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Facebook Announces New Policy to Crackdown on Manipulated Media

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With other social media platforms looking at how they can utilize manipulated media for features, including deepfakes, Facebook has announced the first iteration of its policy to stop the spread of misleading fake videos, as part of its broader effort to pre-empt the potential rise of problematic deepfake videos.

Facebook says that it’s been meeting with experts in the field to formulate its policy, including people with “technical, policy, media, legal, civic and academic backgrounds”.

As per Facebook:

“As a result of these partnerships and discussions, we are strengthening our policy toward misleading manipulated videos that have been identified as deepfakes. Going forward, we will remove misleading manipulated media if it meets the following criteria:

  • It has been edited or synthesized – beyond adjustments for clarity or quality – in ways that aren’t apparent to an average person and would likely mislead someone into thinking that a subject of the video said words that they did not actually say. And:
  • It is the product of artificial intelligence or machine learning that merges, replaces or superimposes content onto a video, making it appear to be authentic.”

Facebook says that it’s new policies do not extend to content which is parody or satire, “or video that has been edited solely to omit or change the order of words”. The latter may seem somewhat problematic, but this type of editing is already covered in Facebook’s existing rules – though Facebook does also note that:

“Videos which don’t meet these standards for removal are still eligible for review by one of our independent third-party fact-checkers, which include over 50 partners worldwide fact-checking in over 40 languages. If a photo or video is rated false or partly false by a fact-checker, we significantly reduce its distribution in News Feed and reject it if it’s being run as an ad. And critically, people who see it, try to share it, or have already shared it, will see warnings alerting them that it’s false.”

So why doesn’t Facebook just remove these as well – if Facebook has the capacity to identify content as fake, and it’s reported as a violation, Facebook could just remove all of it, deepfake or not, and eliminate it as a problem.

But Facebook says that this approach could be counter-intuitive, because those same images/videos will be available elsewhere online.

This approach is critical to our strategy and one we heard specifically from our conversations with experts. If we simply removed all manipulated videos flagged by fact-checkers as false, the videos would still be available elsewhere on the internet or social media ecosystem. By leaving them up and labelling them as false, we’re providing people with important information and context.”

So, Facebook’s framing its decision not to remove some manipulated content as a civic duty, which is similar to its approach on political ads, which Facebook won’t subject to fact-checking because:

People should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying. And if content is newsworthy, we also won’t take it down even if it would otherwise conflict with many of our standards.”

So it’s helping, it’s serving the public interest – and Facebook in no way benefits from hosting such content, and the subsequent engagement it generates, on its platform, as opposed to removing it, and then, potentially, seeing users migrate to some other social network in order to facilitate the same discussion. That’s got nothing to do with it. Purely to benefit the public.

Skepticism aside, deepfakes are clearly an area of concern for the major networks heading into 2020, with Twitter, Google and Facebook all running their own, independent research projects to establish the best ways to detect and remove such content. They’re not doing this for no reason – with so much emphasis on the potential dangers of deepfakes for manipulative messaging, it may well suggest that the platforms are seeing increased focus on this type of activity from bad actors, and they’re working to head it off before it has a chance to cause problems. 

Given the focus on misinformation since 2016, and the willingness of some to believe what they choose to, you can imagine that deepfakes could indeed be a major weapon for political activists. And worse, in many cases, even when a fake video has been proven false, it’s already too late. The damage has been done, the anger embedded, the opinion formed.

Case in point, this video has been circulating around Facebook for a few years, depicting a Muslim refugee smashing up a Christian statue in Italy with a hammer.

Facebook fake video

Except its not a Christian statue, he’s not a refugee, and the video wasn’t recorded in Italy. The actual incident occurred in 2017 in Algeria – a majority Muslim nation – where the statue of a naked woman has long been a subject of religious debate.

This misleading framing of the video has been debunked, repeatedly, and reported. But it still comes up every now and then, sparking anti-Muslim sentiment, even though the details are completely false (and as you can see, this version was viewed more than 1.1 million times).

This video is not a deepfake, but as noted, even though people can scroll through the comments and find out that it’s false, even though it’s been debunked over and over, it largely doesn’t matter. The social media news cycle moves fast, and sharing is easy. Most users view things like this once, take it at face value, pass it on, then move on to what’s next. 

You can imagine the same approach will apply to deepfakes – what happens, for example, if someone posts a deepfake of Joe Biden saying something condemning? Various obviously manipulated Biden videos are already sifting through Facebook’s network – a deepfake would likely gain traction very fast, probably too fast to reign in. Opinions solidified, responses felt. 

You can see why, then, all the major players are working so hard to head off this next level of manipulation at the pass.

As noted, this also comes as TikTok is reportedly working on a new tool which will turn deepfakes into a feature, of sorts.

TikTok deepfake tool

TikTok says that it has no plans to release the feature into markets outside of China, with the feature actually being tested in Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok. But given the app’s potential requirement to share its data with the Chinese Government, that could be even more concerning – through this process, users would need to provide a biometric face scan, which TikTok could then, theoretically, store on its servers.  

The Chinese Government has the most sophisticated citizen surveillance network in the world, comprising of more than 170 million CCTV cameras, the equivalent of one for every 12 people in the country. All of these cameras are equipped with advanced facial recognition capacity, and China has already been using this to identify Uighar Muslims, people who have evaded fines and protesters in Hong Kong

Imagine if it also had a database of TikTok users, made available by this feature? You could argue that most adults have a drivers’ license, and that would be enough to set off the system regardless, but only around 369 million Chinese people are registered to drive, out of 1.39 billion citizens, while TikTok users can sign up from the age of 13. That’s a lot of valuable data.

Aside from the manipulative concerns of deepfakes, TikTok may have also found a new issue to contend with (note: TikTok has said that the functionality, which is not approved, would only be available to older users).

In summary, deepfakes could become a major problem, on several fronts, which is why Facebook is putting in the work now to stop the next major misinformation trend.

As Ben Smith, the Editor in Chief of BuzzFeed noted recently:

I think the media is totally prepared not to repeat the mistakes of the last [election] cycle… but I’m sure we will **** it up in some new way we aren’t expecting.”

Could deepfakes be the thing that throws the next election cycle off balance?

Definitely an element to watch in 2020.

Socialmediatoday.com

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Meta Soars by Most in Decade, Adding $100 Billion in Value

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Meta Soars by Most in Decade, Adding $100 Billion in Value

Correction: February 2, 2023 This article has been revised to reflect the following correction: An earlier version of this article misstated how much Meta expected to spend on its deal with the virtual reality start-up Within. It is $400 million, not $400 billion. Meta’s stock surged on Thursday …

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Twitter’s Cancelling Free Access to its API, Which Will Shut Down Hundreds of Apps

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Twitter’s Cancelling Free Access to its API, Which Will Shut Down Hundreds of Apps

Well, this is certainly problematic.

Twitter has announced that, as of February 9th, it’s cutting off free access to its API, which is the access point that many, many apps, bot accounts, and other tools use to function.

That means that a heap of Twitter analytics apps, management tools, schedulers, automated updates – a range of key info and insight options will soon cease to function. Which seems like the sort of thing that, if you were Twitter, you’d want to keep on your app.

But that’s not really how Twitter 2.0 is looking to operate – in a bid to rake in as much revenue as absolutely possible, in any way that it can, Twitter will now look to charge all of these apps and tools. But most, I’d hazard a guess, will simply cease to function.

The bigger business apps already pay for full API access – your Hootsuite’s and your Sprout Social’s – so they’ll likely be unaffected. But it could stop them from offering free plans, which would have a big impact on their business models.

The announcement follows Twitter’s recent API change which cut off a heap of Twitter posting tools, in order, seemingly, to stop users accessing the platform through a third-party UI. 

Now, even more Twitter tools will go extinct, a broad spread of apps and functions that contribute to the real-time ecosystem that Twitter has become. Their loss, if that’s what happens, will have big impacts on overall Twitter activity.

On the other hand, some will see this as another element in Twitter’s crackdown on bots, which Twitter chief Elon Musk has made a personal mission to eradicate. Musk has taken some drastic measures to kill off bots, some of which are having an impact, but Musk himself has also admitted that such efforts are reducing overall platform engagement

This, too, could be a killer in this respect

It’ll also open the door to Twitter competitors, as many automated update apps will switch to other platforms. This relates to things like updates on downtime from video games, weather apps, and more. There are also tools like GIF generators and auto responders – there’s a range of tools that could now look for a new home on Mastodon, or some other Twitter replicant. 

In this respect, it seems like a flawed move, which is also largely ignorant of how the developer community has facilitated Twitter’s growth. 

But Elon and Co. are going to do things their own way, whether outside commentators agree or not – and maybe this is actually a path to gaining new Twitter data customers, and boosting the company’s income. 

But I doubt it.

If there are any third-party Twitter apps that you use, it’ll be worth checking in to see if they’re impacted before next week.



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Meta ‘Year of Efficiency’ call from Zuckerberg was what Street needed

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Meta 'Year of Efficiency' call from Zuckerberg was what Street needed

Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive officer of Meta Platforms Inc., center, departs from federal court in San Jose, Calif., on Dec. 20, 2022.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

With one simple slogan, Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg temporarily quelled investor discontent with his company’s multibillion-dollar investment into the futuristic metaverse.

“Our management theme for 2023 is the ‘Year of Efficiency’ and we’re focused on becoming a stronger and more nimble organization,” Zuckerberg said as part of the release of Meta’s fourth-quarter earnings report.

Following a 64% plunge in Meta’s share price in 2022, Wall Street cheered the report, sending the stock up almost 20%, extending a rally that began late last year. Based on after-hours pricing, Meta is trading at its highest since July.

Growth is not what’s getting investors excited. Meta reported better-than-expected revenue in the fourth quarter, but sales still sank 4% from a year earlier, marking the third straight quarterly decline. And the forecast range for the first quarter suggests that year-over-year revenue could increase, but it could also fall again.

Rather, Zuckerberg’s commitment to cost cuts and efficiency is a sign that increasing profitability is important to Meta, which was known as a growth machine prior to last year’s slump.

“The first 18 years I think we grew it 20%, 30% compound or a lot more every year,” Zuckerberg said on the earnings call. “And then obviously that changed very dramatically in 2022, where our revenue was negative for growth, for the first time in the company’s history.”

In looking to the future, Zuckerberg struck a realistic tone.

“We don’t anticipate that that’s going to continue,” he said, regarding the recent drop in revenue. “But I also don’t think it’s going to go back to the way it was before.”

Meta lowered its estimates for total expenses in 2023 to be in the range of $89 billion to $95 billion, down from its prior outlook of $94 billion to $100 billion. In November, the company announced it would lay off over 11,000 workers, or 13% of its staff.

Zuckerberg said Meta will be more “proactive on cutting projects that aren’t performing or may no longer be crucial” and that it will emphasize “removing layers of middle management to make decisions faster.”

Meta is also reducing spending as it builds new data centers that are intended to be more efficient while still able to power the company’s various artificial intelligence technologies. Capital expenditures are now expected to be in the range of $30 billion to $33 billion for 2023 instead of $34 billion to $37 billion.

Zuckerberg is selling investors on a story they want to hear, acknowledging that the company got bloated and needed more financial discipline. One of Zuckerberg’s top deputies, technology chief Andrew “Boz” Bosworth, wrote a personal essay just a few days ago echoing that sentiment.

Still, Meta has plenty of challenges ahead, in terms of both costs and reviving its core ad business.

Meta’s Reality Labs unit, which is responsible for developing the nascent metaverse, lost $13.7 billion in 2022. Finance chief Susan Li told analysts that the company isn’t planning for any reduction in that unit anytime soon. Zuckerberg still sees it as the company’s future.

Digital advertising, meanwhile, is suffering from a struggling economy, and Li gave no indication that companies are planning to dramatically increase their spending in 2023.

Meta has also yet to recover from Apple’s 2021 iOS privacy update that made it harder to target users with ads. Li said the company has been improving its online advertising system, but Apple’s update is “still certainly an absolute headwind to our revenue number.”

During the question and answer part of the call, Zuckerberg was asked about Meta’s progress in generative artificial intelligence, which has become the latest hot thing in Silicon Valley. His answer indicated that Meta is pursuing opportunities there, but will be cautious in how quickly it proceeds. Running these programs is expensive, and Meta needs to ensure it can develop them affordably, he said.

Zuckerberg said that while Meta is researching how best to incorporate the new technology, he wants “to be careful not to get too ahead of the development of it.”

Correction: Meta’s earnings report and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s comments occurred after the market close on Wednesday. An earlier version misstated the day.

WATCH: Meta grows in daily active users, shares pop on revenue beat

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