Tag: Facebook

Tech companies unite to fight for Dreamers

In September, President Trump announced that he would phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which offers protections to undocumented immigrants who came to the US at a young age. This week, Reuters reported that Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, IBM and other large tech companies plan to lobby Congress to pass legislation that will continue to protect these so-called Dreamers. The total number of companies involved is around two dozen, though that could change before the coalition launches.

After the president announced his decision, tech company executives expressed their disappointment in numerous ways, including on Twitter and via email. Hundreds of CEOs signed an open letter from pro-immigration group FWD.us (co-founded by Mark Zuckerberg) urging the president to continue the program.

It's likely that some action will happen on the DACA front as the holidays approach. In December, Congress will hopefully pass a spending bill (or face a US government shutdown). Reuters reports that Democrats may use this opportunity to pass legislation to protect Dreamers, trading their votes to avert a shutdown in exchange for promised protections.

Via: Business Insider

Source: Reuters

Does social media threaten the illusion of news neutrality?

For journalists, social media can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they can use platforms like Facebook and Twitter to share their opinion on a wide range of matters, from sports to politics. But at the same time, they have to remember to exercise caution, because whatever they say can be taken out of context and have major implications on the publications they work for. If a reader who follows your tweets or Facebook posts doesn't agree with you, that can motivate them to claim your entire newsroom is biased.

That's why we're now seeing publications having to change their digital strategy. Last week, The New York Times published an "updated and expanded" set of social media guidelines for its journalists. These new rules outline how every staff member (not just editors and reporters) is expected to behave online. In an article posted last week, The Times said that while social media "plays a vital role" in its journalism, since it can act as a tool to better engage with readers and help reach fresh audiences, it can also be a complicated medium. "If our journalists are perceived as biased or if they engage in editorializing on social media," The Times said, "that can undercut the credibility of the entire newsroom."


Put simply, The Times wants its journalists to "take extra care to avoid expressing partisan opinions" through social media on issues that it covers, even if the reporter or editor isn't attached to a specific story's byline. Dean Banquet, The New York Times' executive editor, said in a memo that the guidelines are "rooted in the very experience of our journalists." Several reporters who are prominent on Twitter, including Maggie Haberman and Max Fisher, were involved in the process, offering "very helpful" input and, ultimately, their endorsement.

Rukmini Callimachi, a correspondent for The New York Times covering ISIS, suggested in the same memo that her colleagues block abusive people, rather than engaging in a argument that may turn ugly. At the same time, however, the guidelines say that staffers should avoid muting or blocking people who are simply criticizing their work.

Meanwhile, chief White House correspondent Peter Baker, warned reporters and editors that any tweet about President Trump from them could be taken as a statement from The New York Times. That's why it's probably best to keep your thoughts to yourself. "The White House," he said, "doesn't make a distinction. In this charged environment, we all need to be in this together." Baker's example is important because it signals that The New York Times doesn't just want to protect itself from reader criticism, but also President Trump and his staff. Don't make you and your colleagues an easy target, Bakers seems to suggest.

It's clear the idea is to avoid giving anyone reason to claim the paper isn't fair or neutral. That's understandable, but many journalism experts believe the move was driven by recent political events. The decision comes at a time when Trump is constantly bashing the publication, with "the failing New York Times" being his favorite epithet. And he often follows that by claiming that The Times and the rest of the "mainstream media" are "fake news." That said, the paper may be doing this as a way to shield itself against growing scrutiny.

The thing is that while other news organizations, such as The Wall Stret Journal, have similar guidelines in place, those don't tend to be publicly available. The New York Times made the choice to share them with its readers, and by doing so, it's opening itself up to critiques.

So why now?

Cynthia Collins, Social Media Editor at The New York Times, told Engadget that these guidelines have been in the works for months. Though she didn't elaborate on why this was the right time to share these rules publicly, Collins said that The Times felt it would be "interesting or useful for other newsrooms, journalism schools and most importantly to us, our readers." As for what's changed from the old rules, she said only that the new ones were shaped by incorporating reporters' voices.

If our Journalists are perceived as biased or if they engage in editorializing on social media, that can undercut the credibility of the entire newsroom.

The New York Times

"Although stricter policies are in place for journalists who directly cover topics like sports or culture," said Collins, "journalists who work outside of those departments can reasonably discuss their leisurely pursuits on social media." She said that staffers should ask themselves a couple of key questions before posting on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or any other social media app: "If readers see your post and notice that you're a Times journalist, would that affect their view of The Times's news coverage as fair and impartial?" and "Could your post hamper your colleagues' ability to effectively do their jobs?"

If the answer is "yes" to either of those, she said, then it's best for journalists to just bite your tongue. (We reached out to a couple of NYT current and former staffers, but they declined to speak on the record.)

"I am very concerned that The Times' dictum might come in response to pressure and criticism from the right," said Jeff Jarvis, Director of the Tow-Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Naturally, The Times won't say whether the new rules are, indeed, based on pressure from right-wing. Buf if that were to be the case, the paper would be making itself vulnerable. "In this age, it is more necessary than ever for journalists to connect with the publics they serve on a human level with direct communication, with empathy and with honesty. Journalists are not superhuman beings who have no opinions, no bias, no perspective, no worldview, no background."

When asked about whether reporters should avoid sharing their personal opinion, be it on Trump or other matters, Jarvis said that this shouldn't have to be the case. "I believe that we as journalists need to be transparent about our worldviews and experience," he said. "Indeed, one of the reasons the conservative half of America does not trust news media is, I believe, because we were not honest about journalists being predominately liberal in our outlook. If they could not trust us to be open about that, then they came to believe they could not trust us about other things we report."

Jarvis said he does understand The Times' desire to be somewhat more prescriptive, particularly when it comes to reporters using social media to make consumer complaints. On Twitter, for instance, journalists are often verified. That means they can use their position to grab a company's attention faster than someone without a blue check mark on their profile. Still, Jarvis said, "I feel for them as I find that public discussion can be the best way to find consumer justice."

It will be interesting to see if more publications follow in The New York Times' footsteps. Not just in demanding that staffers be less opinionated on social media but also making any revised guidelines public. Given the current state of affair, wherein readers who agree with something may shout "fake news," it wouldn't be surprising to see more news organizations change or be more transparent about their social media rules for staff members.

Facebook Messenger lets you send cash to friends with PayPal

Messenger started making it easier to pay your friends for dinner back in 2015 when it introduced the option to transfer money in-app with a credit or debit card. If PayPal has always been more convenient, though, you'll love this collaboration: Facebook and the payment service have teamed up to give you a new way to split the bill. You can access the feature the same way you'd pay with a card. Simply tap the blue plus icon and then tap the green Payments button to bring up the two existing options.

If you'd previously set up the feature to pay using your card, just tap the Change button and choose Paypal to connect your account with Messenger. The feature is now live on iOS and will soon be available on Android. Unfortunately, you can only use it if you're in the US -- everyone else will just have to find other ways to spend their PayPal balance.

Facebook’s news subscription service will debut on Android, not iOS

Back in June, we reported that Facebook was working on a subscription deal with The Wall Street Journal. Then in July, we learned that the social platform was launching a news subscription service which would layer a paywall above Instant Articles. Now, TechCrunch reports that Facebook is, in fact, in testing mode for subscriptions for Instant Articles.

Facebook is offering publishers two options. The first is to allow a certain number of articles for free and restrict users once free articles have been used up. The other is to lock certain articles only. It's debuting with the following ten publishers: Bild, The Boston Globe, The Economist, Hearst (The Houston Chronicle and The San Francisco Chronicle), La Repubblica, Le Parisien, Spiegel, The Telegraph, tronc (The Baltimore Sun, The Los Angeles Times and The San Diego Union-Tribune) and The Washington Post. Interestingly, The Wall Street Journal is not on that list, though Facebook was reportedly in discussions with the publisher News Corp.

The most interesting part of this news is the subscription model. Facebook will allow users to sign up for subscriptions through their app, but they will be redirected to the publisher's site to actually pay for it. This means that Facebook won't be keeping a chunk of that revenue, a very attractive proposition for publishers. Users will be able to activate subscriptions on Facebook as well, granting them access to articles if they already subscribe.

However, the revenue model also the reason that this feature will be launching on Android devices only, and not Apple, according to Recode. Android has no restrictions on how subscriptions can be sold in apps, but Apple takes up to 30 percent of the price of all subscriptions sold within its apps. Facebook and Apple were unable to come to terms on this despite months of negotiations, so for now, this feature will roll out across Android devices only over the next few weeks.

Source: Recode, TechCrunch

Facebook’s discovery-minded Explore Feed comes to your desktop

For a while, Facebook has offered an Explore Feed on mobile devices to help you discover stories beyond the friends and pages you already follow. Now, it's ready to bring that experience to your PC: Facebook has confirmed that it's officially rolling out Explore, including on the desktop. Visit the "see more" section and you'll find an Explore Feed option that shows posts Facebook thinks you might like based on both your own tastes and what's popular. If your usual News Feed seems overly familiar, you can break loose and try something new.

The feed is meant to keep you looking at Facebook for longer, of course. However, this could also go some way toward popping social bubbles. Much of what you'll see in Explore isn't that different than what you're used to, but it could get you out of a rut where you're seeing the same sources (and thus same ideas) over and over again. With that said, it's not clear how many people will use it when it's buried -- ideally, it'd have a prominent position.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Facebook

‘Small number’ of Russian Facebook election ad accounts used Messenger

According to David Marcus, Facebook's VP of Messaging Products, a "small number" of the 470 Russia-linked accounts that attempted to influence last year's US elections also used Messenger. He said so in an interview at Wall Street Journal's D.Live conference, and though he wouldn't reveal the exact number (because it's an "active investigation"), he said that he and others at Facebook are working with authorities to figure out what happened.

"The way that the platform was used is still being investigated," he said. But he did clarify that while users can interact with each other on Messenger, Facebook Pages can't just start messaging users -- you have to initiate the conversation first. "We're trying to figure out how it was leveraged [...] We're working with Congress to learn from it and build systems to prevent it."

A recent investigation uncovered that approximately 10 million people saw Russian-bought political ads during last year's US elections. Over 3,000 advertisements has since been handed over to Congress, and most of them focused on "divisive social and political messages across the ideological spectrum."

Marcus said that Facebook has since hired thousands of people to review ads and activities in elections around the world to make sure the Russian meddling doesn't happen again. "Now that we know [about this], we need to think about ways the platform is used in ways it wasn't designed for," he said.

He also defended Facebook, saying that the company's positive effects on the world has been overshadowed by negative press. He cited examples like people finding others who have the same disease that they do on the platform, or that users have raised over 70 million dollars for victims of Hurricane Harvey. "The impact that Facebook has on the world is overshadowed by all this narrative," said Marcus.

"Clearly when you design a platform that reaches 2 billion people every month, sometimes bad things happen," he said. "We shouldn't tolerate those things and they shouldn't happen."

Facebook and Google reportedly helped set up anti-Muslim election ads

It looks like Russia wasn't the only one buying ads online to help sway the election last year. Facebook and Google worked closely with conservative non-profit Secure America Now and advertising firm Harris Media on ad campaigns targeting swing state voters with anti-Muslim and anti-refugee messages, and linking Democratic candidates to terrorists, according to a report from Bloomberg. "Unlike Russian efforts to secretly influence the 2016 election via social media, this American-led campaign was aided by direct collaboration with employees of Facebook and Google," the publication says.

One ad is a mock tourism video titled "Book Your Trip to the Islamic State of France." It features an Eiffel Tower with a crescent moon and star atop it, terrorist training camp footage and Muslims praying while a narrator describes a burka-clad Mona Lisa as finally looking "how a woman should."

"Under Sharia Law, you can enjoy everything the Islamic State of France has to offer, as long as you follow the rules," the narrator says.

The ads apparently ran in Nevada and North Carolina during the final weeks of the election, and caused at least one Harris Media employee to feel uncomfortable about their content.

Bloomberg's sources say that Facebook's and Google's sales team worked closely with Secure America Now to improve their multimillion dollar ad campaigns. Google eventually pulled a number of the ads because they violated the company's policies.

Facebook's "eager" sales team supposedly went as far as using Secure America Now's ads for A/B testing a new vertical video format at scale:

"The video they used was 'Are We Safe?', which contrasts colorful scenes of Main Street America with black-and-white pictures of Muslims who have carried out attacks in the US. Facebook tested 12 different versions of the video."

Facebook also worked with a Germany's far-right Alternative for Germany party, also a Harris Media client, to target voters with anti-immigration ads in the country this year.

This report comes after it was discovered that Russia bought some 3,000 ads and cut Facebook a check for over $100,000 during the 2016 election. It was found that Russian agents also purchased ads with Google leading up to last November.

We've reached out to Facebook and Google for more information and will update this post should it arrive.

Source: Bloomberg

Facebook slips a screen-sharing feature into Live videos

Facebook has quietly launched a new feature for Live videos that makes sharing your screen a painless experience. Instead of downloading a third-party service, you can now simply click the "Share Screen" button that appears once you enter the Live module on desktop. TheNextWeb's Matt Navarra has discovered the new sharing option, which doesn't seem to be experimental, because we were able to activate the feature for our account even outside the US.

When you click on the Share Screen option for the first time, a pop up will ask if you want to add the "Facebook Screen Sharing" extension. We tested it out and successfully installed it on Chrome. After that, a module will appear asking if you want to share your entire screen or if you just want to share a specific tab or a specific application. As TheNextWeb said, it's pretty basic -- you can't insert a video of yourself on the lower corners while you stream your screen, for instance. It doesn't produce the clearest videos either, but if you don't stream for a living anyway, the option looks good enough to use whenever you want to share with friends.

Source: TheNextWeb, Matt Navara (Twitter)

Facebook snags a Kerry Washington-produced drama

Facebook continues to add to its slate of original content and the latest show to join the lineup is a Kerry Washington-produced drama called Five Points, Variety reports. The show follows high school students living on the South Side of Chicago and covers the fallout of a life-changing event from five different points of view.

Facebook debuted its Watch tab, which hosts all of the site's video content, nationwide last month. On it viewers can catch original shows like Ball in the Family (which was just renewed for a second season) and Mike Rowe's Returning the Favor, a Humans of New York docuseries, sports content like MLB games, a handful of NFL-focused shows and a Marshawn Lynch reality show as well as Mitú's Latino-geared shows Mom's Movie Reviews and What's Good in Your Hood. Facebook is reportedly willing to spend up to $1 billion on new video content next year.

Five Points will be written by Adam Giaudrone and directed by Rodrigo Garcia. The cast of the 10-episode series currently includes Hayley Kiyoko (CSI: Cyber) and Madison Pettis (Cory in the House).

Source: Variety

Head of Facebook’s future lab will leave early next year

It's only been 18 months since Facebook enticed Google's advanced technology lead, Regina Dugan, to work at the social network's secret hardware lab, Building 8. Before starting Google's Advanced Technology and Projects group (ATAP) , Dugan worked as the director of DARPA, the US government's out-there research agency. Now the executive is moving on yet again. According to a Facebook post, Dugan will be leaving the social network "early next year ... to focus on building and leading a new endeavor."

Ending her resignation post with a quote from President Kennedy ("United, there is little we cannot do..."), Dugan provided no other details, besides the obligatory promise to make sure her transition from Building 8 is as smooth as possible. It's likely she'll be leading another big deal initiative in the area of tech research. One of Dugan's projects at Facebook included a brain interface device that might even "listen" to your skin, so whatever comes next could be just as exciting and out there.

Via: Recode

Source: Regina Dugan/Facebook