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Facebook Adds New Tools for Facebook Live Amid Rising Demand and Usage

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Earlier this week, Facebook reported that it’s seeing record high levels of demand for its services amid the rolling COVID-19 lockdowns across the globe. Messaging activity is up 50% across Messenger and WhatsApp, while the use of live video on Messenger is up 70%.

Another area where Facebook has seen a major increase in interest is Facebook Live. According to the head of Facebook’s main app Fidji Simo, the number of people in the US watching live-streams via Facebook Live has also risen by 50% since January.

These increases, of course, make sense – more people are stuck at home, with no social outlet, so they’re turning to the next closest thing, which is live video and messaging. And now that people are looking to Facebook Live, Facebook is taking the opportunity to add some more tools to the option, both for regular users and for professional broadcasters, in order to cater to rising demand, and also make Facebook Live a more useful, beneficial tool for connecting with an audience.

Here’s what’s been announced:

First off, for regular Facebook users, The Social Network is adding automatic closed captions, while it’s also providing a new option for people to listen to the audio of Live broadcasts without viewing the video, enabling those with lower data capacity to tune in.

Facebook has provided audio-only Live broadcasts since 2016, but this new option takes a slightly different angle, in that the broadcast itself would still be audio and video, but each individual viewer will have the option to only listen in, if they choose.

That could also come in handy for those in public places (maybe less of a consideration right now, of course), essentially turning Facebook Live broadcasts into podcasts, so you can listen in while on the go, without having to also watch the screen. In addition to this, Facebook will also now enable people who don’t have a Facebook account, or who are logged out of Facebook, to still view Facebook Live streams, maximizing the reach potential of live broadcasts.

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Facebook’s also providing new options for fundraising and charity streams. Live broadcasters will now be able to generate toll-free telephone numbers within their broadcast, so that viewers can call in and contribute to the stream, while Facebook’s also expanding its Stars viewer donation process in order to enable musicians and cultural institutions to raise funds via Facebook Live. 

Facebook clearly sees Facebook Live as a great means for raising awareness for charitable causes, and its working to facilitate such with these new additions and options, providing more ways for people to connect and contribute. And for musicians, many of whom rely on live events and functions, Facebook Live could provide another avenue to generate some level of income amid the shutdowns.

But the major Facebook Live additions are for Page managers and/or professional broadcasters. Facebook is also launching a new tool called Live Producer, which is an updated, cleaner dashboard for managing your Live broadcasts, including new, simpler tools for streaming via third-party capture tools and cameras, and connecting via the Facebook Live API – though all Page managers can also use it to connect via regular cameras and audio equipment.

Facebook Live Producer

Once your stream is connected, broadcasters will have a range of new, simplified options to improve their streams. For example, Facebook has added a new set of comment moderation settings to facilitate better discussion within a broadcast.

Facebook Live Producer

The options, as outlined above, are:

  • Slow – Commenters can only comment once every 10 seconds.
  • Discussion – Your chat will only show comments with at least 100 characters in them.
  • Follower – Only your followers can comment.
  • Restricted – Viewers must have accounts that are at least 2 weeks old to comment.
  • Protected – Viewers must follow the streamer for at least 15 minutes before they can comment.

Facebook’s also added a helpful new ‘Create a Clip’ option, which, when clicked, will create a separate video clip of the most recent 60 seconds of your Live broadcast, while you’re still live, and without stopping or disrupting the stream. You can then share the clip in a separate update to promote your stream and boost interest.

Facebook Live Producer

Facebook’s also beta testing a new graphics overlay option in Producer. It’s not available to all as yet, but the aim is to enable a more simple way for creators to add visual overlays to their Live broadcasts, improving broadcast quality.

Facebook Live Producer

The option also extends to other functions, beyond simple brand and name displays:

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“With Graphics, publishers can highlight and add viewer comments directly on top of their video stream or send polls to their audiences and display the results in real time. It also includes a variety of overlays that publishers can create before going live or on the fly, like names, tickers, and full-screen introductions.”

These are some significant additions for Facebook Live, and while they’re not available regular streamers as yet, you’d imagine that, at some stage, Facebook will look to extend them, which could provide more ways to make your live broadcasts look better, and generate more engagement.

Of course, there are existing poll options and tools within Facebook Live that you could also consider, but these new tools allow for more customization – and importantly, branding, which can help to build your presence via Live. 

And given the resurgence of Live, Facebook will be hoping to carry that popularity beyond the current lockdown period, catering to increasing demand and usage – and ideally, creating a new Facebook Live eco-system that enables new creators to flourish and brings more viewers to the option. The main focus of these tools, at least for regular users, is to facilitate charity streams and provide options for artists, but the pro tools will also spark interest, with more businesses looking to tap into that expanded Live audience.

With users increasingly turning to tools like Live to connect, that could facilitate new digital trends that take hold long into the future, so definitely, it’s worth paying attention to the current shifts, and noting where they go from here.

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The new Live Producer interface can be accessed here, with comment moderation and clipping available from today. Facebook says that its new graphics options will be made available to all “later this year”. 

Socialmediatoday.com

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Meta’s Developing and ‘Ethical Framework’ for the Use of Virtual Influencers

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Meta's Developing and 'Ethical Framework' for the Use of Virtual Influencers


With the rise of digital avatars, and indeed, fully digital characters that have evolved into genuine social media influencers in their own right, online platforms now have an obligation to establish clear markers as to what’s real and what’s not, and how such creations can be used in their apps.

The coming metaverse shift will further complicate this, with the rise of virtual depictions blurring the lines of what will be allowed, in terms of representation. But with many virtual influencers already operating, Meta is now working to establish ethical boundaries on their application.

As explained by Meta:

From synthesized versions of real people to wholly invented “virtual influencers” (VIs), synthetic media is a rising phenomenon. Meta platforms are home to more than 200 VIs, with 30 verified VI accounts hosted on Instagram. These VIs boast huge follower counts, collaborate with some of the world’s biggest brands, fundraise for organizations like the WHO, and champion social causes like Black Lives Matter.”

Some of the more well-known examples on this front are Shudu, who has more than 200k followers on Instagram, and Lil’ Miquela, who has an audience of over 3 million in the app.

At first glance, you wouldn’t necessarily realize that this is not an actual person, which makes such characters a great vehicle for brand and product promotions, as they can be utilized 24/7, and can be placed into any environment. But that also leads to concerns about body image perception, deepfakes, and other forms of misuse through false or unclear representation.

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Deepfakes, in particular, may be problematic, with Meta citing this campaign, with English football star David Beckham, as an example of how new technologies are evolving to expand the use of language, as one element, for varying purpose.

The well-known ‘DeepTomCruise’ account on TikTok is another example of just how far these technologies have come, and it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where they could be used to, say, show a politician saying or doing something that he or she actually didn’t, which could have significant real world impacts.

Which is why Meta is working with developers and experts to establish clearer boundaries on such use – because while there is potential for harm, there are also beneficial uses for such depictions.

Imagine personalized video messages that address individual followers by name. Or celebrity brand ambassadors appearing as salespeople at local car dealerships. A famous athlete would make a great tutor for a kid who loves sports but hates algebra.

Such use cases will increasingly become the norm as VR and AR technologies are developed, with these platforms placing digital characters front and center, and establishing new norms for digital connection.

It would be better to know what’s real and what’s not, and as such, Meta needs clear regulations to remove dishonest depictions, and enforce transparency over VI use.

But then again, much of what you see on Instagram these days is not real, with filters and editing tools altering people’s appearance well beyond what’s normal, or realistic. That can also have damaging consequences, and while Meta’s looking to implement rules on VI use, there’s arguably a case for similar transparency in editing tools applied to posted videos and images as well.

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That’s a more complex element, particularly as such tools also enable people to feel more comfortable in posting, which no doubt increases their in-app activity. Would Meta be willing to put more focus on this element if it could risk impacting user engagement? The data on the impact of Instagram on people’s mental health are pretty clear, with comparison being a key concern.

Should that also come under the same umbrella of increased digital transparency?

It’s seemingly not included in the initial framework as yet, but at some stage, this is another element that should be examined, especially given the harmful effects that social media usage can have on young women.

But however you look at it, this is no doubt a rising element of concern, and it’s important for Meta to build guardrails and rules around the use of virtual influencers in their apps.

You can read more about Meta’s approach to virtual influencers here.





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Meta Publishes New Guide to the Various Security and Control Options in its Apps

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Meta Publishes New Guide to the Various Security and Control Options in its Apps


Meta has published a new set of safety tips for journalists to help them protect themselves in the evolving online connection space, which, for the most part, also apply to all users more broadly, providing a comprehensive overview of the various tools and processes that it has in place to help people avoid unwanted attention online.

The 32-page guide is available in 21 different languages, and provides detailed overviews of Meta’s systems and profile options for protection and security, with specific sections covering Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.

The guide begins with the basics, including password protections and enabling two-factor authentication.

It also outlines tips for Page managers in securing their business profiles, while there are also notes on what to do if you’ve been hacked, advice for protection on Messenger and guidance on bullying and harassment.

Meta security guide

For Instagram, there are also general security tips, along with notes on its comment moderation tools.

Meta security guide

While for WhatsApp, there are explainers on how to delete messages, how to remove messages from group chats, and details on platform-specific data options.

Meta security guide

There are also links to various additional resource guides and tools for more context, providing in-depth breakdowns of when and how to action the various options.

It’s a handy guide, and while there are some journalist-specific elements included, most of the tips do apply to any user, so it could well be a valuable resource for anyone looking to get a better handle on your various privacy tools and options.

Definitely worth knowing either way – you can download the full guide here.

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Twitter bans account linked to Iran leader over video threatening Trump

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Twitter bans account linked to Iran leader over video threatening Trump


Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with relatives of slain commander Qasem Soleimani ahead of the second anniverary of his death in a US drone strike in Iraq – Copyright POOL/AFP/File Tom Brenner

Twitter said Saturday it had permanently suspended an account linked to Iran’s supreme leader that posted a video calling for revenge for a top general’s assassination against former US president Donald Trump.

“The account referenced has been permanently suspended for violating our ban evasion policy,” a Twitter spokesperson told AFP.

The account, @KhameneiSite, this week posted an animated video showing an unmanned aircraft targeting Trump, who ordered a drone strike in Baghdad two years ago that killed top Iranian commander General Qassem Soleimani.

Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s main accounts in various languages remain active. Last year, another similar account was suspended by Twitter over a post also appearing to reference revenge against Trump.

The recent video, titled “Revenge is Definite”, was also posted on Khamenei’s official website.

According to Twitter, the company’s top priority is keeping people safe and protecting the health of the conversation on the platform.

The social media giant says it has clear policies around abusive behavior and will take action when violations are identified.

As head of the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Soleimani was the architect of its strategy in the Middle East.

He and his Iraqi lieutenant were killed by a US drone strike outside Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020.

Khamenei has repeatedly promised to avenge his death.

On January 3, the second anniversary of the strike, the supreme leader and ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi once again threatened the US with revenge.

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Trump’s supporters regularly denounce the banning of the Republican billionaire from Twitter, underscoring that accounts of several leaders considered authoritarian by the United States are allowed to post on the platform.



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