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Facebook Freezes Venezuelan President’s Page Over COVID Misinformation | Voice of America …



Facebook has frozen Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s page, according to a spokesperson for the social media giant, because the page contained misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Maduro violated Facebook policy when he posted a video without any medical evidence, promoting Carvativir, a drink made with the herb thyme, as a cure for the coronavirus, a company spokesperson told Reuters. He described the drink as a “miracle” medication capable of neutralizing the coronavirus without any side effects.

“We follow guidance from the WHO [World Health Organization] that says there is currently no medication to cure the virus,” Facebook’s spokesperson told Reuters.

The company said it is taking action to limit use of Maduro’s Facebook page. “Due to repeated violations of our rules, we are also freezing the page for 30 days,” the company spokesperson said, “during which it will be read-only.”

Brazil is averaging nearly 2,400 deaths a day from COVID-19, about one-fourth of the world’s daily tally, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

The South American nation is on pace to reach 4,000 deaths a day, six experts told The Associated Press, a level that would rival the worst seen in the U.S., which has about one-third more people. The U.S. set a record of 4,477 deaths on Jan. 12, according to Johns Hopkins data.

“Four thousand deaths a day seems to be right around the corner,” Dr. José Antônio Curiati, a supervisor at Sao Paulo’s Hospital das Clinicas, the biggest hospital complex in Latin America, told the AP.

President Jair Bolsonaro remains unconvinced that restrictions on activity are needed. At this point, they may be too late.

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Miguel Nicolelis, a professor of neurobiology at Duke University who advised several Brazilian governors and mayors on pandemic control, anticipates the total death toll reaching 500,000 by July and exceeding that of the U.S. by year-end, according to the AP.

“We have surpassed levels never imagined for a country with a public health care system, a history of efficient immunization campaigns and health workers who are second to none in the world,” Nicolelis said. “The next stage is the health system collapse.”

Spain tests mass-gathering limits

In Spain, an experiment is under way to find a pandemic-safe way to hold mass events indoors. The setting is an arena in Barcelona filled with 5,000 fans Saturday night for a live concert.

The morning of the show, those looking to attend came to one of three field hospitals set up in closed nightclubs. They were given COVID-19 and antigen tests, tests introduced to the body to induce an immune response. If they tested negative, they received a pass to the show and were told to wear a surgical mask. The arena was equipped with a ventilation system.

“Over the next 14 days we will look at how many of the audience test positive for COVID and will report back,” Josep Maria Llibre, a doctor at the Germans Trias i Pujol hospital just north of Barcelona, told Agence France-Presse.

The aim is “to discover a way in which we can coexist with COVID and hold concerts which are completely safe,” Ventura Barba, executive director of Barcelona’s Sonar festival, one of the organizers, told AFP.

WHO seeks COVAX donations

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The head of the World Health Organization on Friday urged the global community to donate COVID-19 vaccines to lower-income countries, citing the urgent need for 10 million doses for a WHO-backed vaccine distribution program.

“COVAX is ready to deliver but we can’t deliver vaccines we don’t have,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a virtual news conference in Geneva.

COVAX, an abbreviation for the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access initiative, aims to provide equitable access to vaccines worldwide to low- and middle-income countries.

“Bilateral deals, export bans, and vaccine nationalism have caused distortions in the market with gross inequities in supply and demand,” Tedros said. “Ten million doses are not much, and it’s not nearly enough.”

Tedros’ appeal comes after India, a key supplier to the agency’s COVAX vaccine-sharing program, said it was prioritizing local needs.

The WHO chief said India’s move was “understandable” given the rising number of infections in India. He said talks were in progress with India to find a balance between local and international needs.

India said Friday it set a record with a tally of more than 59,000 new cases from the previous 24-hour period.

UN demands fair vaccine access

At the United Nations in New York, 181 nations signed onto a political declaration that calls for COVID-19 vaccinations to be treated as a global public good, ensuring affordable, equitable and fair access to vaccines for all.

“We can see the end of the crisis, but to reach it, we need to work together with a deeper sense of collaboration,” part of the declaration states.

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Among the appeals are calls on nations to fully fund the COVAX facility to distribute vaccines to low-income and developing countries, scale up vaccine production through the distribution of technology and licenses and launch public information campaigns on the importance and safety of COVID-19 vaccines.

COVAX has so far distributed more than 31 million doses of vaccines to 57 countries.

“There is a race everywhere between the vaccines and the pandemic,” said Lebanon’s Ambassador Amal Mudallali, on behalf of the countries that drafted the document. “This race will be won before the start by the ‘haves,’ if there is no equitable, affordable sharing of vaccines.”

The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported early Sunday there are more 126 million global COVID-19 infections. The research center updates its data constantly and provides expert input.

The United States has more cases than any other country, with more than 30.2 million infections, followed by Brazil, with 12.5 million, and India, with almost 12 million, according to the center.

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Facebook Adds New Trend Insights in Creator Studio, Which Could Help Shape Your Posting Strategy




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Facebook’s looking to provide more content insight within Creator Studio with the rollout of a new ‘Inspiration Hub’ element, which highlights trending content and hashtags within categories related to your business Page.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

As you can see in these screenshots, posted by social media expert Matt Navarra, when it becomes available to you, you’ll be able to access the new Inspiration Hub from the Home tab in Creator Studio.

At the right side of the screen, you can see the first of the new insights, with trending hashtags and videos from the last 24 hours, posted by Pages similar to yours, displayed above a ‘See more’ prompt.

When you tap through to the new hub, you’ll have a range of additional filters to check out trending content from across Facebook, including Page category, content type, region, and more.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

That could be hugely valuable in learning what Facebook users are responding to, and what people within your target market are engaging with in the app.

The Hub also includes insights into trending hashtags, within your chosen timeframe, which may further assist in tapping into trending discussions.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

How valuable hashtags are on Facebook is still up for debate, but you’ll also note that you can filter the displayed results by platform, so you can additionally display Instagram hashtag trends as well, which could be very valuable in maximizing your reach.

Much of this type of info has been available within CrowdTangle, Facebook’s analytics platform for journalists, for some time, but not everyone can access CrowdTangle data, which could make this an even more valuable proposition for many marketers.

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Of course, overall performance really relates to your own creative, and thinking through the action that you want your audience to take when reading your posts. But in terms of detecting new content trends, including hashtag usage, caption length, videos versus image posts, and more, there’s a lot that could be gleaned from these tools and filters.

It’s a significant analytics addition – we’ve asked Facebook for more info on the rollout of the new option, and whether it’s already beyond test mode, etc. We’ll update this post if/when we hear back.

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Meta Updates Policy on Cryptocurrency Ads, Opening the Door to More Crypto Promotions in its Apps




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With cryptocurrencies gaining momentum, in line with the broader Web 3.0 push, Meta has today announced an update to its ad policies around cryptocurrencies, which will open the door to more crypto advertisers on its platforms.

As per Meta:

Starting today, we’re updating our eligibility criteria for running ads about cryptocurrency on our platform by expanding the number of regulatory licenses we accept from three to 27. We are also making the list of eligible licenses publicly available on our policy page.”

Essentially, in order to run any crypto ads in Meta’s apps, that currency needs to adhere to regional licensing provisions, which vary by nation. With crypto becoming more accepted, Meta’s now looking to enable more crypto companies to publish ads on its platform, which will provide expanded opportunity for recognized crypto providers to promote their products, while also enabling Meta to make more money from crypto ads.

“Previously, advertisers could submit an application and include information such as any licenses they obtained, whether they are traded on a public stock exchange, and other relevant public background on their business. However, over the years the cryptocurrency landscape has matured and stabilized and experienced an increase in government regulation, which has helped to set clearer responsibilities and expectations for the industry. Going forward, we will be moving away from using a variety of signals to confirm eligibility and instead requiring one of these 27 licenses.”

Is that a good move? Well, as Meta notes, the crypto marketplace is maturing, and there’s now much wider recognition of cryptocurrencies as a legitimate form of payment. But they’re also not supported by most local financial regulators, which reduced transaction protection and oversight, which also brings a level of risk in such process.

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But then again, all crypto providers are required to clearly outline any such risks, and most also highlight the ongoing market volatility in the space. This expanded level of overall transparency means that most people who are investing in crypto have at least some awareness of these elements, which likely does diminish the risk factor in such promotions within Meta’s apps.

But as crypto adoption continues to expand, more of these risks will become apparent, and while much of the crypto community is built on good faith, and a sense of community around building something new, there are questions as to how much that can hold at scale, and what that will then mean for evolving scams and criminal activity, especially as more vulnerable investors are brought into the mix.

Broader promotional capacity through Meta’s apps will certainly help to boost exposure in this respect – though again, the relative risk factors are lessened by expanded regulatory oversight outside of the company.

You can read more about Meta’s expanded crypto ad regulations here.

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Meta Outlines Evolving Safety Measures in Messaging as it Seeks to Allay Fears Around the Expansion of E2E Encryption




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Amid rising concern about Meta’s move to roll out end-to-end encryption by default to all of its messaging apps, Meta’s Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis has today sought to provide a level of reassurance that Meta is indeed aware of the risks and dangers that such protection can pose, and that it is building safeguards into its processes to protect against potential misuse.

Though the measures outlined don’t exactly address all the issues raised by analysts and safety groups around the world.

As a quick recap, back in 2019, Facebook announced its plan to merge the messaging functionalities of Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, which would then provide users with a universal inbox, with all of your message threads from each app accessible on either platform.

The idea is that this will simplify cross-connection, while also opening the door to more opportunities for brands to connect with users in the messaging tool of their choice – but it also, inherently, means that the data protection method for its messaging tools must rise to the level of WhatsApp, its most secure messaging platform, which already includes E2E encryption as the default.

Various child safety experts raised the alarm, and several months after Facebook’s initial announcement, representatives from the UK, US and Australian Governments sent an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg requesting that the company abandon its integration plan.

Meta has pushed ahead, despite specific concerns that the expansion of encryption will see its messaging tools used by child trafficking and exploitation groups, and now, as it closes in on the next stage, Meta’s working to counter such claims, with Davis outlining six key elements which she believes will ensure safety within this push.

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Davis has explained the various measures that Meta has added on this front, including:

  • Detection tools to stop adults from repeatedly setting up new profiles in an attempt to connect minors that they don’t know
  • Safety notices in Messenger, which provide tips on spotting suspicious behavior
  • The capacity to filter messages with selected keywords on Instagram
  • More filtering options in chat requests to help avoid unwanted contact
  • Improved education prompts to help detect spammers and scammers in messages
  • New processes to make it easier to report potential harm, including an option to select “involves a child”, which will then prioritize the report for review and action

Meta messaging security options

Which are all good, all important steps in detection, while Davis also notes that its reporting process “decrypts portions of the conversation that were previously encrypted and unavailable to us so that we can take immediate action if violations are detected”.

That’ll no doubt raise an eyebrow or two among WhatsApp users – but the problem here is that, overall, the broader concern is that such protections will facilitate usage by criminal groups, and the reliance on self-reporting in this respect is not going to have any impact on these networks operating, at scale, under a more protected messaging framework within Meta’s app eco-system.

Governments have called for ‘backdoor access’ to break Meta’s encryption for investigations into such activity, which Meta says is both not possible and will not be built into its future framework. The elements outlined by Davis do little to address this specific need, and without the capacity to better detect such, it’s hard to see any of the groups opposed to Meta’s expanded encryption changing their stance, and accepting that the merging of all of the platform’s DM options will not also see a rise in criminal activity organized via the same apps.

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Of course, the counterargument could be that encryption is already available on WhatsApp, and that criminal activity of this type can already be undertaken within WhatsApp alone. But with a combined user count of 3.58 billion people per month across its family of apps, that’s a significantly broader interconnection of people than WhatsApp’s 2 billion active users, which, arguably, could open the door to far more potential harm and danger in this respect.

Really, there’s no right answer here. Privacy advocates will argue that encryption should be the standard, and that more people are actually more protected, on balance, by enhanced security measures. But there is also an undeniable risk in shielding even more criminal groups from detection.

Either way, right now, Meta seems determined to push ahead with the plan, which will weld all of its messaging tools together, and also make it more difficult to break-up its network, if any antitrust decisions don’t go Meta’s way, and it’s potentially pressed to sell-off Instagram or WhatsApp as a result.

But expect more debate to be had, in more countries, as Meta continues to justify its decision, and regulatory and law enforcement groups seek more options to help maintain a level of accessibility for criminal investigations and detection.

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