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Facebook says it removed more than 1.3 billion fake accounts in the months surrounding the 2020 …

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  • Facebook says it removed more than 1.3 billion fake accounts in the last three months of 2020.
  • This period included heightened activity about the 2020 election.
  • Facebook’s CEO is set to testify about the platform’s role leading up to the Capitol siege.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Facebook removed more than 1.3 billion fake accounts from its platform in the last three months of 2020, the company said on Monday. That period included heightened activity around the 2020 election when misinformation about the election results and the coronavirus pandemic dominated major social platforms. 

Facebook vice president Guy Rosen shared the numbers in an opinion post for Morning Consult, later republished as a blog post on Facebook’s corporate website. In the post, Rosen revealed that Facebook had taken down more than 12 million pieces of content about COVID-19 and vaccines since the pandemic started more than a year ago.

Facebook also has more than 35,000 people working on stopping the spread of misinformation and fake news, he said.

The company released this information a few days before House lawmakers are expected to grill Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at a committee hearing. The hearing is intended to address misinformation on social media, particularly the spread of false information related to COVID-19 and the US presidential election this past year. Many critics accuse Facebook of being a driving force behind the growth of dangerous conspiracy theories like QAnon.

Although platforms like Facebook and Twitter have had to face off with the spread of “fake news” since their inception, the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus since late 2019 has triggered a particularly massive spike in online misinformation with potentially dangerous consequences. Posts on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in 2020 have made false claims about COVID-19’s origins and spread; shared baseless conspiracy theories about the pandemic being a hoax and COVID-19 vaccines getting funded by Bill Gates; and made profits off selling faulty COVID-19 tests and treatments.

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Further, the pandemic and the lead-up to the 2020 US presidential election compounded to create an atmosphere where online misinformation broke out visibly and dangerously in real life. Protesters railing against states’ lockdown measures in April primarily organized on Facebook Groups. Trump and his supporters used social media to spread false claims that the election was stolen and to cast doubt on Joe Biden’s victory. These hoaxes culminated in a deadly riot at the US Capitol on January 6.

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Questions around Facebook’s involvement in the riots is expected to dominate Thursday’s proceedings.

In a public appearance immediately after the Capitol siege, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said the events at the Capitol “were largely organized” on other platforms. However, internal documents, obtained by The Wall Street Journal, have since revealed that Facebook executives were told five months before the US Capitol riot that the platform had a problem with hate speech and calls for violence. According to the Journal, the documents showed that “70% of the top 100 most active US Civic Groups are considered non-recommendable for issues such as hate, misinfo, bullying and harassment.”

Since the riots, Facebook has said it would no longer recommend civic groups to users — an action the company also took leading up to the November election but loosened once results finalized. Facebook also suspended Trump’s Facebook account “indefinitely,” but with a caveat that he may return to the platform sometime in the future.

Thursday’s hearing — where Zuckerberg will testify alongside Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Google CEO Sundar Pichai — will be the first time that tech CEOs have appeared in front of US lawmakers since the Capitol siege.

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Facebook has made a concerted effort to beef up its misinformation-fighting initiatives since the 2016 presidential election. Zuckerberg has since admitted the company didn’t do enough to prevent the spread of fake news and hate speech ahead of the election four years ago.

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Updates to Section 7 of the Developer Policies – Facebook Gaming Policies

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We have updated Section 7 of the Developer Policies effective immediately. No change is required from the developers’ end, only awareness about these changes.

As part of our continuous focus on improving developers’ experience, we have made some updates to the Section 7 of the Developer Policies which covers all Facebook Gaming Products, such as Web Games on Facebook.com, Instant Games and Cloud Games. As part of this update we have removed outdated policies, and streamlined the language and structure of Section 7 to better reflect the existing state of our Facebook Gaming Products. We have also reorganized some policies under the Quality Guidelines. These updates do not introduce any product change, nor do they include any new requirements for developers.

Please review the updated Section 7 to familiarize yourself with the updated content structure.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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Creating Apps with App Use Cases

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With the goal of making Meta’s app creation process easier for developers to create and customize their apps, we are announcing the rollout of an updated process using App Use Cases instead of the former product-focused process. App Use Cases will enable developers to quickly create apps by selecting the use case that best represents their reason for creating an app.

Currently, the product-focused app creation process requires developers to select an app type and individually request permission to API endpoints. After listening to feedback from developers saying this process was, at times, confusing and difficult to navigate, we’re updating our approach that’s based on App Use Cases. With App Use Cases, user permissions and features will be bundled with each use case so developers can now confidently select the right data access for their needs. This change sets developers up for success to create their app and navigate app review, ensuring they only get the exact data access they need to accomplish their goals.

Starting today Facebook Login will be the first use case to become available to developers. This will be the first of many use cases that will be built into the app creation process that will roll out continually in 2023. For more information please reference our Facebook Login documentation.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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Understanding Authorization Tokens and Access for the WhatsApp Business Platform

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The WhatsApp Business Platform makes it easy to send WhatsApp messages to your customers and automate replies. Here, we’ll explore authentication using the Cloud API, hosted by Meta.

We’ll start with generating and using a temporary access token and then replace it with a permanent access token. This tutorial assumes you’re building a server-side application and won’t need additional steps to keep your WhatsApp application secrets securely stored.

Managing Access and Authorization Tokens

First, let’s review how to manage authorization tokens and safely access the API.

Prerequisites

Start by making sure you have a developer account on Meta for Developers. You’ll also need WhatsApp installed on a mobile device to send test messages to.

Creating an App

Before you can authenticate, you’ll need an application to authenticate you.

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Once you’re signed in, you see the Meta for Developers App Dashboard. Click Create App to get started.

Next, you’ll need to choose an app type. Choose Business.

After that, enter a display name for your application. If you have a business account to link to your app, select it. If not, don’t worry. The Meta for Developers platform creates a test business account you can use to experiment with the API. When done, click Create App.

Then, you’ll need to add products to your app. Scroll down until you see WhatsApp and click the Set up button:

Finally, choose an existing Meta Business Account or ask the platform to create a new one and click Continue:

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And with that, your app is created and ready to use. You’re automatically directed to the app’s dashboard.

Note that you have a temporary access token. For security reasons, the token expires in less than 24 hours. However, you can use it for now to test accessing the API. Later, we’ll cover how to generate a permanent access token that your server applications can use. Also, note your app’s phone number ID because you’ll need it soon.

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Click the dropdown under the To field, and then click Manage phone number list.

In the popup that appears, enter the phone number of a WhatsApp account to send test messages to.

Then, scroll further down the dashboard page and you’ll see an example curl call that looks similar to this:

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curl -i -X POST https://graph.facebook.com/v13.0//messages -H 'Authorization: Bearer ' -H 'Content-Type: application/json' -d '{ "messaging_product": "whatsapp", "to": "", "type": "template", "template": { "name": "hello_world", "language": { "code": "en_US" } } }'

Note that the Meta for Developers platform inserts your app’s phone number ID and access token instead of the and placeholders shown above. If you have curl installed, paste the command into your terminal and run it. You should receive a “hello world” message in WhatsApp on your test device.

If you’d prefer, you can convert the curl request into an HTTP request in your programming language by simply creating a POST request that sets the Authorization and Content-Type headers as shown above, including the JSON payload in the request body.

Since this post is about authentication, let’s focus on that. Notice that you’ve included your app’s access token in the Authorization header. For any request to the API, you must set the Authorization header to Bearer .

Remember that you must use your token instead of the placeholder. Using bearer tokens will be familiar if you’ve worked with JWT or OAuth2 tokens before. If you’ve never seen one before, a bearer token is essentially a random secret string that you, as the bearer of the token, can present to an API to prove you’re allowed to access it.

Failure to include this header causes the API to return a 401 Unauthorized response code.

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Creating a Permanent Access Token

Knowing that you need to use a bearer token in the Authorization header of an HTTP request is helpful, but it’s not enough. The only access token you’ve seen so far is temporary. Chances are that you want your app to access the API for more than 24 hours, so you need to generate a longer-lasting access token.

Fortunately, the Meta for Developers platform makes this easy. All you need to do is add a System User to your business account to obtain an access token you can use to continue accessing the API. To create a system user, do the following:

  • Go to Business Settings.

  • Select the business account your app is associated with.
  • Below Users, click System Users.
  • Click Add.
  • Name the system user, choose Admin as the user role, and click Create System User.
  • Select the whatsapp_business_messaging permission.
  • Click Generate New Token.
  • Copy and save your token.

Your access token is a random string of letters and numbers. Now, try re-running the earlier request using the token you just created instead of the temporary one:

curl -i -X POST https://graph.facebook.com/v13.0//messages -H 'Authorization: Bearer ' -H 'Content-Type: application/json' -d '{ "messaging_product": "whatsapp", "to": "", "type": "template", "template": { "name": "hello_world", "language": { "code": "en_US" } } }'

Your test device should receive a second hello message sent via the API.

Best Practices for Managing Access Tokens

It’s important to remember that you should never embed an App Access Token in a mobile or desktop application. These tokens are only for use in server-side applications that communicate with the API. Safeguard them the same way you would any other application secrets, like your database credentials, as anyone with your token has access to the API as your business.

If your application runs on a cloud services provider like AWS, Azure, GCP, or others, those platforms have tools to securely store app secrets. Alternatively there are freely-available secret stores like Vault or Conjur. While any of these options may work for you, it’s important to evaluate your options and choose what works best for your setup. At the very least, consider storing access tokens in environment variables and not in a database or a file where they’re easy to find during a data breach.

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Conclusion

In this post, you learned how to create a Meta for Developers app that leverages the WhatsApp Business Platform. You now know how the Cloud API’s bearer access tokens work, how to send an access token using an HTTP authorization header, and what happens if you send an invalid access token. You also understand the importance of keeping your access tokens safe since an access token allows an application to access a business’ WhatsApp messaging capabilities.

Why not try using the Cloud API, hosted by Meta if you’re considering building an app for your business to manage WhatsApp messaging? Now that you know how to obtain and use access tokens, you can use them to access any endpoint in the API.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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