As fears over WhatsApp’s privacy policies send millions of users in the West to Signal and Telegram, the two encrypted apps are also seeing a slight user uptick in China, where WeChat has long dominated and the government has a tight grip on online communication.
Following WhatsApp’s pop-up notification reminding users that it shares their data with its parent Facebook, people began fleeing to alternate encrypted platforms. Telegram added 25 million just between January 10-13, the company said on its official Telegram channel, while Signal surged to the top of the App Store and Google Play Store in dozens of countries, TechCrunch learned earlier.
The migration was accelerated when, on January 7, Elon Musk urged his 40 million Twitter followers to install Signal in a tweet that likely stoked more interest in the end-to-end encryption messenger.
The growth of Telegram and Signal in China isn’t nearly as remarkable as their soaring popularity in regions where WhatsApp has been the mainstream chat app, but the uplift is a reminder that WeChat alternatives still exist in China in various capacities.
Signal amassed 9,000 new downloads from the China App Store between January 8 and 12, up 500% from the period between January 3 and 7, according to data from research firm Sensor Tower. Telegram added 17,000 downloads during January 8-12, up 6% from the January 3-7 duration. WhatsApp’s growth stalled, recording 10,000 downloads in both periods.
Sensor Tower estimates that Telegram has seen about 2.7 million total installs on China’s App Store, compared to 458,000 downloads from Signal and 9.5 million times from WhatsApp.
The fact that Telegram, Signal and WhatsApp are accessible in China might come as a surprise to some people. But China’s censorship decisions can be arbitrary and inconsistent. As censorship monitoring site Apple Censorship shows, all major Western messengers are still available on the China App Store.
The situation for Android is trickier. Google services are largely blocked in China and Android users revert to Android app stores operated by local companies like Tencent and Baidu. Neither Telegram nor Signal is available on these third-party Android stores, but users with a tool that can bypass China’s Great Firewall, such as a virtual private network (VPN), can access Google Play and install the encrypted messengers.
The next challenge is actually using these apps. The major chat apps all get slightly different treatment from Beijing’s censorship apparatus. Some, like Signal, work perfectly without the need for a VPN. The catch is to sign up for Signal, a user must activate their account with a phone number, and Chinese phone numbers are tied to people’s real identities. Users have reported that WhatsApp occasionally works in China without a VPN, though it loads very slowly. And Facebook doesn’t work at all without a VPN.
“Some websites and apps can remain untouched until they reach a certain threshold of users at which point the authorities will try to block or disrupt the website or app,” said Charlie Smith, the pseudonymous head of Great Fire, an organization monitoring the Chinese internet that also runs Apple Censorship.
“Perhaps before this mass migration from WhatsApp, Signal did not have that many users in China. That might have changed over the last week in which case the authorities could be pondering restrictions for Signal,” Smith added.
To legally operate in China, companies must store their data within China and submit information to the authorities for security spot-checks, according to a cybersecurity law enacted in 2017. Apple, for instance, partners with a local cloud provider to store the data of its Chinese users.
The requirement raises questions about the type of interaction that Signal, Telegram and other foreign apps have with the Chinese authorities. Signal said it never turned over data to the Hong Kong police and had no data to turn over when concerns grew over Beijing’s heightened controls over the former British colony.
The biggest challenges for apps like Signal in China, according to Smith, will come from Apple, which is constantly under fire by investors and activists for submitting to the Chinese authorities.
In recent years, the American giant has stepped up app crackdown in China, zeroing in on services that grant Chinese users access to unfiltered information, such as VPN providers, RSS feed readers and podcast apps. Apple has also purged tens of thousands of unlicensed games in recent quarters after a years-long delay.
“Apple has a history of preemptively censoring apps that they believe the authorities would want censored,” Smith observed. “If Apple decides to remove Signal in China, either on its own initiative or in direct response to a request from the authorities, then Apple customers in China will be left with no secure messaging options.”
TechCrunch an American online publisher focusing on the tech industry. The company specifically reports on the business related to tech, technology news, analysis of emerging trends in tech, and profiling of new tech businesses and products.
Facebook fighting against disinformation: Launch new options
Meta, the parent company of Facebook, has dismantled new malicious networks that used vaccine debates to harass professionals or sow division in some countries, a sign that disinformation about the pandemic, spread for political ends, is on the wane not.
“They insulted doctors, journalists and elected officials, calling them supporters of the Nazis because they were promoting vaccines against the Covid, ensuring that compulsory vaccination would lead to a dictatorship of health,” explained Mike Dvilyanski, director investigations into emerging threats, at a press conference on Wednesday.
He was referring to a network linked to an anti-vaccination movement called “V_V”, which the Californian group accuses of having carried out a campaign of intimidation and mass harassment in Italy and France, against health figures, media and politics.
The authors of this operation coordinated in particular via the Telegram messaging system, where the volunteers had access to lists of people to target and to “training” to avoid automatic detection by Facebook.
Their tactics included leaving comments under victims’ messages rather than posting content, and using slightly changed spellings like “vaxcinati” instead of “vaccinati”, meaning “people vaccinated” in Italian.
The social media giant said it was difficult to assess the reach and impact of the campaign, which took place across different platforms.
This is a “psychological war” against people in favor of vaccines, according to Graphika, a company specializing in the analysis of social networks, which published Wednesday a report on the movement “V_V”, whose name comes from the Italian verb “vivere” (“to live”).
“We have observed what appears to be a sprawling populist movement that combines existing conspiratorial theories with anti-authoritarian narratives, and a torrent of health disinformation,” experts detail.
They estimate that “V_V” brings together some 20,000 supporters, some of whom have taken part in acts of vandalism against hospitals and operations to interfere with vaccinations, by making medical appointments without honoring them, for example.
Change on Facebook
Facebook announces news that will facilitate your sales and purchases on the social network.
Mark Zuckerberg, the boss of Facebook, announced that the parent company would now be called Meta, to better represent all of its activities, from social networks to virtual reality, but the names of the different services will remain unchanged. A month later, Meta is already announcing news for the social network.
The first is the launch of online stores in Facebook groups. A “Shop” tab will appear and will allow members to buy products directly through the group in question.
Other features have been communicated with the aim of facilitating e-commerce within the social network, such as the display of recommendations and a better mention of products or even Live Shopping. At this time, no date has been announced regarding the launch of these new options.
In the light of recent features, the company wants to know the feedback from its users through the survey same like what Tesco doing to get its customers feedback via Tesco Views Survey. However, the company is still about this feedback will announce sooner than later in this regard.
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Facebook AI Hunts & Removes Harmful Content
Facebook announced a new AI technology that can rapidly identify harmful content in order to make Facebook safer. Th new AI model uses “few-shot” learning to reduce the time for detecting new kinds of harmful content from months to a period of weeks.
Few-shot learning has similarities to Zero-shot learning. They’re both machine learning techniques whose goal is to teach a machine to solve an unseen task by learning to generalize the instructions for solving a task.
Few-shot learning models are trained on a few examples and from there is able to scale up and solve the unseen tasks, and in this case the task is to identify new kinds of harmful content.
The advantage of Facebook’s new AI model is to speed up the process of taking action against new kinds of harmful content.
The Facebook announcement stated:
“Harmful content continues to evolve rapidly — whether fueled by current events or by people looking for new ways to evade our systems — and it’s crucial for AI systems to evolve alongside it.
But it typically takes several months to collect and label thousands, if not millions, of examples necessary to train each individual AI system to spot a new type of content.
…This new AI system uses a method called “few-shot learning,” in which models start with a general understanding of many different topics and then use much fewer — or sometimes zero — labeled examples to learn new tasks.”
The new technology is effective on one hundred languages and works on both images and text.
Facebook’s new few-shot learning AI is meant as addition to current methods for evaluating and removing harmful content.
Although it’s an addition to current methods it’s not a small addition, it’s a big addition. The impact of the new AI is one of scale as well as speed.
“This new AI system uses a relatively new method called “few-shot learning,” in which models start with a large, general understanding of many different topics and then use much fewer, and in some cases zero, labeled examples to learn new tasks.
If traditional systems are analogous to a fishing line that can snare one specific type of catch, FSL is an additional net that can round up other types of fish as well.”
New Facebook AI Live
Facebook revealed that the new system is currently deployed and live on Facebook. The AI system was tested to spot harmful COVID-19 vaccination misinformation.
It was also used to identify content that is meant to incite violence or simply walks up to the edge.
Facebook used the following example of harmful content that stops just short of inciting violence:
“Does that guy need all of his teeth?”
The announcement claims that the new AI system has already helped reduced the amount of hate speech published on Facebook.
Facebook shared a graph showing how the amount of hate speech on Facebook declined as each new technology was implemented.
Graph Shows Success Of Facebook Hate Speech Detection
Entailment Few-Shot Learning
Facebook calls their new technology, Entailment Few-Shot Learning.
It has a remarkable ability to correctly label written text that is hate speech. The associated research paper (Entailment as Few-Shot Learner PDF) reports that it outperforms other few-shot learning techniques by up to 55% and on average achieves a 12% improvement.
Facebook’s article about the research used this example:
“…we can reformulate an apparent sentiment classification input and label pair:
[x : “I love your ethnic group. JK. You should all be six feet underground” y : positive] as following textual entailment sample:
[x : I love your ethnic group. JK. You should all be 6 feet underground. This is hate speech. y : entailment].”
Facebook Working To Develop Humanlike AI
The announcement of this new technology made it clear that the goal is a humanlike “learning flexibility and efficiency” that will allow it to evolve with trends and enforce new Facebook content policies in a rapid space of time, just like a human.
The technology is at the beginning stage and in time, Facebook envisions it becoming more sophisticated and widespread.
“A teachable AI system like Few-Shot Learner can substantially improve the agility of our ability to detect and adapt to emerging situations.
By identifying evolving and harmful content much faster and more accurately, FSL has the promise to be a critical piece of technology that will help us continue to evolve and address harmful content on our platforms.”
Read Facebook’s Announcement Of New AI
Article About Facebook’s New Technology
Read Facebook’s Research Paper
Roger Montti is a search marketer with 20 years experience.
I offer site audits and link building strategies.
New Facebook Groups Features For Building Strong Communities
Meta launches new features for Facebook Groups to improve communication between members, strengthen communities, and give admins more ways to customize the look and feel.
In addition, the company shares its vision for the future of communities on Facebook, which brings features from Groups and Pages together in one place.
Here’s an overview of everything that was announced at the recent Facebook Communities Summit.
More Options For Facebook Group Admins
Admins can utilize these new features to make their Groups feel more unique :
- Customization: Colors, post backgrounds, fonts, and emoji reactions used in groups can now be customized.
- Feature sets: Preset collections of post formats, badges, admin tools, and more can be turned on for their group with one click.
- Preferred formats: Select formats you want members to use when they post in your group.
- Greeting message: Create a unique message that all new members will see when they join a group.
Stronger Connections For Members
Members of Facebook Groups can build stronger connections by taking advantage of the following new features:
- Subgroups: Meta is testing the ability for Facebook Group admins to create subgroups around specific topics.
- Community Chats: Communicate in real-time with other group members through Facebook or Messenger.
- Recurring Events: Set up regular events for member to get together either online or in person.
- Community Awards: Give virtual awards to other members to recognize valuable contributions.
New Ways To Manage Communities
New tools will make it easier for admins to manage their groups:
- Pinned Announcements: Admins can pin announcements at the top of groups and choose the order in which they appear.
- Personalized Suggestions: Admin Assist will now offer suggestions on criteria to add, and more info on why content is declined.
- Internal Chats: Admins can now create create group chats exclusively for themselves and other moderators.
Monetization & Fundraisers
A new suite of tools will help Group admins sustain their communities through fundraisers and monetization:
- Raising Funds: Admins can create community fundraisers for group projects to cover the costs of running the group.
- Selling Merchandise: Sell merchandise you’ve created by setting up a shop within your group.
- Paid Memberships: Create paid subgroups that members can subscribe to for a fee.
Bringing Together Groups & Pages
Facebook is introducing a new experience that brings elements of Pages and Groups together in one place.
This will allow Group admins to use an official voice when interacting with their community.
Currently, Admins post to a Facebook Group it shows that it’s published by the individual user behind the account.
When this new experience rolls out, posts from Admins will show up as official announcements posted by the group. Just like how a post from a Facebook Page shows that it’s published by the Page.
Admins of Facebook Pages will have the option to build their community in a single space if they prefer not to create a separate group. When this change rolls out, Page admins can utilize moderation tools accessible to Group admins.
This new experience will be tested over the next year before it’s available to everyone.
Source: Meta Newsroom
Featured Image: AlesiaKan/Shutterstock
Matt Southern has been the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal since 2013. With a degree in communications, Matt has an uncanny ability to make the most complex subject matter easy to understand. When he’s not ferociously following and covering the search industry, he’s busy writing SEO-friendly copy that converts.
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