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Facebook Issues Official Response to Claims Made in Netflix Documentary ‘The Social Dilemma’

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In a very uncharacteristic move, Facebook has today issued an official rebuke to claims made in the new Netflix documentary ‘The Social Dilemma‘, which aims to provide an overview of the various ways in which social media platforms have become increasingly divisive and dangerous as their usage has increased over time.

Most reviews of The Social Dilemma have actually been highly critical, noting that while the documentary does make some valid and important points, it descends into sensationalism, which ultimately dilutes its key messaging.

But clearly, it’s got Facebook concerned. The Social Network generally stands pat on most criticisms and claims of this sort, but with reports that many users have considered deleting their Facebook and Instagram accounts after watching the documentary, the company felt the need to issue a two-page, seven-point response to its core points.

Facebook Social Dilemma response

Facebook’s responses are as you would expect:

  • On social media addiction – “[we] prioritize meaningful social interactions”
  • On people as the product – “we don’t sell your information to anyone”
  • On algorithms – ” Portraying algorithms as ‘mad’ may make good fodder for conspiracy documentaries, but the reality is a lot less entertaining”
  • On data usage – “Despite what the film suggests, we have policies that prohibit businesses from sending us sensitive data about people”
  • On polarization – “The overwhelming majority of content that people see on Facebook is not polarizing or even political”
  • On election interference – “the film leaves out what we have done since 2016 to build strong defenses to stop people from using Facebook to interfere in elections”
  • On misinformation – “The idea that we allow misinformation to fester on our platform, or that we somehow benefit from this content, is wrong” 
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Facebook has shared its opinions on all of these topics in the past, so there’s nothing surprising in its responses. The only surprise, as noted, is that Facebook felt the need to respond at all – if anything, an official response from Facebook will only add more fuel to the fire, and prompt more people to check out the documentary.

If Facebook felt a need to respond, it must have struck a nerve, right? There must be something to it worth checking out. Right?

And while Facebook’s responses are as expected, they do somewhat misconstrue the core of some key elements. 

For example, in response to the claim that ‘people are the product’ on Facebook, Facebook twists that question to be about personal data sharing, which is not exactly what the documentary makers mean. Even if Facebook doesn’t provide your information to advertisers directly, Facebook does indeed make a lot of money from its advanced ad targeting systems, which utilizes people’s personal information to better focus Facebook ads. 

In this sense, people are the product, data is the product, and Facebook has the most intricate database of personal information ever created – even if it doesn’t, as Facebook notes, share those insights directly with advertisers, as such.

You could argue that Facebook’s counter-claims on polarization and misinformation are also a little misleading, but a lot of it comes down to how you choose to answer the question, as opposed to what the actual answer might be.

As has been well-documented, Facebook has turned a blind eye to certain controversial issues and topics at times, from which it has derived user engagement benefits, while various experiments have shown that users can indeed become more politically-aligned via algorithmic recommendations and selective blocking tools.

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Facebook has even underlined that case itself – earlier this year, Facebook’s head of VR and AR Andrew Bosworth published what was intended to be an internal memo, in which he acknowledged that Facebook’s algorithm essentially incites further division through news content exposure.  

But Facebook tends to re-frame these questions in its responses, and shift the focus onto other areas – like, for example, what it’s done to improve its political ad efforts since 2016. Which is true, Facebook has improved on this front, but there are still significant concerns that the platform is being used for political misinformation and voter manipulation programs across the world.

Saying ‘yeah, but…’ doesn’t necessarily rebuke the core premise in many of these cases and queries.

Which, again, is why it’s strange that Facebook has bothered to respond at all, because it only puts more focus onto its processes, and leads to posts like this one, which further question its claims.

I can only imagine that Facebook has seen something a significant jump in the number of people either deactivating their accounts, or claiming that they will (ironically, on Facebook), which has prompted its PR team to take action. But it seems misguided – Facebook would have been better off sitting this one out, and letting the initial discussion around the documentary fade out on its own.  

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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