to create links that others can use to drop in, even if they’re not a part of the user’s Workplace group or on Facebook itself. Like Zoom or the others, essentially it’s a URL link that will let anyone with a camera, a microphone, a browser and a connection link in.

The tools that Facebook is adding to enhance how Workplace users are able to work with video, meanwhile, will also potentially improve engagement on the platform, but also more simply, give it needed parity with the other tools that have proven popular — necessary if Facebook hopes to get more traction with its native tools, even as it continues to offer integrations with the likes of Zoom.

Live Producer lets the host of a video live event start polls, share their screens and see “health” metrics to gauge responses to what they are saying. Q&A follows the same idea, a Slide-like system to queue, triage and select questions without the questions being necessarily visible to everyone watching. Lastly, the addition of captions will be especially welcome in international teams when you might not always be speaking to people fluent in whatever language you’re using. It’s starting first with live captions in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian and German.

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Facebook Faces Yet Another Outage: Platform Encounters Technical Issues Again

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Facebook Problem Again

Uppdated: It seems that today’s issues with Facebook haven’t affected as many users as the last time. A smaller group of people appears to be impacted this time around, which is a relief compared to the larger incident before. Nevertheless, it’s still frustrating for those affected, and hopefully, the issues will be resolved soon by the Facebook team.

Facebook had another problem today (March 20, 2024). According to Downdetector, a website that shows when other websites are not working, many people had trouble using Facebook.

This isn’t the first time Facebook has had issues. Just a little while ago, there was another problem that stopped people from using the site. Today, when people tried to use Facebook, it didn’t work like it should. People couldn’t see their friends’ posts, and sometimes the website wouldn’t even load.

Downdetector, which watches out for problems on websites, showed that lots of people were having trouble with Facebook. People from all over the world said they couldn’t use the site, and they were not happy about it.

When websites like Facebook have problems, it affects a lot of people. It’s not just about not being able to see posts or chat with friends. It can also impact businesses that use Facebook to reach customers.

Since Facebook owns Messenger and Instagram, the problems with Facebook also meant that people had trouble using these apps. It made the situation even more frustrating for many users, who rely on these apps to stay connected with others.

During this recent problem, one thing is obvious: the internet is always changing, and even big websites like Facebook can have problems. While people wait for Facebook to fix the issue, it shows us how easily things online can go wrong. It’s a good reminder that we should have backup plans for staying connected online, just in case something like this happens again.

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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

LAHORE, Pakistan — A court in Pakistan granted bail to a Christian falsely charged with blasphemy, but he and his family have separated and gone into hiding amid threats to their lives, sources said.

Haroon Shahzad (right) with attorney Aneeqa Maria. | The Voice Society/Morning Star News

Haroon Shahzad, 45, was released from Sargodha District Jail on Nov. 15, said his attorney, Aneeqa Maria. Shahzad was charged with blasphemy on June 30 after posting Bible verses on Facebook that infuriated Muslims, causing dozens of Christian families in Chak 49 Shumaali, near Sargodha in Punjab Province, to flee their homes.

Lahore High Court Judge Ali Baqir Najfi granted bail on Nov. 6, but the decision and his release on Nov. 15 were not made public until now due to security fears for his life, Maria said.

Shahzad told Morning Star News by telephone from an undisclosed location that the false accusation has changed his family’s lives forever.

“My family has been on the run from the time I was implicated in this false charge and arrested by the police under mob pressure,” Shahzad told Morning Star News. “My eldest daughter had just started her second year in college, but it’s been more than four months now that she hasn’t been able to return to her institution. My other children are also unable to resume their education as my family is compelled to change their location after 15-20 days as a security precaution.”

Though he was not tortured during incarceration, he said, the pain of being away from his family and thinking about their well-being and safety gave him countless sleepless nights.

“All of this is due to the fact that the complainant, Imran Ladhar, has widely shared my photo on social media and declared me liable for death for alleged blasphemy,” he said in a choked voice. “As soon as Ladhar heard about my bail, he and his accomplices started gathering people in the village and incited them against me and my family. He’s trying his best to ensure that we are never able to go back to the village.”

Shahzad has met with his family only once since his release on bail, and they are unable to return to their village in the foreseeable future, he said.

“We are not together,” he told Morning Star News. “They are living at a relative’s house while I’m taking refuge elsewhere. I don’t know when this agonizing situation will come to an end.”

The Christian said the complainant, said to be a member of Islamist extremist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and also allegedly connected with banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, filed the charge because of a grudge. Shahzad said he and his family had obtained valuable government land and allotted it for construction of a church building, and Ladhar and others had filed multiple cases against the allotment and lost all of them after a four-year legal battle.

“Another probable reason for Ladhar’s jealousy could be that we were financially better off than most Christian families of the village,” he said. “I was running a successful paint business in Sargodha city, but that too has shut down due to this case.”

Regarding the social media post, Shahzad said he had no intention of hurting Muslim sentiments by sharing the biblical verse on his Facebook page.

“I posted the verse a week before Eid Al Adha [Feast of the Sacrifice] but I had no idea that it would be used to target me and my family,” he said. “In fact, when I came to know that Ladhar was provoking the villagers against me, I deleted the post and decided to meet the village elders to explain my position.”

The village elders were already influenced by Ladhar and refused to listen to him, Shahzad said.

“I was left with no option but to flee the village when I heard that Ladhar was amassing a mob to attack me,” he said.

Shahzad pleaded with government authorities for justice, saying he should not be punished for sharing a verse from the Bible that in no way constituted blasphemy.

Similar to other cases

Shahzad’s attorney, Maria, told Morning Star News that events in Shahzad’s case were similar to other blasphemy cases filed against Christians.

“Defective investigation, mala fide on the part of the police and complainant, violent protests against the accused persons and threats to them and their families, forcing their displacement from their ancestral areas, have become hallmarks of all blasphemy allegations in Pakistan,” said Maria, head of The Voice Society, a Christian paralegal organization.

She said that the case filed against Shahzad was gross violation of Section 196 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which states that police cannot register a case under the Section 295-A blasphemy statute against a private citizen without the approval of the provincial government or federal agencies.

Maria added that Shahzad and his family have continued to suffer even though there was no evidence of blasphemy.

“The social stigma attached with a blasphemy accusation will likely have a long-lasting impact on their lives, whereas his accuser, Imran Ladhar, would not have to face any consequence of his false accusation,” she said.

The judge who granted bail noted that Shahzad was charged with blasphemy under Section 295-A, which is a non-cognizable offense, and Section 298, which is bailable. The judge also noted that police had not submitted the forensic report of Shahzad’s cell phone and said evidence was required to prove that the social media was blasphemous, according to Maria.

Bail was set at 100,000 Pakistani rupees (US $350) and two personal sureties, and the judge ordered police to further investigate, she said.

Shahzad, a paint contractor, on June 29 posted on his Facebook page 1 Cor. 10:18-21 regarding food sacrificed to idols, as Muslims were beginning the four-day festival of Eid al-Adha, which involves slaughtering an animal and sharing the meat.

A Muslim villager took a screenshot of the post, sent it to local social media groups and accused Shahzad of likening Muslims to pagans and disrespecting the Abrahamic tradition of animal sacrifice.

Though Shahzad made no comment in the post, inflammatory or otherwise, the situation became tense after Friday prayers when announcements were made from mosque loudspeakers telling people to gather for a protest, family sources previously told Morning Star News.

Fearing violence as mobs grew in the village, most Christian families fled their homes, leaving everything behind.

In a bid to restore order, the police registered a case against Shahzad under Sections 295-A and 298. Section 295-A relates to “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs” and is punishable with imprisonment of up to 10 years and fine, or both. Section 298 prescribes up to one year in prison and a fine, or both, for hurting religious sentiments.

Pakistan ranked seventh on Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the most difficult places to be a Christian, up from eighth the previous year.

Morning Star News is the only independent news service focusing exclusively on the persecution of Christians. The nonprofit’s mission is to provide complete, reliable, even-handed news in order to empower those in the free world to help persecuted Christians, and to encourage persecuted Christians by informing them that they are not alone in their suffering.

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Individual + Team Stats: Hornets vs. Timberwolves

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CHARLOTTE HORNETS MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES You can follow us for future coverage by liking us on Facebook & following us on X: Facebook – All Hornets X – …

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