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How Data Can Aid the Fight Against COVID-19

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This post was originally published in the Washington Post.

As the world fights COVID-19 and countries develop plans to reopen their societies, it’s critical to have a clear understanding of how the disease is spreading. Better data can help governments determine where to send resources such as ventilators and personal protective equipment — and eventually which areas are safe to start opening up again.

Getting accurate county-by-county data from across the US is challenging, and obtaining such focused data from across the whole world is even harder. But with a community of billions of people globally, Facebook can uniquely help researchers and health authorities get the information they need to respond to the outbreak and start planning for the recovery.

We recently started showing the Facebook community in the US an opt-in symptom survey run by health researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. The survey asked people if they have symptoms such as fevers, coughing, shortness of breath or loss of smell that are associated with COVID-19. Since experiencing symptoms is a precursor to becoming more seriously ill, this survey can help forecast how many cases hospitals will see in the days ahead and provide an early indicator of where the outbreak is growing and where the curve is being successfully flattened. The survey responses are sent to the researchers and aren’t accessible to Facebook.

On Monday, the team at Carnegie Mellon is publishing its initial findings. They’re getting approximately 1 million responses a week in the US, and the results are promising. They correlate with publicly available data on confirmed cases, which suggests this data can help predict where the disease will spread. They can also be used to build detailed county-by-county insights. The results indicate, for example, that in some New York City suburbs, an estimated 2 to 3% of people are experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms. Using aggregate data from Carnegie Mellon’s results, Facebook produced its first report and new interactive maps, which we plan to update daily through this outbreak.

Facebook and Carnegie Mellon University COVID-19 Symptom Map

This is work that social networks are well-situated to do. By distributing surveys to large numbers of people whose identities we know, we can quickly generate enough signal to correct for biases and ensure sampling is done properly. We’re partnering with faculty from the University of Maryland to expand this survey globally, and the team at Carnegie Mellon is building an application programming interface, or API, that will let researchers everywhere access the results. We’re hopeful that this will help governments and public health officials around the world who might not otherwise have this kind of precise data to make decisions in the weeks and months ahead.

There are other ways data can help with the response. For example, we’ve released several new disease-prevention maps from our Data for Good program that show in aggregate where people are traveling and interacting between regions. Over the past few months, public health researchers have used these data sets to inform decisions across Asia, Europe and North America. Researchers in Taiwan have been able to identify the cities with the highest chance of infection; researchers in Italy are analyzing lockdown measures in relation to income inequality; and California officials are reviewing county-level data daily to steer public health messaging.

We’ve also partnered with researchers from New York University and the Mila research institute in Montreal, using artificial intelligence to help hospitals better predict needs for scarce resources, such as personal protective equipment and ventilators.

Data like this can unlock a lot of good. Since we’re all generating data from apps and devices every day, there will likely be many more opportunities to use the aggregate data to benefit public health. But it’s essential that this is done in a way that protects people’s privacy and respects human rights.

It’s important that organizations involved in this work commit to doing it in a way that protects people’s information and that any data collected is used solely for responding to public health emergencies and for other crisis response efforts. Fighting the pandemic has required taking unprecedented measures across society, but it shouldn’t mean sacrificing our privacy.

I’ve always believed that helping people come together as a community will help us address our greatest challenges — not just by sharing our experiences and supporting each other in crises but also by working together at scale to solve problems. The world has faced pandemics before, but this time we have a new superpower: the ability to gather and share data for good. If we use it responsibly, I’m optimistic that data can help the world respond to this health crisis and get us started on the road to recovery.

The post How Data Can Aid the Fight Against COVID-19 appeared first on About Facebook.

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What Do Facebook Ads Have To Do With The Uyghur Genocide?

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In recent months, several reports suggested a concerning link between Facebook ads and the Uyghur genocide. In March 2021, Epoch Times reported on “evidence linking Facebook ad revenue to Chinese companies profiting from that genocide.” They indicated that one of the companies “continues selling through Facebook hair it admitted was from Uyghurs. Similar companies ‘suggested’ by the social media platform appear also to be selling Uyghur hair. Since a woman’s long hair is highly valued in Uyghur culture, the hair products being sold are almost certainly a product of the ongoing persecution, and not donated or sold freely.” These allegations come months after, in August 2020, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) seized over 13 tons of human hair products from Xinjiang. 

In this photo illustration a Facebook logo seen displayed on...

In this photo illustration a Facebook logo seen displayed on a smartphone. (Photo Illustration: … [+] Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Facebook did not respond to these allegations that it profited from ads linked to Uyghur genocide. Yet it did not take long before Facebook became the centre of attention again, because of its links with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) which stands accused of committing genocide against the Uyghurs.

In April 2021, the WSJ reported that “some Facebook staff are raising concerns on internal message boards and in other employee discussions that the company is being used as a conduit for state propaganda, highlighting sponsored posts from Chinese organizations that purport to show Muslim ethnic minority Uyghurs thriving in China’s Xinjiang region, according to people familiar with the matter.” Reportedly, “a Facebook spokesman said that the ads taken out by Beijing pertaining to Xinjiang don’t violate current policies so long as the advertisers follow Facebook’s rules when purchasing them. He said the company is monitoring reports of the situation in Xinjiang ‘to help inform our approach and due diligence on this issue.’”

WSJ further reported that “Facebook hasn’t determined whether to act on the concerns, say people familiar with the matter. The company is watching how international organizations such as the United Nations respond to the situation in Xinjiang, one of the people said. The U.N. this week called on firms conducting Xinjiang-linked business to undertake “meaningful human rights due diligence” on their operations.”

Such responses to very serious allegations of benefiting from Uyghur genocide are highly inadequate. We are talking about atrocities targeting a religious group with methods including torture and abuse, rape and sexual violence, separation of children from their parents, forced sterilizations, forced abortions, forced labor and much more.

Waiting for the response from the U.N. cannot be seen as the right policy to address serious allegations of genocidal atrocities, especially considering stagnation at the U.N. and China’s powerful position there. While States and U.N. experts have been calling for action, and among others, for unfettered access to Xinjiang, this request has been ignored by the Chinese government. And so the vicious circle of impunity continues.

One would expect that Facebook would conduct a comprehensive review of the allegations and evidence in support. Ultimately, Facebook should make sure that they sever any ties with atrocities against the Uyghurs.

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Eutelsat Expands Use of Express Wi-Fi in Partnership With Facebook to Extend Wi-Fi Connectivity …

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PARIS–()–Regulatory News:

Eutelsat Communications (Paris:ETL) (Euronext Paris: ETL) is expanding its use of the Express Wi-Fi platform in partnership with Facebook to provide broadband services via satellite across several regions in Sub-Saharan Africa. With Express Wi-Fi, Eutelsat aims to connect thousands of people in rural and underserved communities spanning Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Kenya, Madagascar, South Africa, Cameroon, Ghana and Zimbabwe.

Express Wi-Fi is a platform developed by Facebook Connectivity that enables partners to build, grow and monetize their Wi-Fi businesses in a scalable way, while providing their customers with fast, affordable, and reliable internet access. Express Wi-Fi is used in more than 30 countries, including in multiple Asian, South American and African markets, helping millions of people connect over Wi-Fi.

Eutelsat and Facebook have previously conducted successful pilots in rural and underserved areas of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) enabling local businesses to offer affordable internet access to customers on a pre-paid basis. To date, Eutelsat’s use of the Express Wi-Fi platform has enabled access to affordable broadband for thousands of individuals across the DRC.

Philippe Baudrier, General Manager of Konnect Africa commented: “We are delighted to partner with Facebook in this ambitious scheme, aimed at getting more people online in the most underserved areas of sub-Saharan Africa. This initiative is the perfect example of the power of satellite connectivity to bridge the digital divide, with unmatched economic and social benefits. We are proud once again to leverage the unparalleled coverage of EUTELSAT KONNECT to satisfy this growing demand.”

“At Facebook, we’re committed to working with partners to help expand connectivity in Sub-Saharan Africa, which continues to be the region with the highest coverage gap,” said Fargani Tambeayuk, Head of Connectivity Policy for Sub-Saharan Africa, Facebook. “Connectivity is essential to ensuring access to jobs, education, healthcare and more. We’re proud to partner with Eutelsat to combine the power of the Express Wi-Fi platform and EUTELSAT KONNECT, with the goal of increasing satellite broadband coverage across rural and underserved areas of Sub-Saharan Africa.”

About Eutelsat Communications


Founded in 1977, Eutelsat Communications is one of the world’s leading satellite operators. With a global fleet of satellites and associated ground infrastructure, Eutelsat enables clients across Video, Data, Government, Fixed and Mobile Broadband markets to communicate effectively to their customers, irrespective of their location. Over 6,600 television channels operated by leading media groups are broadcast by Eutelsat to one billion viewers equipped for DTH reception or connected to terrestrial networks. Headquartered in Paris, with offices and teleports around the globe, Eutelsat assembles 1,000 men and women from 46 countries who are dedicated to delivering the highest quality of service.

For more about Eutelsat go to www.eutelsat.com

About Facebook Connectivity


Connectivity is at the heart of Facebook’s mission to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. Critical to this mission is high-quality internet access, which gives people a voice and creates opportunities to share knowledge that can strengthen local communities and global economies. Facebook Connectivity works closely with partners including mobile network operators, equipment manufacturers and more to develop programs and technologies—including Express WiFi, Magma and Terragraph—that increase the availability, affordability and awareness of high-quality internet access, bringing more people online to a faster internet. To learn more, visit: https://connectivity.fb.com

www.eutelsat.com – Follow us on Twitter @Eutelsat_SA

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Facebook Removes Ukraine’s ‘Fake’ Political ‘Influence-for-hire’ Network

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Reuters Photo

Facebook attributed the network to individuals and entities including politician Andriy Derkach, a pro-Russian lawmaker blacklisted by the United States.

  • Reuters
  • Last Updated:May 07, 2021, 14:04 IST
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Facebook Inc (FB.O) has taken down a network of hundreds of fake accounts and pages targeting people in Ukraine and linked to individuals previously sanctioned by the United States for efforts to interfere in U.S. elections, the company said on Thursday. Facebook said the network managed a long-running deceptive campaign across multiple social media platforms and other websites, posing as independent news outlets and promoting favourable content about Ukrainian politicians, including activity that was likely for hire. The company said it started its probe after a tip from the FBI.

Facebook attributed the activity to individuals and entities sanctioned by the U.S. Treasury Department including politician Andriy Derkach, a pro-Russian lawmaker who was blacklisted by the U.S. government in September over accusations he tried to interfere in the 2020 U.S. election won by President Joe Biden. Facebook said it removed Derkach’s accounts in October 2020.

Derkach told Reuters he would comment on Facebook’s investigation on Friday.

Facebook also attributed the network to political consultants associated with Ukrainian politicians Oleh Kulinich and Volodymyr Groysman, Ukraine’s former prime minister. Kulinich did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Groysman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Facebook said that as well as promoting these politicians, the network also pushed positive material about actors across the political spectrum, likely as a paid service. It said the activity it investigated began around 2015, was solely focused on Ukraine and posted anti-Russia content.

“You can really think of these operators as would-be influence mercenaries, renting out inauthentic online support in Ukrainian political circles,” Ben Nimmo, Facebook’s global influence operations threat intelligence lead, said on a call with reporters.

Facebook’s investigation team said Ukraine, which has been among the top sources of “coordinated inauthentic behaviour” that it removes from the site, is home to an increasing number of influence operations selling services.

Facebook said it removed 363 pages, which were followed by about 2.37 million accounts, and 477 accounts from this network for violating its rules. The network also spent about $496,000 in Facebook and Instagram ads, Facebook said.

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