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Facebook accused of blocking Australian health sites

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Facebook accused of blocking Australian health sites

Facebook image: — © AFP

A whistleblower group is accusing Facebook of deliberately blocking websites for Australian hospitals and emergency services as part of a negotiating tactic last year.

The social network owned by Silicon Valley tech giant Meta was lobbying to weaken a proposed law requiring it to pay news providers in Australia when it blocked all such content from its platform in February 2021.

But the algorithm also blocked other websites in what the company maintained was an accident, telling AFP on Friday that “any suggestion to the contrary is categorically and obviously false.”

“We intended to exempt Australian government pages from restrictions in an effort to minimize the impact of this misguided and harmful legislation,” a Meta spokesperson said.

“When we were unable to do so as intended due to a technical error, we apologized and worked to correct it.”

However, US-based organization Whistleblower Aid alleged it was actually a Meta ploy in filings with the US Department of Justice and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, first reported in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday.

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The organization said in a statement that Facebook’s five-day blackout of news content providers had deliberately “overblocked” local governments, health services and other sites that were providing support for vulnerable people.

The intention was to force the government to weaken the proposed law, the group said.

“This wasn’t just an example of a corporate actor behaving recklessly,” said Whistleblower Aid chief Libby Liu.

“Facebook intentionally put lives at risk to protect its bottom line.”

Shortly after the blackout, Australia passed a law forcing Facebook to negotiate with news content providers, but politicians watered down some of the most onerous proposals.

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Instagram Expands Access to Reels Templates, Adds New Music Recommendations for Reels Clips

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Instagram's Working on a New Option That Would Simplify Reels Monetization for Creators

Looking to get into Instagram Reels, but not sure what to post?

This could help – over the last week, Instagram has been giving more users access to its Reels ‘Templates’ option, which enables you to create Reels based on popular content formats in the app.

As you can see in this example, shared by user Ahmed Ghanem, some people are now seeing the new ‘Templates’ option within the Reels camera, which enables you to select a format for your Reel based on popular trends.

Instagram initially launched its Templates option back in April, which takes users through a frame-by-frame process to create a similar-looking Reels clip.

Instagram Reels templates

So if you lack creativity, now Instagram will do the creative framing for you, which could be handy, as a means to create more engaging clips.

But it could also make a lot more of your Reels feed look familiar, due to replication of the same types of clips over and over again, while it also leans on the talents of trendsetters within the app. Which TikTok has come under scrutiny for in the past, and it’ll be interesting to see whether creators start to question the re-use of their formats in this way.

But if you do need help, maybe it’ll come in handy – and that’s not the only way that IG is looking to lend a guiding hand in the Reels creation process.

According to another discovery by Ghanem, Instagram will also now recommend songs for your content, based on your upload.

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Instagram Reels music recommendations

How, exactly, Instagram recommends different songs for different clips is not clear, but based on these tools, you could essentially extricate yourself of almost all your creative content decisions – you just come up with what you want to film and Instagram’s recommendation tools and templates will do the rest.

Which seems to run counter to the whole ethos of the short-form video trend, which enables users to contribute to the latest trends and memes with their own, simple, creative takes. Indeed, what people like most about short-form content is that it provides more avenues for creativity, which makes these new features feel less genuine, and less interesting, even if they do help you get a few more Likes as a result.

Which they probably will, and for brands that are short on time, and are unable to keep up with the latest formats and tracks, they could be a big help (note: business accounts are limited in terms of what songs they can use in their clips).

But I don’t know. It feels a bit artificial, doesn’t it? Like, Meta is so keen to get as many people as possible posting short-form clips that it’s taking all of your own input and personality out of the process.

Maybe I’m over-thinking it – and really, what I am thinking is that someone should create an account that only posts videos using templates and song recommendations to see what sort of engagement it gets.

It could be massive – but it also feels like another step towards killing off the short-form video trend entirely by doing it to death.

Much like Stories before it – and, ultimately, that could be another way for Meta to negate competition.



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