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Facebook is stepping in where governments won’t on free expression



We’ve known for quite some time that Facebook has a huge say over how online speech and expression are governed. Users have demanded accountability, and as a result the company created the Facebook Oversight Board to review and provide transparency about its content moderation decisions.

More recently, it also tried to suppress Australian news in response to proposed legislation that would charge internet companies for distributing news content, prompting outrage a call to #deletefacebook. Facebook ultimately backed down.

A collection of newspaper front pages about Facebook's Australia showdown.
Front pages of Australian newspapers are displayed in Sydney on Feb. 19, 2021, after Facebook blocked Australians from sharing news stories, escalating a fight with the government over whether powerful tech companies should have to pay news organizations for content.
(AP Photo/Rick Rycroft)

The creation of the Oversight Board is a clear indication that Facebook sees itself as a global governor of freedom of expression online. This goes to the heart of how governance is changing as a result of technological progress. Although Facebook’s Oversight Board appears to be a step towards more accountable decision-making, it also highlights the failure of governments to address freedom of expression in online content.

Media platforms constantly make judgments about appropriate speech, and Facebook’s global reach of 2.8 billion monthly users gives the board tremendous global influence.

Protecting human rights

The Oversight Board is to use “its independent judgment to support people’s right to free expression and ensure those rights are being adequately respected.” The explicit reference to human rights in its charter acknowledges that companies have a role in protecting and enforcing human rights.

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This is consistent with efforts by the United Nations and other advocacy efforts to create standards on how businesses should be held accountable for human rights abuses. In light of Facebook’s entanglement in misinformation, scandals and election falsehoods, as well as genocide and incitement of violence, it seems particularly pertinent for the company.

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It’s not a stretch to say that Facebook seeks to become a governor of human rights. The decisions made by Facebook through its content moderators and Oversight Board have significant implications for the exercise of worldwide freedom of expression and speech. Their decisions articulate principles of what is acceptable expression that far exceed the reach of any single state in the world.

Mark Zuckerberg appears on a screen
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appears on a screen as he speaks remotely during a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee on Capitol Hill in October 2020.
(Michael Reynolds/Pool via AP)

To date, we have assigned such decision-making powers to states, many of which are accountable to their citizens. Facebook, on the other hand, is unaccountable to citizens in nations around the world, and a single individual (Mark Zuckerberg) holds majority decision-making power at the company.

Transparency emphasized

Facebook took the step to create the Oversight Board after Noah Feldman, a Harvard law professor, suggested the idea in 2018. In the board’s first set of decisions, it emphasized the need for transparency about Facebook removals.

Noah Feldman speaks at a hearing.
Noah Feldman testifies during a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on the constitutional grounds for the first impeachment of Donald Trump in December 2019.
(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

The Oversight Board will soon be deciding on the decision to remove former U.S. president Donald Trump from Facebook, a pivotal case. Its first set of decisions weren’t nearly as high profile, but made apparent the internal procedures Facebook uses to make its content decisions.

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To date, there have been seven decisions. One removal that the Oversight Board overturned concerned the exposure of female nipples in a breast cancer awareness campaign on Instagram. This case highlighted the importance of human moderation, as the post had been removed by an algorithm (Facebook restored it when the Oversight Board selected the case to review).

In other cases, human moderators have had their decisions overturned. The Oversight Board also upheld Facebook’s decision to remove a dehumanizing ethnic slur against Azerbaijanis in the context of an active conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh disputed region.

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However, the Oversight Board deals with only a small fraction of possible cases. Whether the board was created to enhance transparency and human rights or to heavily influence meaningful government intervention and regulation, it’s clear that private organizations are currently the only consistent governors of data and social media.

The TikTok logo.
TikTok could also play a role in global freedom of expression.
(AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)

Few entities can influence freedom of expression at the global level as pervasively as Facebook. Twitter is another candidate, although with 330 million monthly users, its influence pales in comparison. TikTok might be a bigger contender, projected to reach 1.2 billion monthly users this year, and WeChat has similar numbers. Taken together, it’s clear that while Facebook is the largest social media platform, these companies play an enormous role in online freedom of expression and speech.

Governments must step up

But Facebook and other social media companies do not have to engage in a transparent, publicly accountable process to make their decisions. However, Facebook claims that in its decision-making, it upholds the human right of freedom of expression. However, freedom of expression does not mean the same thing to everyone.

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Freedom of speech often involves sifting out bad ideas from good. It is about protecting the right to say what you think, even when it’s a minority opinion. Maintaining the balance of harm versus freedom has always been tricky.

Facebook’s dominance in social media, however, is notable not because it’s a private company. Mass communication has been privatized, at least in the U.S., for a long time. Rather, Facebook’s insertion into the regulation of freedom of expression and its claim to support human rights is notable because these have traditionally been the territory of governments. While far from perfect, democracies provide citizens and other groups influence over the enforcement of human rights.

Facebook and other social media companies, however, have no such accountability to the public. Ensuring human rights needs to go beyond volunteerism by private companies. Perhaps with the Australia versus Facebook showdown, governments finally have an impetus to pay attention to the effects of technology companies on fundamental human rights.

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Enabling developers to create innovative AIs on Messenger and WhatsApp





Every week over 1 billion people connect with businesses on our messaging apps. Many of these conversations are made possible by the thousands of developers who build innovative and engaging experiences on Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.

Since opening access to our Llama family of large language models, we’ve seen lots of momentum and innovation with more than 30 million downloads to date. As our messaging services continue to evolve, we believe the technology from Llama and other generative AI models have the potential to enhance business messaging through more natural, conversational experiences.

At Connect Meta announced that developers will be able to build third-party AIs – a term we use to refer to our generative AI-powered assistants – for our messaging services.

We’re making it easy for any developer to get started, so we’re simplifying the developer onboarding process and providing access to APIs for AIs that make it possible to build new conversational experiences within our messaging apps.

All developers will be able to access the new onboarding experience and features on Messenger in the coming weeks. For WhatsApp, we’ll be opening a Beta program in November – if you’re interested in participating please sign up to the waitlist here to learn more.

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We’ll keep everyone updated as we make these tools available to more developers later this year. We look forward to your feedback and seeing what you create.

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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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