TEHRAN – Facebook has closed the Arabic page of Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, which had more than 100,000 followers.
According to Press TV, the page was closed after being recently put under restrictions for allegedly violating the social media giant’s terms of service.
It comes as many observers have criticized Facebook for what they consider the U.S.-based company’s political bias in dealing with online activity.
Last month, the U.S. State Department called on social media giants to take down the accounts of Ayatollah Khamenei and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif amid protests over petrol prices, which prompted the government to shut off the internet.
“One of the things that we are calling on are social media like Facebook and Instagram and Twitter to shut down the accounts of Supreme Leader Khamenei, Foreign Minister Zarif and President Rouhani until they restore the internet to their own people,” U.S. Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook told Bloomberg.
In recent years, social media giants – including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram – have closed thousands of accounts allegedly tied to Iran and Russia under the pretext of fighting what they call “misinformation” campaigns.
In August 2018, Facebook announced it had targeted hundreds of accounts allegedly tied to Iran and Russia.
“We removed multiple pages, groups and accounts for coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram. Some of this activity originated in Iran, and some originated in Russia,” it said.
The targets were identified as “networks of accounts misleading people about what they were doing,” Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said back then.
Among the accounts was one belonging to the Quest 4 Truth (Q4T) Iranian media organization, which promotes Islamic values.
Facebook further wrote in bold text, “We’ve removed Pages, groups and accounts that can be linked to sources the U.S. government has previously identified as Russian military intelligence services. This is unrelated to the activities we found in Iran.”
The Facebook investigation was prompted by a tip-off from cybersecurity firm FireEye.
FireEye has claimed the Iranian activity included “anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli, and pro-Palestinian themes” and advocacy of policies favorable to Iran such as the 2015 nuclear deal, to which the U.S. was a party before pulling out in May 2018 in defiance of the international community.
“It really shows it’s not just Russia that engages in this type of activity,” said Lee Foster, an information operations analyst with FireEye.
Facebook said it had worked closely with law enforcement in both the U.S. and the UK on the investigation, and had briefed the U.S. Treasury Department and State Department as Washington has imposed sanctions on Tehran.
In a simultaneous move, Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) and Alphabet Inc (GOOGL.O) also acted on FireEye’s claims and removed hundreds of accounts said to be tied to Iranian “actors,” which are said to be promoting Iran’s geopolitical agenda.
Simplifying Our Platform Terms and Developer Policies
Over the last several years, we’ve changed how we handle data and how we hold our partners accountable for accessing and managing data. We’ve restricted access to APIs, enhanced app review, launched an app developer investigation and most recently, formalized our agreement with the FTC. To ensure developers have the tools and information they need to continue to use our platform responsibly, we’re making improvements in three areas:
- Providing developers with clearer guidance around data usage and sharing.
- Building new tools and controls to hold developers accountable such as the annual Data Use Checkup process in which developers can review the types of data they have access to via Facebook Platform APIs and confirm that their use of that data complies with our terms and policies.
- Improving the developer experience by customizing the onboarding and App Review processes to better support different types of developers and updating the App Dashboard to make it easier to see all required actions.
As part of our work in the first area, today, we’re introducing new Platform Terms and Developer Policies to ensure businesses and developers clearly understand their responsibility to safeguard data and respect people’s privacy when using our platform and tools.
The new Platform Terms and Developer Policies will simplify and replace the existing Facebook Platform Policy (including Messenger Platform), Instagram Platform Policy, Supplemental Terms for Extended Platform Products, and Tech Provider Amendment.
Platform Terms: The Platform Terms have been updated to focus on data use restrictions, data security requirements, enforcement provisions, and legal terms and warranties, like intellectual property (IP) rights. This will help better outline developers’ rights and responsibilities when building products and solutions on the Facebook Platform:
- Use and Sharing of Platform Data: The updated Platform Terms define a two-tiered structure for data that developers receive from our platform with clear guidance on how developers may use and share each tier of data. This new distinction between Platform Data and Restricted Platform Data limits the information developers can share with third parties without explicit consent from users and strengthens our protection of user data.
- Data Deletion: We are also clarifying the policy’s requirements around data deletion. Developers are required to delete data if the data is no longer needed for a legitimate business purpose, the developer stops operating the product or service, we request the deletion, or the data was received by the developer in error.
- Enforcement & Oversight: The updated terms strengthen our provisions on data security requirements for developers and require them to notify us of data breaches, immediately begin remediation of the incident, and reasonably cooperate with us. They also clarify our provisions on auditing, termination, and enforcement.
Developer Policies: We’ve separated integrity, quality control, user experience, content, aesthetic, and functional requirements into a single document called Developer Policies.
We’ll notify developers of these changes via email, in the app dashboard and on developers.facebook.com and in the Instagram Help Center. Developers should review these terms and policies to ensure their practices comply with the updated requirements before they go into effect August 31, 2020. However, there’s no action required in order to agree to the new terms and policies.
We’re also updating our Business Terms, including our Business Tools Terms, which may cover data involved with certain usages of the Facebook SDK, Facebook Login, and social plugins. We are also making a few changes to our Commercial Terms to make these clearer and easier to understand. You can learn more about the changes we’re making here.
Page Public Content Access (PPCA) Feature Policy Enforcement
As another measure to clarify data usage guidance, we are also reminding developers that our developer documentation states that PPCA can only be used to provide aggregated, anonymized public content for competitive analysis and benchmarking. Later this year, we’ll start enforcing this policy more broadly across developers with PPCA access. Developers with PPCA access should ensure that they are only using the feature for this purpose, and may be required to go through App Review in the coming months to retain access.
We believe people, businesses and developers deserve a safe and secure platform, and these changes will help strengthen trust with people who use our apps and drive long-term value for developers who use our platform. Learn more on the new Platform Initiatives Hub.
Josh Ross, CEO of Humanitix, on how the non-profit ticketing platform survived their industry grinding to a halt
Joshua Ross (Right) and Adam McCurdie, Co-CEOs and Co-Founders of Humanitix.
By Guest Author: Joshua Ross, CEO and Co-Founder at Humanitix
It was 2am. My eyes were red from hours of staring at the daily ticket sales. Our hockey-stick graph had been rising unstoppably over the past few years but had just plummeted down a cliff. I wasn’t surprised – events were suddenly banned all around the world because of the virus. As I stared at the dropping numbers, there was one big question on my mind: “Could we still fund the girls’ education?”
Humanitix started with the mission of closing the education gap for the 400 million kids around the world who aren’t getting fair access to education. We’re a charity with a unique twist – instead of asking for donations, we run an event ticketing platform and put 100% of the profits from booking fees toward our education programs, which are delivered around the world by partners like Room To Read.
Event organisers love that it doesn’t cost them any extra to give their event an incredible impact, and it becomes another reason for their guests to get excited about the event. A single dollar can fund a child’s education for a day. A single football match funded two years of education for disadvantaged girls. A party at a bar on New Years Eve funded a scholarship for an Indigenous Student. Every ticket counts.
Being a tech-charity makes for an unusual combination. We operate like a Silicon Valley scale-up, investing heavily in an incredible product and ticketing experience. The difference is that we’re a charity and we can’t take on investors. This makes us work even harder to maintain a healthy profit margin so we can donate our profits to the kids.
So when the event industry stopped in March this year, we knew we had to find a way through. Kids were depending on it.
I was in San Francisco with my Co-founder and Co-CEO Adam McCurdie when events started getting cancelled. First, it was the big events – festivals and conferences with more than 500 guests. Then governments around the world restricted events to 100 people at most. Then 10.
The next thing we knew, we were rushing for a flight back to our headquarters in Sydney, Australia, scrambling to get there before the borders closed.
No events meant no tickets, no ticket booking fees, and no funding for our education programs. Adam and I put our heads together – we were heading back to face a crisis.
By the time we landed, we had a plan. There would be three phases to the event industry’s experience of the crisis.
First, was managing the heartache of so many cancelled events. While other ticketing companies slashed their staff numbers, our whole team worked overtime. Many were on the phone to event organisers late into the night, many of whom were in tears as they pulled the plug on events they’d been working toward for months. Their role had suddenly expanded from advisor to counsellor. Meanwhile, Adam and I fielded calls from government agencies, making sure they knew how tough event organisers had it.
The second phase was about getting events online. Event organisers had booked incredible talent, speakers and entertainers. Guests were still excited. We just had to connect them throughout the lockdowns.
Within days the Humanitix dev team was rolling out new capabilities for online events, including connecting to Facebook’s Virtual Events API. The connection was a hit, letting event organisers instantly share their events with their community online. Our team created guides on running digital events, and provided guidance to event organisers that had suddenly discovered the hope that comes with running an online event.
We knew that connecting with Facebook’s Virtual Events API would make a big difference. In 2019 we integrated with Facebook Events, allowing our event organisers to create a Facebook event from their Humanitix event with just one click. The extra reach on events meant that ticket sales grew massively, in turn driving donations.
In the six month period in which we connected with Facebook events, funding for our education programs grew an enormous 165%.
Finally, we recognised that lockdowns wouldn’t last forever. Humans crave connection, and events are perfect for that. Our job is to explore the incredible opportunities that will come with recovery. This isn’t the time for us to go dormant, it’s the time for us to make our product better than ever and get closer to our customers.
The event organisers we speak to tell us that with many events postponed by months, they’ve suddenly discovered that their tight deadlines have relaxed, giving them the opportunity to try new things. There is a huge amount of pent-up creative energy in the events industry right now. When events come back, they’ll be more incredible than ever, with more events blending their online/offline experiences to reach more people around the world. And many, many more of them will be on Humanitix, giving their events an incredible impact.
On all those tickets, booking fees will help close the education gap for kids around the world.
We can’t wait.
Josh Ross is Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Humanitix.
Humanitix is the not-for-profit ticketing platform that gives events impact. They make event management a breeze and give 100% of the profits from booking fees to education projects, such as literacy programs for young girls. It’s an incredible feeling to announce in your marketing or at your event that you’ve funded the education of disadvantaged kids – and it becomes another reason guests flock to your events. Powering thousands of events, and backed by Google and Atlassian, Humanitix is making every ticket count.
The Value of Personalized Ads to a Thriving App Ecosystem
Over the last year, the industry has come together to engage in crucial conversations about the future of digital advertising. Through the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and other industry groups, we’ve engaged with publishers, developers, and advertisers to discuss new solutions that strengthen people’s privacy online. One example is Facebook’s proposal to use blind signatures to combat fraud while minimizing third party data collection from browsers and apps.
In conversations with our advertiser and publisher partners, we hear how important privacy-enabled advertising is in enabling new business models and increasing the diversity of online content in the ecosystem. Many apps cannot rely on other forms of monetization, such as subscriptions and in-app payments. This is especially the case for smaller app developers or specific types of content, such as casual games, which have been on the rise in recent years — where publishers have to rely on personalized advertising to sustain their business.
As industry conversations about the future of advertising progress, the Facebook Audience Network team has run tests to better understand the importance of personalized ads to the publisher ecosystem:
Facebook ads use multiple systems to select and deliver personalized ads for people — and we deploy this personalization on behalf of 3rd party publishers and app developers. We ran a test that constrained delivery to just mobile app install ads for a small portion of Audience Network Traffic, then compared personalized ranking to non-personalized ranking. We observed more than a 50% drop in publisher revenue between these two treatments, with no changes made to targeting. (For an illustration of different factors that influence how ads are selected, see how Facebook Uses Machine Learning to Deliver Ads.)
These results are consistent with others we’ve seen published by the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and Google. Dave Grimaldi, IAB EVP for Public Policy notes: “Personalized ads are essential to maintaining a vibrant ecosystem, enabling a wide array of developers and publishers to flourish. For many years we have seen evidence of the value that is created by personalized ads, such as Harvard Business School Professor John Deighton’s study published in February 2020, which found personalization contributes billions of dollars to publisher revenue. Facebook’s research is yet another data point that underscores the positive impact of personalization.” Together, these results demonstrate the immense importance of personalized advertising to the publisher ecosystem.
As we support industry efforts to strengthen privacy online, these examples highlight why it’s critical that we also work to preserve publishers’ ability to monetize through personalized advertising. We’ve heard many partners express the importance of sharing their perspectives with the broader industry — we encourage app developers and publishers to engage with industry groups like the IAB to ensure their voices are heard as digital advertising practices evolve. We are committed to supporting the broader publisher and app ecosystem, and look forward to continued engagement on this important issue.
Several people on the Audience Network team contributed significantly to this work. Special thanks to Bhavin Manek, Charlie Chen, Graham Innocent, Lubo Malo, and Emre Bayram.