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Facebook says penalized by Russia after refusing to halt fact-checkers

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Facebook parent Meta says its was told by Russian authorities to stop the work of its fact-checkers


Facebook parent Meta says its was told by Russian authorities to stop the work of its fact-checkers – Copyright AFP Charly TRIBALLEAU

Facebook’s parent company Meta said Friday that Russia will hit its services with restrictions after the social media giant defied authorities’ order to stop fact-checkers and content warning labels on its platforms.

Social media networks have become one of the fronts in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with misleading information but also real-time monitoring regarding a quickly developing conflict.

“Yesterday, Russian authorities ordered us to stop the independent fact-checking and labelling of content posted on Facebook by four Russian state-owned media organizations,” Meta’s Nick Clegg said in a statement. “We refused.”

His statement came hours after Russia’s media regulator said it was limiting access to Facebook, accusing the US tech giant of censorship and of violating the rights of Russian citizens.

The agency, Roskomnadzor, did not specify what the measures would be.

Moscow’s move comes days after Russia staged a large-scale invasion of neighboring Ukraine, in the biggest geopolitical crisis in Europe in decades.

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It follows the government in recent years taking a series of measures to limit online freedoms for Russians.

“Ordinary Russians are using our apps to express themselves and organize for action,” Clegg said in a statement. “We want to continue to make their voices heard.”

AFP currently works with Facebook’s fact-checking program in more than 80 countries and 24 languages.

Under the programme, which started in December 2016, Facebook pays to use fact checks from around 80 organizations, including media outlets and specialized fact checkers, on its platform, WhatsApp and on Instagram.

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Meta Announces WhatsApp Cloud API to Provide Hosting Support for SMBs

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Meta Announces WhatsApp Cloud API to Provide Hosting Support for SMBs

After previewing the option back in 2020, today, at its first-ever ‘Conversations’ messaging conference, Meta has announced that it’s launching the WhatsApp Cloud API, which will provide free, secure cloud hosting services for businesses.

As it sounds, the WhatsApp Cloud API will essentially host your conversation data on Meta’s servers, which will improve connection and speed, but will come with a degree of privacy trade-off.

The main benefits will be improved speed in messaging response, while it’ll also help to eliminate server expenses, which could be a big benefit to smaller businesses, in particular. It’ll also facilitate faster access to new WhatsApp business features as they become available.

The downside is that it will mean more reliance on Meta, while you’ll also need to dilute WhatsApp’s messaging security measures:

As Meta described in its original announcement:

If a business chooses to use a third-party vendor to operate the WhatsApp Business API on their behalf, we do not consider that to be end-to-end encrypted since the business you are messaging has chosen to give a third-party vendor access to those messages. This will also be the case if that third-party vendor is Facebook.”

As such, WhatsApp will include new notifications on consumer-to-business exchanges conducted through Meta hosting.

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How you feel about such trade-offs will come down to your personal perspective, but the offering could be highly valuable for smaller businesses looking to build out their tech stack, without having to sign on to a third-party hosting vendor, or buy their own hardware.

But again, that does also mean increasing your reliance on Meta, which has notoriously changed the rules on businesses in the past, leaving many in the lurch.

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The real benefit, however, will likely be in developing regions, where WhatsApp is the dominant messaging platform, and many small businesses are looking for ways to maximize their reach and transactions in-app. If Meta can assist them in building their business, that could be a big step in making WhatsApp a more critical utility, for many more users, while also, eventually, providing a direct revenue pathway for the messaging platform.

Though it does feel like a bit of a honey trap. Meta has already flagged that it will eventually introduce charges for these additional elements, without specifically outlining what those costs will be. Once businesses are reliant on such, it’ll be too late to back out, and Meta could ensnare them via incremental increases, that may eventually become a big earner for the company.

On another front, Meta also announced Recurring Notifications on Messenger, which will enable businesses to re-engage people within a messaging thread. The feature is only available to premium users at present, which doesn’t cost more to be part of right now, but will in future as Meta looks to incorporate new charges for its messaging and hosting tools.

You can check out replays of the Conversations conference presentations here.

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