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Antivaxx microinfluencers are Facebook’s next big problem



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They have thousands or tens of thousands of followers and friends. They publish grainy livestreams and sleek videos questioning the safety of Covid-19 vaccines and the effectiveness of face masks and lockdowns. They are the small-numbers, long-tail peddlers of health disinformation. They are the coronavirus misinformation microinfluencers – and they are Facebook’s next big problem.

Microinfluencers are, to a degree, a problem of Facebook’s own making. They were born out of a crackdown on conspiracy-focused, pseudoscientific and QAnon-adjacent pages and groups at the end of 2020. That crackdown targeted the big guns but largely ignored the individuals within those communities who had garnered sizeable followings. When the crackdown came, bereft fans flocked from the big pages to the microinfluencers.

The way Facebook is designed helped these microinfluencers grow and spread their message. They quickly provided a constant stream of content, and raked in small but devoted crowds of supporters courtesy of the platform’s “follow” function – which allows users to see a profile’s public posts without becoming one of their friends, the number of which is limited to 5,000. “The ban of pages and groups that formed community hubs has come late enough that active users from those groups have turned their personal pages into decentralised hubs,” explains Joe Ondrak, a senior researcher at anti-misinformation firm Logically, which first raised the alarm about the microinfluencer trend in a December 2020 report.

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The kind of posts published by these profiles is more or less what you would expect: baseless claims that vaccines will inevitably give you horrific side effects, bogus allegations that the pandemic is a pantomime orchestrated by governments and multinationals, false insinuations against Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates or US chief medical advisor Anthony Fauci.

Microinfluencers often interview each other, and repost each other’s content, effectively knitting a self-validating network of dubious claims. Usually each microinfluencer fits – naturally or deliberately – a certain stock character: there are former healthcare workers who play the part of the whistleblowers-cum-experts; there are “reporters”, religiously filming every single anti-lockdown or anti-vaccine protest, and reposting videos of similar events from other countries; and there are the courtroom warriors, who call on people to carry out citizen’s arrests on Matt Hancock or the whole UK government – a fantasy strongly reminiscent of QAnon’s shattered prophecies.

What makes microinfluencers different, and potentially more insidious, is that it is pretty hard to gauge their impact. “This has become a pseudo-Twitter network of posting, cross-posting and following that has formed ‘under the radar’ of analytics software,” Ondrak explains. The conventional tools used by disinformation researchers – like Ondrak himself – are effective at scouring pages and groups for keywords or specific pieces of content, but what goes on on private profiles is impossible to find that way – and therefore, harder to counter. “Mapping out and monitoring this network of users is extremely time and labour intensive. There is no ‘at a glance’ way to see their influence, but their posts often receive shares in the hundreds and sometimes thousands, boosting the spread of disinformation from personal profile to personal profile.”

There are proxies, though. Some microinfluencer posts will be shared widely enough to make it into the surviving vaccine-sceptical or vaccine-hesitant public groups. Using CrowdTangle, an insights tool owned and operated by Facebook, WIRED found 26 private profiles of microinfluencers – mostly British, but also American and Australian – that kept popping up in English-speaking vaccine-focused groups and pages.

Between November 1 and January 17, their posts were shared in 586 groups and 112 pages: some of those groups and pages were unabashedly about vaccines and alternative medicine; others focused on themes including wellness and mysticism, religion, Bernie Sanders, Vladimir Putin, Jeremy Corbyn, comedian Jimmy Dore, and local news and gossip. In the same period, posts by the top three microinfluencers – all with between 15,000 and 20,000 followers – garnered about 350,000 interactions (shares, comments, and reactions to their posts) altogether.

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Most of the shared posts were videos – and here the numbers tell a more worrisome story. Since November, videos published by WIRED’s sample of microinfluencers received 8.7 million views. One very successful video – a 28-minute-long cavalcade of self-styled healthcare professionals reciting vaccine disinformation – published in December on the page of a microinfluencer with 14,000 followers, was viewed 3.2 million times.

The video was apparently taken down – it is unclear whether by the microinfluencer herself or by Facebook moderators – last week, but by that time it had been up for over a month. Back in December 2020 Facebook promised that it would act more aggressively to stomp out vaccine disinformation – but its promise doesn’t appear to have been fully kept. Some posts from microinfluencers have been branded with a fact-checking label pointing out inaccuracies or falsehoods – a label that the microinfluencers and their followers tend to regard as a medal of honour – but dozens of videos in which similar claims are repeated are still live.

“Our AI and 35,000 strong team proactively find and remove harmful content across every part of Facebook,” a Facebook spokesperson says. The company, however, wants to make sure that speaking about vaccines on its platform is still possible, which is why it resorts to removal just in extreme cases. Facebook did not respond to a direct question about the difficulty of moderating personal profiles as opposed to pages or groups.

Some microinfluencers appear to have already had enough of Facebook, especially after the platform’s actions in the wake of the Capitol insurrection on January 6. One of the UK’s most popular microinfluencers recently announced that he would be moving to alternative social network MeWe; another started re-uploading her most popular posts on alternative video-hosting services. Other microinfluencers, following the evolution of QAnon in the US, are toning down the vaccine rhetoric and mass-arrest predictions, and are embracing the new conspiracy theory – the “sovereign citizen movement.”

There’s even the odd bit of irony, like the microinfluencer who – after months of railing against vaccines and the New World Order – this week devoted a video to fending off accusations of being an Illuminati, and explaining how a strangely shaped bush in one of her past videos was not a freemasonry symbol.

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Spread across Facebook and fiendishly difficult to track and monitor, microinfluencers are unlikely to fade away – especially while they still have such an engaged and loyal following. And, over time, the messages they share are likely to get more extreme. ”While pages and groups were often concerned with one or two issues, microinfluencers are people with their own beliefs and interests,” says Ondrak. “This means that one microinfluencer could spread content that flits from antivaxx, to Covid-denialism, to QAnon-lore and more esoteric beliefs as their own personal journey down the rabbit hole intensifies.”

Gian Volpicelli is an investigative reporter at WIRED. He tweets from @Gmvolpi

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Introducing Facebook Graph API v18.0 and Marketing API v18.0





Today, we are releasing Facebook Graph API v18.0 and Marketing API v18.0. As part of this release, we are highlighting changes below that we believe are relevant to parts of our developer community. These changes include announcements, product updates, and notifications on deprecations that we believe are relevant to your application(s)’ integration with our platform.

For a complete list of all changes and their details, please visit our changelog.

General Updates

Consolidation of Audience Location Status Options for Location Targeting

As previously announced in May 2023, we have consolidated Audience Location Status to our current default option of “People living in or recently in this location” when choosing the type of audience to reach within their Location Targeting selections. This update reflects a consolidation of other previously available options and removal of our “People traveling in this location” option.

We are making this change as part of our ongoing efforts to deliver more value to businesses, simplify our ads system, and streamline our targeting options in order to increase performance efficiency and remove options that have low usage.

This update will apply to new or duplicated campaigns. Existing campaigns created prior to launch will not be entered in this new experience unless they are in draft mode or duplicated.

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Add “add_security_recommendation” and “code_expiration_minutes” to WA Message Templates API

Earlier this year, we released WhatsApp’s authentication solution which enabled creating and sending authentication templates with native buttons and preset authentication messages. With the release of Graph API v18, we’re making improvements to the retrieval of authentication templates, making the end-to-end authentication template process easier for BSPs and businesses.

With Graph API v18, BSPs and businesses can have better visibility into preset authentication message template content after creation. Specifically, payloads will return preset content configuration options, in addition to the text used by WhatsApp. This improvement can enable BSPs and businesses to build “edit” UIs for authentication templates that can be constructed on top of the API.

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Note that errors may occur when upgrading to Graph API v18 if BSPs or businesses are taking the entire response from the GET request and providing it back to the POST request to update templates. To resolve, the body/header/footer text fields should be dropped before passing back into the API.

Re-launching dev docs and changelogs for creating Call Ads

  • Facebook Reels Placement for Call Ads

    Meta is releasing the ability to deliver Call Ads through the Facebook Reels platform. Call ads allow users to call businesses in the moment of consideration when they view an ad, and help businesses drive more complex discussions with interested users. This is an opportunity for businesses to advertise with call ads based on peoples’ real-time behavior on Facebook. Under the Ad set Level within Ads Manager, businesses can choose to add “Facebook Reels” Under the Placements section.
  • Re-Launching Call Ads via API

    On September 12, 2023, we’re providing updated guidance on how to create Call Ads via the API. We are introducing documentation solely for Call Ads, so that 3P developers can more easily create Call Ads’ campaigns and know how to view insights about their ongoing call ad campaigns, including call-related metrics. In the future, we also plan to support Call Add-ons via our API platform. Developers should have access to the general permissions necessary to create general ads in order to create Call Ads via the API platform.

    Please refer to developer documentation for additional information.

Deprecations & Breaking Changes

Graph API changes for user granular permission feature

We are updating two graph API endpoints for WhatsAppBusinessAccount. These endpoints are as follows:

  • Retrieve message templates associated with WhatsAppBusiness Account
  • Retrieve phone numbers associated with WhatsAppBusiness Account

With v18, we are rolling out a new feature “user granular permission”. All existing users who are already added to WhatsAppBusinessAccount will be backfilled and will continue to have access (no impact).

The admin has the flexibility to change these permissions. If the admin changes the permission and removes access to view message templates or phone numbers for one of their users, that specific user will start getting an error message saying you do not have permission to view message templates or phone numbers on all versions v18 and older.

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Deprecate legacy metrics naming for IG Media and User Insights

Starting on September 12, Instagram will remove duplicative and legacy, insights metrics from the Instagram Graph API in order to share a single source of metrics to our developers.

This new upgrade reduces any confusion as well as increases the reliability and quality of our reporting.

After 90 days of this launch (i.e. December 11, 2023), we will remove all these duplicative and legacy insights metrics from the Instagram Graph API on all versions in order to be more consistent with the Instagram app.

We appreciate all the feedback that we’ve received from our developer community, and look forward to continuing to work together.

Please review the media insights and user insights developer documentation to learn more.

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Deprecate all Facebook Wi-Fi v1 and Facebook Wi-Fi v2 endpoints

Facebook Wi-Fi was designed to improve the experience of connecting to Wi-Fi hotspots at businesses. It allowed a merchant’s customers to get free Wi-Fi simply by checking in on Facebook. It also allowed merchants to control who could use their Wi-Fi and for how long, and integrated with ads to enable targeting to customers who had used the merchant’s Wi-Fi. This product was deprecated on June 12, 2023. As the partner notice period has ended, all endpoints used by Facebook Wi-Fi v1 and Facebook Wi-Fi v2 have been deprecated and removed.

API Version Deprecations:

As part of Facebook’s versioning schedule for Graph API and Marketing API, please note the upcoming deprecations:

Graph API

  • September 14, 2023: Graph API v11.0 will be deprecated and removed from the platform
  • February 8, 2024: Graph API v12.0 will be deprecated and removed from the platform
  • May 28, 2024: Graph API v13.0 will be deprecated and removed from the platform

Marketing API

  • September 20, 2023: Marketing API v14.0 will be deprecated and removed from the platform
  • September 20, 2023: Marketing API v15.0 will be deprecated and removed from the platform
  • February 06, 2024: Marketing API v16.0 will be deprecated and removed from the platform

To avoid disruption to your business, we recommend migrating all calls to the latest API version that launched today.

Facebook Platform SDK

As part of our 2-year deprecation schedule for Platform SDKs, please note the upcoming deprecations and sunsets:

  • October 2023: Facebook Platform SDK v11.0 or below will be sunset
  • February 2024: Facebook Platform SDK v12.0 or below will be sunset

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Allowing Users to Promote Stories as Ads (via Marketing API)





Before today (August 28, 2023), advertisers could not promote images and/or videos used in Instagram Stories as ads via the Instagram Marketing API. This process created unwanted friction for our partners and their customers.

After consistently hearing about this pain point from our developer community, we have removed this unwanted friction for advertisers and now allow users to seamlessly promote their image and/or video media used in Instagram Stories as ads via the Instagram Marketing API as of August 28, 2023.

We appreciate all the feedback received from our developer community, and hope to continue improving your experience.

Please review the developer documentation to learn more.

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Launching second release of Facebook Reels API: An enterprise solution for desktop and web publishers





We’re excited to announce that the second release of FB Reels API is now publicly available for third-party developers. FB Reels API enables users of third-party platforms to share Reels directly to public Facebook Pages and the New Pages Experience.

FB Reels API has grown significantly since the first release in September 2022. The new version of the APIs now support custom thumbnails, automatic music tagging, tagging collaborators, longer format of reels and better error handling.

FB Reels API will also support scheduling and draft capability to allow creators to take advantage of tools provided either by Meta or by our partners. Based on the feedback we received from our partners, we’ll now provide additional audio insights via the Audio Recommendations API and reels performance metrics via the Insights API.

Our goal in the next couple of releases is to continue to make it easier for creators to develop quality content by adding features like early copyright detection and A/B testing. We’re also excited to start working on enhanced creation features like Video clipping- so stay tuned to hear more about those features in the future.


If you are a developer interested in integrating with the Facebook Reels API, please refer to the Developer Documents for more info.

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Not sure if this product is for you? Check out our entire suite of sharing offerings.

Tune in to Product @scale event to learn more about FB Video APIs and hear from some of our customers.

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