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Ban or no ban, Facebook wins in US threats against TikTok

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On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the U.S. is “looking at” banning Chinese social media apps, including the Chinese-owned company TikTok, comparing it to other Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE that have been deemed national security threats by the current administration. “With respect to Chinese apps on people’s cell phones, I can assure you that the United States will get this one right, too,” Pompeo said.

The fear is the app could be used to surveil or influence Americans, or else that TikTok parent ByteDance could be made to provide the Chinese government with TikTok’s data on its U.S.-based users — of which there are at least 165 million. India, calling TikTok a “threat to sovereignty and integrity,” decided to ban the app late last week, saying it had similar concerns.

Though security experts disagree over how concerned the U.S. should be about TikTok, the move would undoubtedly hobble what has become one of the fastest-growing social media businesses on the planet, with 800 million monthly active users worldwide, half of whom are under age 24. In the meantime, the mere suggestion of a ban is proving a boon to TikTok’s biggest rival, Facebook — and notably at a time when the U.S. company faces growing scrutiny over its decision not to take action on multiple controversial posts from Donald Trump.

The threat is already prompting some to speculate that Pompeo’s warning was politically motivated. In a new interview with Axios, for example, LA-based talent manager John Shahidi observes that TikTok users have said they were partially responsible for a Trump rally in Oklahoma two weeks ago that failed to deliver huge crowds.

Shahidi — whose agency currently oversees nine “channels” on TikTok that collectively enjoy more than 100 million followers — doesn’t doubt the two are related. “I’m on TikTok a lot,” Shahidi says, and “there are no Trump supporters, no official Trump account; no one who is from his team is on TikTok.” Is it “just coincidence that we’re heading toward November and. . . we’re going to talk about taking down TikTok?” he adds.

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A shifting landscape

Either way, TikTok influencers are more actively promoting their other social media channels, including Facebook’s Instagram, to their followers as a kind of contingency plan. Soon to join them is rising social media star Pierson Wodzynski, a 21-year-old who ran track in high school and was taking a break from studying communications in college when, in January, a friend invited her to participate in a show on AwesomenessTV, a YouTube channel that has more than 8 million subscribers.

The show’s set-up centered around nabbing a date with social media star Brent Rivera, who has 13 million YouTube subscribers, 19.8 million Instagram followers and more than 30 million TikTok fans.

Afterward, Wodzynski found herself with the LA-based talent agency that Rivera co-founded two years ago called Amp Studios and in recent months, aided by special guest appearances by Rivera, she has built a substantial fan base herself, with 500,000 subscribers on YouTube, 455,000 Instagram followers, and 4.1 million fans on TikTok.

Wodzynski says her followers seem to like the comedy bits she develops, such as a recent series on the “things that go wrong when you’re running late,” and another on the “Appdashians,” wherein each character she plays is a different social media company. (Notably, Facebook is the old grandmother character.)  Says Wodzynski, who comes across as both confident and affable, “I’m so unbelievably myself [on social media], it’s crazy.”

Little wonder that Wodzynski is concerned about TikTok’s future in the U.S. Partly, she just enjoys it. (“It’s a great app to escape, and it’s so different, with a vast music library and editing software that other apps don’t have.”) But it’s also the source of most of her income, she says, explaining that she helps promote the brands with which Amp Studios works, including Chipotle. (“A lot of times, it’s me dancing to a popular song and holding the product, or developing a creative advertisement so it looks enjoyable.”)

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Wodzynski says she is “ready for anything,” and that if the U.S. bans the platform, she trusts it will do so for legitimate reasons. Besides, she says, “There are many other roads to take your content.”

It’s a sentiment that’s echoed by Max Levine, who co-founded Amp with Rivera, and who advises all of the firm’s talent to diversify across social platforms. “Diversify is a good mantra for life,” says Levine, who learned this lesson early when Vine — the once-popular video app that Twitter acquired, then subsequently shut down — “fizzled and died.”

Land and expand

Levine points to early Vine stars like Logan Paul and Rivera who “were smart and focused on building platforms on Instagram and YouTube” and who not only emerged unscathed when Vine was shuttered but whose popularity ballooned afterward. He says that Amp’s clients have always “promoted other socials on TikTok,” and that he’d prefer that they not start becoming too aggressive on this front. “I think if every other TikTok mentions [a call to action], it could be a lot.”

Yet it’s starting to happen, and with the threat of a ban in the air, Wodzynski — who says she saw her view count go down with India’s TikTok ban — isn’t immune to the impulse. “Actually, later today I will be posting something on TikTok about this whole banning thing and reminding people that if they want to follow my Instagram and YouTube that ‘this is what I post there,’ ” she says.

“I do that pretty regularly, but I’m going to step it up more in the coming days and weeks.”

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Facebook will be ready, seemingly. Yesterday in India, Instagram rolled out a video-sharing feature called Reels to fill the void left by TikTok that might otherwise be filled by a different and popular video app in India called Triller, which is based in New York.

As CNN notes, Facebook began testing the new feature in Brazil last November. Reels is also now available in France and Germany.

Indeed, though TikTok was not India’s sole target — it also indefinitely banned 58 other apps and services provided by Chinese-based firms — the Indian government enjoys a good relationship with Facebook, which recently nabbed a 10% stake in local telecom giant Jio Platforms.

In fact, in February, before a trip to India, Donald Trump talked about Facebook and the ranking that both he and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi enjoy on the platform. He said Modi is “number two” on Facebook in terms of followers, and that he is number one as told to him directly by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

As reported in The Economic Times, Trump said at the time: “I’m going to India next week, and we’re talking about — you know, they have 1.5 billion people. And Prime Minister Modi is number two on Facebook, number two. Think of that. You know who number one is? Trump. You believe that? Number one. I just found out.”

TechCrunch

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Facebook fighting against disinformation: Launch new options

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Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has dismantled new malicious networks that used vaccine debates to harass professionals or sow division in some countries, a sign that disinformation about the pandemic, spread for political ends, is on the wane not.

“They insulted doctors, journalists and elected officials, calling them supporters of the Nazis because they were promoting vaccines against the Covid, ensuring that compulsory vaccination would lead to a dictatorship of health,” explained Mike Dvilyanski, director investigations into emerging threats, at a press conference on Wednesday.

He was referring to a network linked to an anti-vaccination movement called “V_V”, which the Californian group accuses of having carried out a campaign of intimidation and mass harassment in Italy and France, against health figures, media and politics.

The authors of this operation coordinated in particular via the Telegram messaging system, where the volunteers had access to lists of people to target and to “training” to avoid automatic detection by Facebook.

Their tactics included leaving comments under victims’ messages rather than posting content, and using slightly changed spellings like “vaxcinati” instead of “vaccinati”, meaning “people vaccinated” in Italian.

The social media giant said it was difficult to assess the reach and impact of the campaign, which took place across different platforms.

This is a “psychological war” against people in favor of vaccines, according to Graphika, a company specializing in the analysis of social networks, which published Wednesday a report on the movement “V_V”, whose name comes from the Italian verb “vivere” (“to live”).

“We have observed what appears to be a sprawling populist movement that combines existing conspiratorial theories with anti-authoritarian narratives, and a torrent of health disinformation,” experts detail.

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They estimate that “V_V” brings together some 20,000 supporters, some of whom have taken part in acts of vandalism against hospitals and operations to interfere with vaccinations, by making medical appointments without honoring them, for example.

Change on Facebook

Facebook announces news that will facilitate your sales and purchases on the social network.

Mark Zuckerberg, the boss of Facebook, announced that the parent company would now be called Meta, to better represent all of its activities, from social networks to virtual reality, but the names of the different services will remain unchanged. A month later, Meta is already announcing news for the social network.

The first is the launch of online stores in Facebook groups. A “Shop” tab will appear and will allow members to buy products directly through the group in question.

Other features have been communicated with the aim of facilitating e-commerce within the social network, such as the display of recommendations and a better mention of products or even Live Shopping. At this time, no date has been announced regarding the launch of these new options.

In the light of recent features, the company wants to know the feedback from its users through the survey same like what Tesco doing to get its customers feedback via Tesco Views Survey. However, the company is still about this feedback will announce sooner than later in this regard.

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Facebook AI Hunts & Removes Harmful Content

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Main Article Image - AI

Facebook announced a new AI technology that can rapidly identify harmful content in order to make Facebook safer. Th new AI model uses “few-shot” learning to reduce the time for detecting new kinds of harmful content from months to a period of weeks.

Few-Shot Learning

Few-shot learning has similarities to Zero-shot learning. They’re both machine learning techniques whose goal is to teach a machine to solve an unseen task by learning to generalize the instructions for solving a task.

Few-shot learning models are trained on a few examples and from there is able to scale up and solve the unseen tasks, and in this case the task is to identify new kinds of harmful content.

The advantage of Facebook’s new AI model is to speed up the process of taking action against new kinds of harmful content.

The Facebook announcement stated:

“Harmful content continues to evolve rapidly — whether fueled by current events or by people looking for new ways to evade our systems — and it’s crucial for AI systems to evolve alongside it.

But it typically takes several months to collect and label thousands, if not millions, of examples necessary to train each individual AI system to spot a new type of content.

…This new AI system uses a method called “few-shot learning,” in which models start with a general understanding of many different topics and then use much fewer — or sometimes zero — labeled examples to learn new tasks.”

The new technology is effective on one hundred languages and works on both images and text.

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Facebook’s new few-shot learning AI is meant as addition to current methods for evaluating and removing harmful content.

Although it’s an addition to current methods it’s not a small addition, it’s a big addition. The impact of the new AI is one of scale as well as speed.

“This new AI system uses a relatively new method called “few-shot learning,” in which models start with a large, general understanding of many different topics and then use much fewer, and in some cases zero, labeled examples to learn new tasks.

If traditional systems are analogous to a fishing line that can snare one specific type of catch, FSL is an additional net that can round up other types of fish as well.”

New Facebook AI Live

Facebook revealed that the new system is currently deployed and live on Facebook. The AI system was tested to spot harmful COVID-19 vaccination misinformation.

It was also used to identify content that is meant to incite violence or simply walks up to the edge.

Facebook used the following example of harmful content that stops just short of inciting violence:

“Does that guy need all of his teeth?”

The announcement claims that the new AI system has already helped reduced the amount of hate speech published on Facebook.

Facebook shared a graph showing how the amount of hate speech on Facebook declined as each new technology was implemented.

Graph Shows Success Of Facebook Hate Speech Detection

Facebook Hate Speech AI

Entailment Few-Shot Learning

Facebook calls their new technology, Entailment Few-Shot Learning.

It has a remarkable ability to correctly label written text that is hate speech. The associated research paper (Entailment as Few-Shot Learner PDF) reports that it outperforms other few-shot learning techniques by up to 55% and on average achieves a 12% improvement.

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Facebook’s article about the research used this example:

“…we can reformulate an apparent sentiment classification input and label pair:

[x : “I love your ethnic group. JK. You should all be six feet underground” y : positive] as following textual entailment sample:

[x : I love your ethnic group. JK. You should all be 6 feet underground. This is hate speech. y : entailment].”

Facebook Working To Develop Humanlike AI

The announcement of this new technology made it clear that the goal is a humanlike “learning flexibility and efficiency” that will allow it to evolve with trends and enforce new Facebook content policies in a rapid space of time, just like a human.

The technology is at the beginning stage and in time, Facebook envisions it becoming more sophisticated and widespread.

“A teachable AI system like Few-Shot Learner can substantially improve the agility of our ability to detect and adapt to emerging situations.

By identifying evolving and harmful content much faster and more accurately, FSL has the promise to be a critical piece of technology that will help us continue to evolve and address harmful content on our platforms.”

Citations

Read Facebook’s Announcement Of New AI

Our New AI System to Help Tackle Harmful Content

Article About Facebook’s New Technology

Harmful content can evolve quickly. Our new AI system adapts to tackle it

Read Facebook’s Research Paper

Entailment as Few-Shot Learner (PDF)

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New Facebook Groups Features For Building Strong Communities

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Meta launches new features for Facebook Groups to improve communication between members, strengthen communities, and give admins more ways to customize the look and feel.

In addition, the company shares its vision for the future of communities on Facebook, which brings features from Groups and Pages together in one place.

Here’s an overview of everything that was announced at the recent Facebook Communities Summit.

More Options For Facebook Group Admins

Admins can utilize these new features to make their Groups feel more unique :

  • Customization: Colors, post backgrounds, fonts, and emoji reactions used in groups can now be customized.
  • Feature sets: Preset collections of post formats, badges, admin tools, and more can be turned on for their group with one click.
  • Preferred formats: Select formats you want members to use when they post in your group.
  • Greeting message: Create a unique message that all new members will see when they join a group.
Facebook groups new featuresScreenshot from about.fb.com/news, November 2021.

Stronger Connections For Members

Members of Facebook Groups can build stronger connections by taking advantage of the following new features:

  • Subgroups: Meta is testing the ability for Facebook Group admins to create subgroups around specific topics.
  • Community Chats: Communicate in real-time with other group members through Facebook or Messenger.
  • Recurring Events: Set up regular events for member to get together either online or in person.
  • Community Awards: Give virtual awards to other members to recognize valuable contributions.
Facebook groups new featuresScreenshot from about.fb.com/news, November 2021.

New Ways To Manage Communities

New tools will make it easier for admins to manage their groups:

  • Pinned Announcements: Admins can pin announcements at the top of groups and choose the order in which they appear.
  • Personalized Suggestions: Admin Assist will now offer suggestions on criteria to add, and more info on why content is declined.
  • Internal Chats: Admins can now create create group chats exclusively for themselves and other moderators.
Facebook groups new featuresScreenshot from about.fb.com/news, November 2021.

Monetization & Fundraisers

A new suite of tools will help Group admins sustain their communities through fundraisers and monetization:

  • Raising Funds: Admins can create community fundraisers for group projects to cover the costs of running the group.
  • Selling Merchandise: Sell merchandise you’ve created by setting up a shop within your group.
  • Paid Memberships: Create paid subgroups that members can subscribe to for a fee.
Facebook groups new featuresScreenshot from about.fb.com/news, November 2021.

Bringing Together Groups & Pages

Facebook is introducing a new experience that brings elements of Pages and Groups together in one place.

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This will allow Group admins to use an official voice when interacting with their community.

Currently, Admins post to a Facebook Group it shows that it’s published by the individual user behind the account.

When this new experience rolls out, posts from Admins will show up as official announcements posted by the group. Just like how a post from a Facebook Page shows that it’s published by the Page.

Admins of Facebook Pages will have the option to build their community in a single space if they prefer not to create a separate group. When this change rolls out, Page admins can utilize moderation tools accessible to Group admins.

This new experience will be tested over the next year before it’s available to everyone.

Source: Meta Newsroom


Featured Image: AlesiaKan/Shutterstock

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