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Facebook “incorrectly deletes” Black Lives Matter pages in Sudbury, London and Guelph

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Sudbury’s Isak Vaillancourt says he was surprised and a bit sad when he woke up January 31st and found Facebook had deleted the Black Lives Matter Sudbury site a day before the launch of Black History Month programming. Vaillancourt is director of communications for the group.

Black Lives Matter Sudbury created this mural on Elgin Street in downtown Sudbury last year. (Supplied/Black Lives Matter Sudbury)

Sudbury’s Isak Vaillancourt says he was surprised and a bit sad when he woke up January 31st and found Facebook had deleted the Black Lives Matter Sudbury site a day before the launch of Black History Month programming.

Vaillancourt is director of communications for the group.

He says there wasn’t really an explanation, just a notification from Facebook saying the site had run afoul of community standards.

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That’s something with which Vaillancourt resolutely disagrees.

“We reviewed the content on our page and we reviewed the guidelines and it was quite clear that none of our posts, comments or images violated the community standards,” he says. “So it was very strange how that happens, considering that other pages reported for violent racism, false news or transphobia are allowed to stand.” 

Vaillancourt says the group had put a lot of work into getting ready for Black History Month and building a community online.

“We rely on Facebook to communicate with their online audiences and, you know, during a global pandemic, online networking and building online communities, it’s more important than ever. So it’s very important for us to have these channels accessible. So it was very, very disheartening.” 

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The director of communications for Black Lives Matter Sudbury, Isak Vaillancourt, says having their facebook site deleted on the eve of Black History Month was “very, very disheartening.” (Submitted by Isak Vaillancourt)

While Vaillancourt says he has no idea why Facebook would delete the site, he doesn’t deny that complaints from non-like-minded people may have played a part.

“Yeah, there is a possibility that, you know, people who don’t agree with the cause would have reported the page. But, you know, it would have been nice to have heard that from Facebook directly or have been provided an explanation as to why the page was taken down.” 

Vaillancourt says the moment the page was taken down, the group filed an appeal to Facebook and notified community members of what had happened. They also created a back-up site called Black Lives Sudbury STILL Matter.

As for the timing of the incident, he can’t be sure if it was co-incidental.

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“I’m not sure. You know, January 31st, one day before Black History Month, the timing is a little fishy, might I say. I mean, we had a lot of exciting programming and content scheduled to go out on the 1st,” he says. “We had to push everything back and we had to push back, you know, our advertising plan. So it’s really suspicious.” 

It’s a problem that Vaillancourt learned other Black Lives Matter groups in Guelph and London had also been experiencing.

Ghaida Hamdun is the founder of Black Lives Matter London.

She says Facebook deleted their site in December for similar vague reasons and they’ve been fighting to get it re-instated since.

Hamdun says the group has also had difficulty with Instagram making their posts invisible in other people’s feeds in a process called shadow banning.

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Facebook owns Instagram.

Hamdun says it’s upsetting to have their voices silenced especially because there doesn’t seem to be a person to whom they can appeal.

 “I honestly didn’t know who to reach out to. I just like, you know, Facebook support, because there isn’t a reason as to why this happened and there isn’t someone to contact to talk about why this happened,” she says. “So it’s kind of just like they remove us and they’re like, OK, deal with it, you know? And then you can’t even deal with it because there’s nothing you can do about it.” 

CBC News reached out to Facebook by email to ask why the Black Lives Matter pages in Sudbury, Guelph and London had been taken down, as did Sandy Hudson, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Canada.

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This is the message Facebook sent to Black Lives Matter Sudbury after they appealed the take down of their page. It does not however answer the group’s question about why it was deleted in the first place. (Isak Vaillancourt)

Shortly after the inquiry, the three sites were re-published on February 10th and the following statement was sent to CBC and attributed to Erin Taylor, Communications Manager at Facebook Canada.

“We’re inspired by the Black community as people make their voices heard, raise awareness and inspire action using our apps to share their stories. These pages were incorrectly disabled and have since been restored. We apologize for any unintentional hurt caused by the mistakes we made here.” 

As for Isak Vaillancourt in Sudbury, the acknowledgement is fine but falls short.

“I do believe that this apology should have been made publicly and directed towards the affected parties. You know, Facebook is a multi-billion dollar corporation with assets around the globe. So if they are truly inspired by black communities, as mentioned in their statement, then it’s time to start taking action. Because the time for talk has passed. It’s time to look into ways and to invest in the black communities, create opportunities for black creators and learn how to actively uplift racialized communities rather than silencing their online voices.”

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In a statement on Black Lives Matter Guelph’s site, that group is calling for changes in the reporting process so they’re not stuck with an automated appeal.

They’re also trying to compile a list of other organizations facing similar challenges on social media.

At BLM Sudbury, Vaillancourt says they’lll continue to use Facebook but also rely on a website of their design to ensure their voices are heard.

He notes Facebook has never explained exactly what led to the pages being deleted and worries about it happening again.

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Updating Special Ad Audiences for housing, employment, and credit advertisers

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On June 21, 2022 we announced an important settlement with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that will change the way we deliver housing ads to people residing in the US. Specifically, we are building into our ads system a method designed to make sure the audience that ends up seeing a housing ad more closely reflects the eligible targeted audience for that ad.

As part of this agreement, we will also be sunsetting Special Ad Audiences, a tool that lets advertisers expand their audiences for ad sets related to housing. We are choosing to sunset this for employment and credit ads as well. In 2019, in addition to eliminating certain targeting options for housing, employment and credit ads, we introduced Special Ad Audiences as an alternative to Lookalike Audiences. But the field of fairness in machine learning is a dynamic and evolving one, and Special Ad Audiences was an early way to address concerns. Now, our focus will move to new approaches to improve fairness, including the method previously announced.

What’s happening: We’re removing the ability to create Special Ad Audiences via Ads Manager beginning on August 25, 2022.

Beginning October 12th, 2022, we will pause any remaining ad sets that contain Special Ad Audiences. These ad sets may be restarted once advertisers have removed any and all Special Ad Audiences from those ad sets. We are providing a two month window between preventing new Special Ad Audiences and pausing existing Special Ad Audiences to enable advertisers the time to adjust budgets and strategies as needed.

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For more details, please visit our Newsroom post.

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Impact to Advertisers using Marketing API on September 13, 2022

For advertisers and partners using the API listed below, the blocking of new Special Ad Audience creation will present a breaking change on all versions. Beginning August 15, 2022, developers can start to implement the code changes, and will have until September 13, 2022, when the non-versioning change occurs and prior values are deprecated. Refer below to the list of impacted endpoints related to this deprecation:

For reading audience:

  • endpoint gr:get:AdAccount/customaudiences
  • field operation_status

For adset creation:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdAccount/adsets
  • field subtype

For adset editing:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdCampaign
  • field subtype

For custom audience creation:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdAccount/customaudiences
  • field subtype

For custom audience editing:

  • endpoint gr:post:CustomAudience

Please refer to the developer documentation for further details to support code implementation.

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Introducing an Update to the Data Protection Assessment

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Over the coming year, some apps with access to certain types of user data on our platforms will be required to complete the annual Data Protection Assessment. We have made a number of improvements to this process since our launch last year, when we introduced our first iteration of the assessment.

The updated Data Protection Assessment will include a new developer experience that is enhanced through streamlined communications, direct support, and clear status updates. Today, we’re sharing what you can expect from these new updates and how you can best prepare for completing this important privacy requirement if your app is within scope.

If your app is in scope for the Data Protection Assessment, and you’re an app admin, you’ll receive an email and a message in your app’s Alert Inbox when it’s time to complete the annual assessment. You and your team of experts will then have 60 calendar days to complete the assessment. We’ve built a new platform that enhances the user experience of completing the Data Protection Assessment. These updates to the platform are based on learnings over the past year from our partnership with the developer community. When completing the assessment, you can expect:

  • Streamlined communication: All communications and required actions will be through the My Apps page. You’ll be notified of pending communications requiring your response via your Alerts Inbox, email, and notifications in the My Apps page.

    Note: Other programs may still communicate with you through the App Contact Email.

  • Available support: Ability to engage with Meta teams via the Support tool to seek clarification on the questions within the Data Protection Assessment prior to submission and help with any requests for more info, or to resolve violations.

    Note: To access this feature, you will need to add the app and app admins to your Business Manager. Please refer to those links for step-by-step guides.

  • Clear status updates: Easy to understand status and timeline indicators throughout the process in the App Dashboard, App Settings, and My Apps page.
  • Straightforward reviewer follow-ups: Streamlined experience for any follow-ups from our reviewers, all via developers.facebook.com.

We’ve included a brief video that provides a walkthrough of the experience you’ll have with the Data Protection Assessment:

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The Data Protection Assessment elevates the importance of data security and helps gain the trust of the billions of people who use our products and services around the world. That’s why we are committed to providing a seamless experience for our partners as you complete this important privacy requirement.

Here is what you can do now to prepare for the assessment:

  1. Make sure you are reachable: Update your developer or business account contact email and notification settings.
  2. Review the questions in the Data Protection Assessment and engage with your teams on how best to answer these questions. You may have to enlist the help of your legal and information security points of contact to answer some parts of the assessment.
  3. Review Meta Platform Terms and our Developer Policies.

We know that when people choose to share their data, we’re able to work with the developer community to safely deliver rich and relevant experiences that create value for people and businesses. It’s a privilege we share when people grant us access to their data, and it’s imperative that we protect that data in order to maintain and build upon their trust. This is why the Data Protection Assessment focuses on data use, data sharing and data security.

Data privacy is challenging and complex, and we’re dedicated to continuously improving the processes to safeguard user privacy on our platform. Thank you for partnering with us as we continue to build a safer, more sustainable platform.

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Resources for Completing App Store Data Practice Questionnaires for Apps That Include the Facebook or Audience Network SDK

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Resources for Completing App Store Data Practice Questionnaires for Apps That Include the Facebook or Audience Network SDK

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