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Facebook’s ‘Supreme Court’ to receive new powers

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The outside group with the final say on whether Donald Trump can be reinstated on Facebook is expected to be given greater powers in the coming months to decide which content is allowed on the world’s largest social network, according to Thomas Hughes, administrative director of the so-called Oversight Board.

Speaking to Digital Bridge, POLITICO’s transatlantic tech newsletter, Hughes said the board is in talks with Facebook to receive more powers to review potentially harmful material that remains on the on the platform, as well as to adjudicate on accounts suspended for breaching the company’s community standards.

Currently, the Oversight Board can only review content that has already been taken down from Facebook, as well as when the company refers cases involving suspended accounts to the outside body.

“Facebook has clearly flagged that they intend to increase the board’s powers, and the board fully intends to take those powers,” said Hughes, adding that the changes will come “within the next few months.”

“They’ve flagged that this is coming, we’re actively building it,” he said. “There are multiple other types of pieces of content, like suspensions of accounts and things like that which are coming.”

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Technical challenges — including ensuring privacy is protected when data is shared on Facebook posts still on the platform — need to be ironed out before the company can share such data with the outside group, according to the Oversight Board and Facebook.

Critics of the Oversight Board question its independence from Facebook because the company has provided $130 million for the body’s running costs. Others have raised doubts over why the board must negotiate with Facebook to receive greater powers to review content that remains on the platform.

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“The rules for the Oversight Board mean they can’t recommend changes to Facebook’s terms and conditions,” said Damian Collins, a British lawmaker and long-time critic of the company’s handling of online content. “What we’re seeing is limited in scope.”

As administrative director, Hughes’ role includes day-to-day operations, and he does not sit on panels that rule on content. He insisted the group had demonstrated its independence in early decisions. So far, the body has ruled against Facebook in five out of six first cases.

“If the board says, ‘well, this particular type of content should be allowed,’ and Facebook disagrees, the board could then construct its selection committee to find every single piece of content of that nature and simply overturn all of the decisions that Facebook takes now,” he added.

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A former British human rights and free-speech campaigner, Hughes had criticized the Oversight Board in his previous job as executive director of Article19, a campaigning group.

He declined to comment on the upcoming Trump case, which may be announced by late March. The Oversight Board has received thousands of outside comments on whether to reinstate the former U.S. president on Facebook. The social network removed Trump after his posts around the January 6 riots on Capitol Hill, and the case focuses on whether Trump, as a political leader, should be treated differently on other Facebook users when he posts online.

The board has “already gone out publicly and requested information” about the “applicable standard for political leaders” Hughes said, without reference specifically to the Trump’s case. “Existing in international human right standards is the acknowledgement that there are different types of public figures, and the panel that is looking at this case is going to take those into consideration,” he added.

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Each of the group’s decisions only applies to specific content upon which it has ruled and will not set broader policies for how Facebook handles other digital material. Yet, Hughes said the body was trying to create a globally-relevant set of free speech standards that may be applied to reams of future content decisions.

Free speech and human rights campaigners have questioned if it’s possible to create a one-size-fit-all approach to online content when countries often have different cultural standards.

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“I do think that they will start to create a clear picture of where the line lies, what the responsibilities are for corporate actors, how they should go about implementing that and what that means for them as companies,” Hughes said in reference to the board’s work. “That’s what the board is going to help answer and it’s going to do it piece by piece by building a picture that’s based on actual context.”

Despite the long shadow hanging over the group ahead of its decision on Trump, Hughes acknowledged the body’s future decisions would likely run up against some countries’ domestic rules about what is allowed online. Governments in Turkey, Vietnam and Russia have all passed laws hampering people’s ability to voice opinions online.

Without naming specific countries, Hughes said the board would likely soon challenge those limits, setting itself up against national governments on the right to determine what was permitted online.

“I foresee that we will come to the point in which the board overturns a piece of content which maybe runs contrary to a country’s national legislation, but which people feel is not compliant with international human rights standards,” he said. “That will be an interesting moment.”

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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.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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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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