Tag: facebook

Source: BBC News

Mark Zuckerberg has laid out his vision to transform Facebook from a social media network into a “metaverse company” in the next five years.

A metaverse is an online world where people can game, work and communicate in a virtual environment, often using VR headsets.

The Facebook CEO described it as “an embodied internet where instead of just viewing content – you are in it”.

He told The Verge people shouldn’t live through “small, glowing rectangles”.

“That’s not really how people are made to interact,” he said, speaking of reliance on mobile phones.

“A lot of the meetings that we have today, you’re looking at a grid of faces on a screen. That’s not how we process things either.”

‘Infinite office’
One application of the metaverse he gave was being able to jump virtually into a 3D concert after initially watching on a mobile phone screen.

“You feel present with other people as if you were in other places, having different experiences that you couldn’t necessarily do on a 2D app or webpage, like dancing, for example, or different types of fitness,” he said.

Facebook is also working on an “infinite office” that lets users create their ideal workplace through VR.

“In the future, instead of just doing this over a phone call, you’ll be able to sit as a hologram on my couch, or I’ll be able to sit as a hologram on your couch, and it’ll actually feel like we’re in the same place, even if we’re in different states or hundreds of miles apart,” he said. “I think that is really powerful.”

Facebook has invested heavily in virtual reality, spending $2bn (£1.46bn) on acquiring Oculus, which develops its VR products.

In 2019, it launched Facebook Horizon – an invitation-only immersive environment where users can mingle and chat in a virtual space with a cartoon avatar through Oculus headsets.

Zuckerberg admitted current VR headsets were “a bit clunky” and needed improving for people to work in them all day.

But he argued that Facebook’s metaverse would be “accessible across… different computing platforms” including VR, AR (augmented reality), PC, mobile devices and games consoles.

Metaverse origins
The concept of a metaverse is popular with tech companies who believe it could be a new 3D internet, connecting digital worlds where people hang out in virtual reality.

Its origins come from Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, where it served as a virtual-reality-based successor to the internet.

Tech firms have tried to implement metaverse elements in popular games including Animal Crossing, Fortnite and Roblox.

This includes planning live events such as concerts and tournaments where millions of players can interact from around the globe.

Behavioural data
“Part of the reason Facebook is so heavily invested in VR/AR is that the granularity of data available when users interact on these platforms is an order of magnitude higher than on screen-based media,” Verity McIntosh, a VR expert at the University of the West of England, told the BBC.

“Now it’s not just about where I click and what I choose to share, it’s about where I choose to go, how I stand, what I look at for longest, the subtle ways that I physically move my body and react to certain stimuli. It’s a direct route to my subconscious and that is gold to a data capitalist.

“It seems unlikely that Facebook will have an interest in changing a business model that has served them so well to prioritise user privacy or to give users any meaningful say in how their behavioural data in the ‘metaverse’ will be used.”

Tech giants like Facebook defining and colonising the space, while traditional governance structures struggle to keep up with the technological change could cause further issues, she added.

By Jan Vermeulen for MyBroadband

Facebook reneged on a commitment to appear before the Committee on Communications and Digital Technologies this week because, at the time, it was the only company that confirmed its attendance.

“Without more industry players and other key stakeholders present, we believed the Roundtable would not meet the objectives that were outlined to us, hence we requested that the Roundtable be postponed to a later date,” said Kojo Boakye, the Facebook public policy director for Africa.

“We believe as a Tech Industry, it is important that we collectively come together to outline how we support elections and ensure election integrity in light of the local Government Elections taking place later this year,” Boakye stated.

“The Roundtable with the Parliamentary Committee was meant to do just that.”

Facebook initially agreed to meet with South Africa’s Parliament over concerns around misinformation and disinformation before the 2021 local elections.

Former Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Phumzile Van Damme said at the time that the meeting was requested by the DA.

The reason for inviting Facebook was to establish what steps the tech giant would be taking to tackle harmful misinformation, particularly in light of the upcoming elections.

“Facebook often tailors plans for countries ahead of elections to guard against harmful misinformation,” Van Damme said. “We would like to see the same done for South Africa.”

In September 2020, the social media company implemented measures which it said were intended to help secure the integrity of the US elections by encouraging voting, connecting people with authoritative information, and reducing the risks of post-election confusion.

These included updates related to misinformation, COVID-19 and voter suppression, and a ban on new electoral, political, or social issue ads.

Facebook is also in hot water with South Africa’s Information Regulator, which has challenged the tech giant on the implementation of a new privacy policy for WhatsApp.

The Information Regulator contends that the Protection of Personal Information Act of South Africa is similar to the data privacy laws of the European Union, and that WhatsApp should therefore offer South Africans the same privacy protections as it affords users in Europe.

The chairperson of the Information Regulator, Pansy Tlakula, recently called on the South African government to help the regulator in its engagements with Facebook.

“We are fighting a giant,” Tlakula told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee.

“They cannot willy-nilly abuse the personal information of users,” she stated.

Tlakula proposed that the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services join forces with the Committee on Communications and Digital Technologies to ask questions of Facebook relating to the WhatsApp privacy policy changes.

With Facebook pulling out of its meeting with the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications and Digital Technologies, it is unclear whether the tech giant will give feedback on any of the South African government’s questions.

However, Facebook has stated that it is open to rescheduling the meeting.

“Our commitment to participating in a roundtable is well documented,” said Boakye.

He said that Facebook remains committed to engaging with national governments, and has clearly indicated to the committee that it welcomes ongoing dialogue, and a meeting at a later date.

“Facebook has teams and technology in place to protect the integrity of elections in South Africa, across Africa and around the world. We devote extensive resources to reducing the spread of misinformation and fighting election interference on our platforms,” Boakye said.

It is interesting to note that when Van Damme announced that Facebook has pulled out of appearing at the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee Meeting, she also revealed that Google had committed to attending the meeting.

MyBroadband asked Facebook whether Google’s confirmation that it will attend the meeting changes its stance, but the company declined to comment further.

Google did not respond to requests for comment.

 

By Wesley Diphoko for IOL

WhatsApp users have until the 15th May 2021 to accept the latest privacy policy update that requires sharing data with Facebook companies.

Failure to do so will no longer lead to the deactivation of your account as Facebook has backtracked on a previous decision that gave its users an ultimatum to accept sharing their data with Facebook if they want to continue using their account or, as an alternative, to delete their accounts.

This time around failure to accept the privacy policy that will enable sharing data with Facebook will lead to limited functionality of your WhatsApp account.

Initially, having failed to accept the policy users won’t be able to access their chat list, but they will still be able to answer the incoming phone and video calls.

After a few weeks of limited functionality, users won’t be able to receive incoming calls or notifications, and eventually, WhatsApp will stop sending messages and calls to your phone.

If you decide to move away from WhatsApp, the platform will enable you to move your chat history to another platform.

It is also important to note that the upcoming update is not about changing the privacy of your personal conversations. This change will mainly apply to chats with businesses.

The Facebook-owned chat platform insists that communication between people will remain private. It also reminds users that chatting with businesses will be optional.

This comes at a time when leading tech companies such as Apple are spearheading privacy as a business strategy and a value system. Apple has introduced a new operating system that will enable users to choose whether they want to be tracked by companies like Facebook.

The Zuckerberg-led social network on the other hand has waged a months-long campaign against Apple, running full-page ads in national newspapers and testing pop-ups inside the Facebook app to encourage users to accept its tracking. It’s also alleged that Apple’s changes are designed to help the iPhone maker’s own business, rather than protect consumer privacy.

 

Source: MyBroadband

Facebook has agreed to meet with South Africa’s Parliament over concerns around disinformation before South Africa’s 2021 local elections, the Communications and Digital Technologies Committee has said.

The meeting – which was requested by the Democratic Alliance – is set to take place on 25 May 2021.

“Facebook’s agreement to the meeting is historic and a source of pride for South Africa as a first in Africa, and one of a few countries in the world to successfully secure a meeting with Facebook,” said DA MP Phumzile van Damme, who had issued the invitation.

“We commend Facebook for agreeing to the meeting which we hope will be constructive.”

Van Damme said the reason for inviting Facebook was to establish what steps the tech giant would be taking to tackle harmful misinformation, particularly in light of the upcoming elections.

“Facebook often tailors plans for countries ahead of elections to guard against harmful misinformation,” Van Damme said. “We would like to see the same done for South Africa.”

In September 2020, the social media company implemented measuress which it said were intended to help secure the integrity of the US elections by encouraging voting, connecting people with authoritative information, and reducing the risks of post-election confusion.

These included updates related to misinformation, COVID-19 and voter suppression, and a ban on new electoral, political, or social issue ads.

Van Damme said the protection of private data of South African users on Facebook-owned platforms would also form part of the meeting.

The DA MP was likely referring to concerns around WhatsApp’s new privacy policy among South Africans.

The implementation of the policy was delayed following heavy backlash from users earlier in 2021.

“The aim of discussions with Facebook will be to ensure that the interests of the people of South Africa are protected as well as upholding the constitutional right to freedom of speech,” Van Damme said.

She added the meeting will also be the beginning of discussions regarding Facebook paying South African media houses for carrying their content as was recently successfully implemented in Australia.

The DA has sent similar invitations to other big tech giants – Google and Twitter.

By Jordan Valinsky for CNN Business

Over the weekend, cybersecurity experts revealed that about half a billion Facebook users’ personal information was breached – a treasure trove of data the includes full names, birthdays, phone numbers and their location.

Facebook said that massive leak stems from an issue in 2019, which has since been fixed. Still, there’s no clawing back that data. More than 30 million accounts in the United States were affected and the company isn’t making it easy to find out if your data was included in the breach.
But a third-party website, haveibeenpwned.com, makes it simple to check by inputting your email. For now, it just checks if your email was among those stolen.

That’s a pretty big catch: Although 533 million Facebook accounts were included in the breach, only 2.5-million of those included emails in the stolen data. So you’ve got less than a half-percent chance of showing up on that website, even though you’ve got about a 20% chance of being hacked if you’ve got a Facebook account.

HaveIBeenPwned creator and security expert Troy Hunt said on Twitter that he’s examining whether to add phone numbers.
“The primary value of the data is the association of phone numbers to identities; whilst each record included phone, only 2.5 million contained an email address,” Hunt’s website said.

Although this data is from 2019, it could still be of value to hackers and cyber criminals like those who engage in identify theft.
Facebook (FB) didn’t immediately respond to CNN on Monday about whether if it will create a way to see if their information was leaked.

Donald Trump versus social media

The President has had multiple posts on social media removed or blocked for violation of the terms and conditions, and for spreading “fake news”.

Twitter blocked the President’s account
Twitter locked Donald Trump’s account on Tuesday after he shared the email address of a New York Post columnist.

The US President’s account was locked for posting private information without consent, the social media giant confirmed to Business Insider on Wednesday.

In a tweet on Tuesday, Trump praised and quoted columnist Miranda Devine for her Sunday column in the New York Post.

In the column, Devine applauded Trump for overcoming his battle with COVID-19, saying he will “show America we no longer have to be afraid”.

In the now-deleted tweet, Trump followed up his praise by posting Devine’s email address, which is against Twitter’s privacy information policy.

Twitter removes posts

Following his departure from the Walter Reed Medical Center, US President Donald Trump on Tuesday had a restful first night at home, and reported no symptoms of COVID-19, confirmed White House physician Dr Sean Conley. In a Twitter post, the President wrote that the flu season is coming up and “many people every year, sometimes over 100 000, and despite the vaccine, die from the Flu.”
The US President added the Americans had “learned to live with” flu season, “just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!” Twitter hid Trump’s tweet behind a warning about “spreading misleading and potentially harmful information”.

Facebook removes posts too

Meanwhile, Facebook Inc removed the Trump post for breaking its rules on COVID-19 misinformation, according to CNN. According to media reports, this is the second time that Facebook has deleted a post from Donald Trump whereas Twitter has intervened more often with deletions and warnings.

New WhatsApp feature to debunk fake news

By Marco Cocomello for Glitched

WhatsApp is releasing a new feature that lets users quickly search the contents of a viral message to fact-check for fake news. The company announced that starting today, a magnifying glass icon will appear next to messages that have been forwarded through a chain of more than five people. Tapping this icon searches the message’s contents online and will reveal any common conspiracy theories or fake information the message may hide.

WhatsApp claims this new search feature uses advanced algorithms to help debunk any fake news you may receive. The company shared an example of a message sent to users claiming that “drinking freshly boiled garlic water will cure COVID-19”. The magnifying glass search brings up three fact-checking websites which flag the claim as fake news.

If privacy is your concern then don’t worry. WhatsApp claims that the feature works by allowing users to upload the message via their browser. In addition, WhatsApp never sees the message itself. It is simply directed towards fact-checking sites. The search works the same way a private browsing session would.

The new WhatsApp fact-checking feature is rolling out today. It may take some time to arrive in SA. So far, the feature is available in Brazil, Italy, Ireland, Mexico, Spain, the UK and the US. Users need to update their app in order to make use of the new feature. Keep in mind that the magnifying icon will not appear unless that said text has been forwarded to more than five people.

This new feature is just another step Facebook is taking to prevent false information spreading through the app. Earlier this year, WhatsApp announced it would limit the number of people you can forward texts to. This was also to help stop the spread of fake news. It is unclear whether or not the change helped in any way.

Source: MyBroadband

If you are the admin on a Facebook or WhatsApp group, you can be held vicariously liable for illegal cigarette and alcohol sales on that platform.

This is the warning from Megan Harrington-Johnson, managing partner at HJW Attorneys, who was speaking to Jacaranda FM.

The ban on alcohol and cigarette sales has drawn sharp criticism from many people who argue that it is doing more harm than good.

Apart from the lack of support from many citizens, it is also costing the country a lot of money in lost tax revenue.

SARS Commissioner Edward Kieswetter said the losses in tax revenue from beer and alcohol in April were around R1.5 billion.

Another consequence of the ban is the rapid rise of black-market sales of liquor and tobacco products.

The Witness reported that the ban on cigarette and alcohol sales has created a thriving underground market.

It is, however, not only criminals engaging in this illegal activity. Those supporting it, The Witness said, include normally law-abiding citizens and many professional people.

“Some tuck-shop and pub owners, and their connections, have formed WhatsApp groups advertising what they have in stock,” it said.

Warning from Harrington-Johnson

Harrington-Johnson warned people that, independent of their feeling towards the ban, it is currently law and people who break this law face harsh penalties.

She said it is worrying that people on social media are advertising alcohol and cigarettes for sale, which is illegal.

“It is currently illegal to trade in, transport, or sell alcohol or cigarettes,” she said.

If you are putting these adverts on your Facebook feed or WhatsApp group, you are contravening the lockdown regulations.

“If you are an admin of a Facebook group or a creator of a WhatsApp chat and you allow this content on your platform, you can be held vicariously liable,” she said.

She said all it takes is a screenshot sent to your local police station and you can be in very big trouble.

“Please be very careful. Educate yourself and make informed decisions,” she said.

Facebook changes product branding to FACEBOOK

Source: BBC 

Facebook is introducing new branding for its products and services in an attempt to distinguish the company from its familiar app and website.

Instagram and WhatsApp are among the services that will carry the new FACEBOOK brand in the next few weeks.

The main Facebook app and website will retain its familiar blue branding.

The new logo, which is in capital letters, uses “custom typography” and “rounded corners” so the company’s other products and app look different.

The branding also appears in different colours depending on which product it represents. So, for example, it will be green for WhatsApp.

“We wanted the brand to connect thoughtfully with the world and the people in it,” Facebook said. “The dynamic colour system does this by taking on the colour of its environment.”

Facebook’s chief marketing officer Antonio Lucio said: “People should know which companies make the products they use. We started being clearer about the products and services that are part of Facebook years ago.

“This brand change is a way to better communicate our ownership structure to the people and businesses who use our services to connect, share, build community and grow their audiences.”

US Senator Elizabeth Warren has said she wants to break up the big tech companies such as Facebook, Amazon and Google and put them under tougher regulation.

This plan may be seen as Facebook’s way of hitting back, although Ms Warren – posting on Facebook – said: “Facebook can rebrand all they want, but they can’t hide the fact that they are too big and powerful. It’s time to break up Big Tech.”

Distancing the Facebook brand – the blue app that’s home to just about everyone, including your parents – from the trendier Instagram, a place for you and your friends, has always made good business sense for Facebook.

And it apparently worked: when Pew researchers asked study participants whether or not Facebook owned Instagram or WhatsApp, 49% of American adults were “not sure”.

So why would Facebook make this change?

It brings several benefits. Front of mind: the firm is covering itself from accusations it hides how powerful it really is by not making it absolutely clear they are behind most of the biggest apps in social media.

And Facebook also wants to fend off efforts to break it up, by making the case that the company isn’t simply a conglomerate of separate, distinct apps which could be easily broken up by regulators. Instead, this rebranding argues the firm is one big connected organism, called Facebook.

Facebook has come under criticism recently over a variety of issues.

Its boss Mark Zuckerberg had to face US lawmakers last month to explain the company’s policy on not fact-checking political adverts.

He also had to defend plans for a digital currency, talk about the social network’s failure to stop child exploitation on the network, and was quizzed over the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.

Earlier in the year, Mr Zuckerberg said the firm was going to make changes to its social platforms to enhance privacy.

These included messages sent via Messenger being end-to-end encrypted, and hiding the number of likes an Instagram post receives from everyone but the person who shared it.

Facebook adds local languages for fact-checking

Source: Punch

Facebook says it will fight fake news on its platform by using African languages such as Swahili, Senegal, Afrikaans, Zulu, Setswana, Sotho, Northern Sotho, Southern Ndebele, Yoruba and Igbo languages.

Kojo Boakye, Facebook’s Head of Public Policy, Africa, said in a statement on Wednesday in Lagos, that the two languages were in addition to the Hausa language, already supported by the platform.

Boakye said that Facebook was collaborating with Africa Check to add new local language support for several African languages as part of its Third-Party Fact-Checking programme.

He said that the programme would help to assess the accuracy of news on Facebook and reduce the spread of misinformation.

According to him, the programme was launched in 2018 across five countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, which included South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal and Cameroon.

“Facebook has partnered with Africa Check, Africa’s first independent fact-checking organisation, to expand its local language coverage across Nigeria (Yoruba and Igbo), adding to Hausa which was already supported.

“We have also expanded our local language coverage across Kenya (Swahili), Senegal (Wolof), as well as South Africa (Afrikaans, Zulu, Setswana, Sotho, Northern Sotho and Southern Ndebele).

“We continue to make significant investments in our efforts to fight the spread of false news on our platform, whilst building supportive, safe, informed and inclusive communities.

“Our third-party fact-checking programme is just one of many ways we are doing this, and with the expansion of local language coverage, this will help in further improving the quality of information people see on Facebook.

“We know there is still more to do, and we are committed to this,” Boakye said.

The Executive Director, Africa Check, Noko Makgato said that the organisation was delighted to be expanding the arsenal of the languages is covered in its work on Facebook’s third-party fact-checking programme.

Makgato said that in countries as linguistically diverse as Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Senegal, fact-checking in local languages was vital.

“Not only does it let us fact-check more content on Facebook, but it also means we will be reaching more people across Africa with verified, credible information,” he said.

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