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Facebook Outlines Advances in Connectivity, as it Works to Connect the Next Billion Users



Despite reaching ubiquitous levels in many regions, Facebook continues to add more users every quarter, which, considering the app has now been around from 17 years, is pretty amazing to see.

Facebook DAU chart

But there is a key trend to note within this. As you can see in the above DAU chart from Facebook’s most recent earnings report, the platform’s usage in the US and Europe has remained relatively stagnant for some time. The vast majority of Facebook’s growth is now coming from developing regions, like India and Indonesia, and often via people who are coming online for the very first time. So despite western nations having already adapted social media into our everyday routines, Facebook is still a new thing for billions of others, and it’s still adapting in order to maximize its appeal to these users, in various ways.

The more new users Facebook can add, the more it can utilize the lessons that it’s learned in other regions to make its platform more sticky, and a bigger part of more societies, and economies.

Which, of course, comes with its own concerns – but given the focus on growth, both from Facebook and its shareholders, it makes sense for the company to be investing in new ways to reach more people, which also provides increased connectivity, and potential in other ways, outside of the platform itself.

Which is why the latest projects from Facebook’s Connectivity group are so interesting. As part of its recent “Inside the Lab” event, Facebook Connectivity outlined three specific projects which it’s using to connect more regions, and facilitate more Facebook usage around the world.

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The first element is its investment in subsea cabling, with Facebook putting $1 billion into the 2Africa project, which, when completed, will be the longest subsea cable system in the world connecting Africa, Europe and Asia.

2Africa cabling diagram on a map

As you can see in this diagram, the 2Africa cabling project was recently expanded to also link India, Pakistan, Iraq and Saudi Arabia into the project, improving connection into more regions.

The entire project is a jointly-funded initiative, with a primary focus on connecting more African regions into high-speed, reliable internet.

And as that happens, that will provide new pathways for Facebook to reach whole new communities, where it can also pitch its evolving eCommerce and business connection tools to boost its utility.

Which is really where Facebook can win out. By reaching into these regions, often before other social media providers have a chance to promote their apps, or focus on growth, Facebook can then become an essential part of the web experience, with its infrastructure then forming the foundations of new digital economies, expanding the company’s potential in each nation.

And while part-funding such projects doesn’t necessarily guarantee that Facebook will see broader adoption in these new areas, based on its popularity in every other nation, it’s fairly safe to assume that Facebook will catch on – and as it does, that will see it continue to add millions, and potentially billions more users, facilitating business growth.

Facebook’s second major connectivity project of focus is a new cabling robot called ‘Bombyx’, which is able to move along powerlines and wrap them with fiber cable.

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That can save significant time, effort and cost in facilitating connection to many regions, utilizing existing infrastructure to maximize internet cabling, and bring more remote regions online.

Finally, Facebook also continues to evolve its Terragraph technology, which facilitates wireless connectivity at fiber speed over the air.

Terragraph diagram

Facebook’s been working on Terragraph for years, and while some of its other wireless connectivity initiatives have fallen short (like its Aquila drone project), this one is showing significant promise:

“[Terragraph] has already brought high-speed internet to more than 6,500 homes in Anchorage, Alaska, and deployment has also started in Perth, Australia, one of the most isolated capital cities in the world.”

From a broader perspective, Facebook’s connectivity initiatives serve a greater purpose, in connecting the world to the internet, which democratizes information, and will become even more essential as we shift into the next digital age. But at the same time, the direct benefits for Facebook are clear, with more users able to utilize even more Facebook tools over time, including Instagram, and soon AR glasses.

It also, as noted, gives Facebook first-mover advantage in many regions, which further helps to expand its user base.

Of course, for most advertisers, you’ll have a specific market focus, so Facebook’s global expansion won’t mean a lot. But for Facebook’s broader business, facilitating whole new ad eco-systems and business tools is a major element, which will help the platform counter slowing growth in its core markets, and become a more essential tool for even more people.

You can read more about Facebook’s connectivity projects here.

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



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



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



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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