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In a Pennsylvania town, a Facebook group fills the local news void

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The day after Thanksgiving 2019, residents of Chippewa Township, Pennsylvania, watched from their windows as state and local police combed through their backyards looking for Kyle Michael Jones. 

Jones, 26, had a long rap sheet for offenses like reckless driving and disorderly conduct. He had responded to an officer’s attempted traffic stop by jumping out of his car and making a run for it. 

Information about Jones wouldn’t be public for days, so as helicopters flew overhead and police dogs searched the surrounding woods, residents logged on to Facebook. And that’s when the fear, and the exaggerations, and the falsehoods begin to circulate and multiply.

“Word is he escaped from Detroit where he killed someone,” a woman offered in The News Alerts of Beaver County, a public Facebook group where 43,000 members — roughly a quarter of the county population — post and comment on local news from potholes and closing businesses to lost dogs and suspected criminals on the loose. 

Chatter in The News Alerts of Beaver County group, which counts Chippewa Township among its 53 municipalities, moves fast. Earlier the same day, local police had had to dispel rumors spread in the group about an attempted kidnapping in the riverside shopping town of Monaca. Hours later and 10 miles north, as police searched for Jones, group members tuned into the police scanner and began to describe what they were hearing. 

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Jones was thin, they said, missing one shoe and a sock. Someone claimed that he had a gun. Someone else posted that they had heard gunshots nearby. Another thought they had heard a gun firing at a playground. A man posted that he had sent his wife and children to the basement and was guarding his door with a loaded gun. “When I started reading those posts, I was losing my mind,” said Chippewa Township Police Chief Eric Hermick, a 30-year law enforcement veteran who officially took the top job overseeing Chippewa Township’s 13-person police force in January 2020.

The comments came in faster than the group’s administrator could moderate them – hundreds of them in an hour. Just as many panicked phone calls were placed to 911 operators and the local police precinct, according to police and the director of emergency management services. 

Jones was no murderer, but local police say that for the umpteenth time the group’s Facebook posts needlessly frightened a town and tied up officers who had to combat rumors when they should have been investigating crimes. 

Members of the community say ineffective communication caused confusion, especially an emergency services push alert sent to smartphones in the area that warned residents to stay inside to avoid a potentially armed person. 

For all the chaos, Jones turned himself in. He was charged with “fleeing to elude an officer” and 14 other traffic-related charges — but no murders or shootings.

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In an interview from his office last year, surrounded by unpacked cardboard boxes spilling with uniforms and policing awards, Hermick described parents rushing to pick up kids from friends’ homes and older people in the community flooding the emergency services call line. 

“It just caused panic,” he said.

Like other police departments throughout the country, Chippewa Township Police embraced Facebook for its ability to reach the community and aid in investigations, especially retail thefts. But Hermick never anticipated the headaches that might arise. The fake murderer-on-the-loose story was just the latest issue in what Hermick said was a larger “social media problem.”

“It’s just crazy. These people that sit around with nothing else to do except listen to a scanner and start sensationalizing stuff,” Hermick said. “I don’t think there’s any accountability or checks in place to make sure these people are putting factual information out there.”

Officers on duty posted to the thread, too, but the efforts to set the record straight only made things worse. The group members accused the police of organizing a “cover-up.” 

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“It destroys our reputation, our community, confidence in the police department, and we have to regain that,” Hermick said. “I never had a problem doing that, but let’s hold people accountable for what they’re putting out there.”

The News Alerts of Beaver County Facebook group.Justin Merriman / for NBC News

But the question of just who is accountable for providing information in Beaver County is murky.  The area’s once-trusted news source, a newspaper with a 160-year history, was devastated in a few short months after it was swallowed up by giant corporate chains. The vacuum was filled by social media, namely Facebook. 

Lawmakers and experts have been critical of Facebook’s groups feature, claiming the mostly private spaces have become hubs for coronavirus misinformation and extremism. 

But The News Alerts of Beaver County isn’t home base for a gun-wielding militia, and it isn’t a QAnon fever swamp. In fact, the group’s focus on timely and relevant information for a small real-world community is probably the kind that Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg envisioned when he pivoted his company toward communities in 2017. 

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And yet, the kind of misinformation that’s traded in The News Alerts of Beaver County and thousands of other groups just like it poses a unique danger. It’s subtler and in some ways more insidious, because it’s more likely to be trusted. The misinformation — shared in good faith by neighbors, sandwiched between legitimate local happenings and overseen by a community member with no training but good intentions — is still capable of tearing a community apart.

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The heart of Beaver County sits 30 miles northwest of Pittsburgh, a scenic stretch of country where the Beaver and Ohio rivers meet. 

In its heyday, Beaver County was home to a middle-class way of life built on Big Steel. But the collapse of the steel manufacturing industry in the 1980s hit Beaver County hard. Today, shuttered steel mills dot the landscape. The main streets that make up the county’s small towns and the bridges that connect them could use repair; the small businesses could do with more customers. 

In more recent years, high unemployment and the opioid crisis have been particularly cruel to the county’s remaining residents. People who stayed talk a lot about how old the area seems; more kids move away now for school or jobs and often don’t ever come back. Facebook groups like The News Alerts of Beaver County have been a way for current and former residents to stay connected to their small towns.

And while the group may be a thorn in the sides of local police, digital communities like it are becoming ubiquitous. Facebook isn’t the only neighborhood-watch-style social network — Nextdoor is the fourth most popular app in the Apple store’s news category — but it is the biggest. Facebook’s hyperlocal groups have been crucial for information-sharing, especially during a pandemic and in a growing number of areas where local newspapers have been shuttered or gutted. At the same time, the groups have turned into hubs for misinformation, partisan squabbling and vigilantism.

There are thousands of such groups on Facebook, each with its own issues.

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A 27,000-member group in North Dakota, Bismarck’s People Reporting News, became a hotbed of immigration misinformation and fear-mongering last year, according to the Los Angeles Times. The Scanner and News of Klamath Falls, a 7,000-member group in Oregon, was the source of antifa rumors that caused armed standoffs between neighbors last summer. 

Beaver County has three distinct Facebook news groups. In addition to The News Alerts of Beaver County, there is the heavily moderated and less popular Beaver County News group, with 27,000 members, and the News And Alerts Of Beaver County, Pennsylvania, with 5,700 members. 

“It might be serving the public,” said Jennifer Grygiel, a communications professor at Syracuse University who studies social media. “In a system with inadequate legitimate local news, they may only be able to get information by posting gossip and having the police correct it. One could argue this is what society will look like if we keep going down this road with less journalism and more police and government social media.”

Black Friday wasn’t the first time The News Alerts of Beaver County had frustrated local officials. Since its inception in 2016, the group and the woman running it have been criticized for posts that were alleged to have riled up members with misinformation. 

Statistically speaking, Beaver County is a relatively safe community. But judging by posts in The News Alerts of Beaver County group, the area is beset with murderers, human traffickers, child molesters and criminals of all sorts. Members have repeatedly posted photos of white vans alongside warnings about shady characters and firsthand accounts of escaping near-kidnappings. Last year, like most official news organizations, the group focused primarily on Covid-19 and the election. 

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Despite some negative attention, members said they have a deep appreciation for the group and consider it a real community service. They post job announcements, affordable apartment listings and new restaurant recommendations. Within minutes of a post about an emergency like a traffic accident, a member with firsthand knowledge of the victim will usually log on and give an update. Messages of prayers then roll in. 

“It allows people to make informed decisions about local situations without being told what to think about the issues,” a member wrote on a post asking for opinions about the group. “It’s also a place to find news that pertains to us locally whereas the news covers more broader areas.

And last but not least it allows us to post critical information long before the news even covers the story.”

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The group isn’t just a side project for its sole administrator, lifetime Beaver Falls resident Deanna Romigh; it gives her a sense of purpose. 

“I was always the last to know anything,” Romigh, 36, a single mother of two teenagers, said in an interview from her father’s home in Beaver Falls. Before the pandemic hit, Romigh had a house cleaning business. 

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Romigh, who is deaf, said the group is her way of getting information and bonding with her neighbors. 

“I need to know everything, too,” she said. “I’m not invisible. So I just made my own group. I never thought it would grow this big. I mean, I’m shocked myself.” 

One of her earliest posts, in June 2016, was a callout. “Who got a scanner on their phones? Lmk.” she wrote, calling for members who were willing to post about crimes and traffic jams. “I’d do it for yins but I’m deaf. Lol.”

Deanna Romigh at her home in Beaver Falls, Pa., in 2020. Justin Merriman / for NBC News

The rules were simple — be nice to one another and no politics — and as her group grew, Romigh swiftly banned anyone who broke them. Within a few months, she had several thousand members. With no real guidance from Facebook, Romigh learned as she went. Early on, some members would post photos of people who they said had committed crimes, and others posted about police activity in ways that could alert criminals. So she instituted new policies: no faces and nothing that would impede an investigation.

Romigh has gone through several co-admins and moderators but ultimately runs the group by herself. She estimates that she spends six hours every day approving members and posts and moderating comments — work that Facebook doesn’t pay her to do. For a group of her size, which has garnered over 4.5 million interactions, according to CrowdTangle, the work is more than what she had in mind when she started. 

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“I just get overwhelmed,” she said. 

About a third of the activity in The News Alerts of Beaver County is posting and commenting on links to news stories. Romigh tries to keep the group focused on local news, but lately there’s just not been much to post. 

Beaver County is what’s known as a news desert — one of 20 in the state with only a single newspaper or no newspaper. The sole newspaper that covers Beaver County and its 170,000 residents, the Beaver County Times, has been slashed to a shell of its former glory. 

Its problems are emblematic of the squeeze being felt at thousands of local newsrooms across the country. Declining ad revenues and a generally broken business model have shuttered nearly one-quarter of U.S. newspapers over the last 15 years.

“We are truly facing an extinction-level event for local news,” Jonathan Schleuss, president of the News Guild-Communications Workers of America, testified at a House hearing in March. 

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Facebook didn’t exactly kill local news, but it certainly sped its demise. It’s a role that Facebook has acknowledged and tried to redress. 

Since 2019, Facebook has committed $400 million in grants to local news programs. It also released a feature meant to highlight local news publishers called “Today In.” But the feature, now part of a larger “Facebook News” product, was thwarted by an obvious problem: “About one in three users in the U.S. live in places where we cannot find enough local news on Facebook to launch,” the company said in a blog post. 

In its heyday, the Beaver County Times was owned by local media magnate S.W. Calkins, a prototypical newspaperman who operated newspapers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Florida. Calkins died in 1973, and his family took over the business. But by 2017, the grandchildren who were running the empire wanted out, and they sold the Times along with four other local newspapers for $17.5 million to New Media Investment Group, a New York-based corporate behemoth that owned Gatehouse Media, a chain of hundreds of local newspapers in 36 states. 

The Beaver County Times office in Pennsylvania in 2020.Justin Merriman / for NBC News

Gatehouse immediately began offering buyouts, then cuts. The copy desk was the first to go, according to an insider at the Times who asked for anonymity to speak freely. Then it was the managing editors, because reporters didn’t need the guidance, and then editorial page editors because news editors could just take on the opinion section. And who needs photographers and videographers when reporters have iPhones? 

In the summer of 2019, the Times staff packed up 55 years’ worth of history from an iconic brick building in Bridgewater and moved to an office that sits among other businesses in a sprawling industrial park. The move made sense; the old building was “far too large a facility for our dwindled staff,” Lisa Micco, then an executive, wrote in a 2019 column mourning what she called the “end of an era.” 

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Reduced subscriptions and increased outsourcing meant there was no longer a need for an in-house printing press, a library or photo or video departments. The employees who were left could fit in a single room.

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Their new offices didn’t have the familiar hum of a newsroom — the mood when an NBC News reporter visited last year was more like that of an empty library. 

There’s still news to report, of course. The biggest stories to watch include a crisis at rural western Pennsylvania hospitals, which are facing major layoffs and closures, and the soon-to-be-opened plastic pellets manufacturing plant that’s expected to put thousands of people back to work. 

“The resources you have to have to really cover a community, it’s a lot harder than people think it is,” the insider said. 

What was once the region’s largest suburban daily newspaper is now home to fewer than 10 editorial employees. The budget leaves the few remaining reporters to cover beats including sports, entertainment, politics, business, crime and courts — little time is devoted to the city, borough and township government goings-on. 

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GateHouse bought Gannett in November 2019 for $1.2 billion, and the Beaver County Times became one of more than 600 local papers that made up the “new” Gannett, the country’s biggest corporate-owned newspaper business.

The Beaver County Times did not respond to requests for comment. 

Residents have noticed. Some of the biggest complaints in The News Alerts of Beaver County Facebook group are about the paper. There are gripes about coverage, bias, quality and how the paper is delivered (never on the front porch like it used to be!), but the biggest concern for residents by far is the cost. In 2017, the price of a paper increased. The next year, it put up a $9.99-a-month paywall for its online content — angering many in the county who had gotten used to reading articles for free. 

“I don’t understand why people are so upset. Before the internet, everyone had to pay to read the newspaper and nobody complained,” a member of the News Alerts of Beaver County Facebook group responded in a thread about the paywall. “Now that we have the net in our pockets, people think they are entitled to all media for free.”

“It’s a dying medium,” another member replied. 

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Motives aside, for some members of the community the possible dangers of Romigh’s group outweigh the benefits.  

A small investigative news website, BeaverCountian.com, has published multiple articles debunking rumors spread in the group. 

“This all must end before people get hurt,” John Paul Vranesevich, who publishes the local news website, wrote in an editorial calling for the group’s removal. 

Vranesevich, 42, who was born and raised in town, graduated from Beaver High School and then “spread his wings and escaped,” as he puts it, to work in the tech industry. Vranesevich founded a popular computer security website but came back to Beaver County and started BeaverCountian in 2011. Today, he has a team of six freelancers — some former writers for the Beaver County Times — and automates much of the newsgathering process, including county 911 call logs and the recording and transcription of public meetings.

“We’ve got limited resources, let’s be blunt,” Paul said of his award-winning website. “Do we spend our time fact-checking false things that we didn’t publish? Do we spend our time writing about things that are not news because they’re not real? Or do we spend our time actually investigating and writing real news about matters of significant importance that the public needs to know about?

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“Our unspoken policy has been that if it starts having a massive impact on the community at large, then we have an obligation to the community to come in,” he said. 

Other, smaller rumors, like the one about the community organizer who was wrongly branded a pedophile in the group for taking photos at a kids’ soccer practice, may not get fact-checked, but they can have outsize impacts on the subjects at the centers of the false claims.

“I get phone calls from people in tears who suddenly find themselves in the middle of a very bright spotlight, undeservedly,” Vranesevich said. “Private people who are going about their lives, who’ve done nothing wrong and all of the sudden find themselves with the attention of 40,000 people, being accused of everything from being a child molester to a human trafficker. That can disrupt your day.”

Despite the criticism, The News Alerts of Beaver County continues to grow. 

Romigh acknowledges that sometimes, especially in breaking news situations, the group can get out of control, but she is adamant that she never wants to spread misinformation. 

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“Do I want to spread fake news?” she asked. “No. We all just want to know what’s going on.” 



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Now people can share directly to Instagram Reels from some of their favorite apps

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More people are creating, sharing and watching Reels than ever before. We’ve seen the creator community dive deeply into video content – and use it to connect with their communities. We’re running a limited alpha test that lets creators share video content directly from select integrated apps to Instagram Reels. Now, creators won’t be interrupted in their workflow, making it easier for them share share and express themselves on Reels.

“With the shift to video happening across almost all online platforms, our innovative tools and services empower creativity and fuel the creator economy and we are proud to be able to offer a powerful editing tool like Videoleap that allows seamless content creation, while partnering with companies like Meta to make sharing content that much easier.”- Zeev Farbman, CEO and co-founder of Lightricks.

Starting this month, creators can share short videos directly to Instagram Reels from some of their favorite apps, including Videoleap, Reface, Smule, VivaVideo, SNOW, B612, VITA and Zoomerang, with more coming soon. These apps and others also allow direct sharing to Facebook , which is available for any business with a registered Facebook App to use.

We hope to expand this test to more partners in 2023. If you’re interested in being a part of that beta program, please fill out this form and we will keep track of your submission. We do not currently have information to share about general availability of this integration.

Learn more here about sharing Stories and Reels to Facebook and Instagram and start building today.

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FAQs

Q. What is the difference between the Instagram Content Publishing API and Instagram Sharing to Reels?

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A: Sharing to Reels is different from the Instagram Content Publishing API, which allows Instagram Business accounts to schedule and publish posts to Instagram from third-party platforms. Sharing to Reels is specifically for mobile apps to display a ‘Share to Reels’ widget. The target audience for the Share to Reels widget is consumers, whereas the Content Publishing API is targeted towards businesses, including third-party publishing platforms such as Hootsuite and Sprout Social that consolidate sharing to social media platforms within their third-party app.

Q: Why is Instagram partnering with other apps?

A: Creators already use a variety of apps to create and edit videos before uploading them to Instagram Reels – now we’re making that experience faster and easier. We are currently doing a small test of an integration with mobile apps that creators know and love, with more coming soon.

Q: How can I share my video from another app to Reels on Instagram?

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A: How it works (Make sure to update the mobile app you’re using to see the new Share to Reels option):

  • Create and edit your video in one of our partner apps
  • Once your video is ready, tap share and then tap the Instagram Reels icon
  • You will enter the Instagram Camera, where you can customize your reel with audio, effects, Voiceover and stickers. Record any additional clips or swipe up to add an additional clip from your camera roll.
  • Tap ‘Next’ to add a caption, hashtag, location, tag others or use the paid partnerships label.
  • Tap ‘Share’. Your reel will be visible where you share reels today, depending on your privacy settings.
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Q: How were partners selected?

A. We are currently working with a small group of developers that focus on video creation and editing as early partners. We’ll continue to expand to apps with other types of creation experiences.

Q: When will other developers be able to access Sharing to Reels on Instagram?

A: We do not currently have a date for general availability, but are planning to expand further in 2023.

Q: Can you share to Facebook Reels from other apps?

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A: Yes, Facebook offers the ability for developers to integrate with Sharing to Reels. For more information on third-party sharing opportunities, check out our entire suite of sharing offerings .

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What to know about Presto SQL query engine and PrestoCon

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The open source Presto SQL query engine is used by a diverse set of companies to navigate increasingly large data workflows. These companies are using Presto in support of e-commerce, cloud, security and other areas. Not only do many companies use Presto, but individuals from those companies are also active contributors to the Presto open source community.

In support of that community, Presto holds meetups around the world and has an annual conference, PrestoCon, where experts and contributors gather to exchange knowledge. This year’s PrestoCon, hosted by the Linux Foundation, takes place December 7-8 in Mountain View, CA. This blog post will explore some foundational elements of Presto and what to expect at this year’s PrestoCon.

What is Presto?

Presto is a distributed SQL query engine for data platform teams. Presto users can perform interactive queries on data where it lives using ANSI SQL across federated and diverse sources. Query engines allow data scientists and analysts to focus on building dashboards and utilizing BI tools so that data engineers can focus on storage and management, all while communicating through a unified connection layer.

In short, the scientist does not have to consider how or where data is stored, and the engineer does not have to optimize for every use case for the data sources they manage. You can learn more about Presto in a recent ELI5 video below.

Caption: Watch the video by clicking on the image above.

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Presto was developed to solve the problem of petabyte-scale, multi-source data queries taking hours or days to return. These resources and time constraints make real-time analysis impossible. Presto can return results from those same queries in less than a second in most cases, allowing for interactive data exploration.

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Not only is it highly scalable, but it’s also extensible, allowing you to build your own connector for any data source Presto does not already support. At a low level, Presto also supports a wide range of file types for query processing. Presto was open sourced by Meta and later donated to the Linux Foundation in September of 2019.

Here are some Presto resources for those who are new to the community:

What is PrestoCon?

PrestoCon is held annually in the Bay Area and hosted by the Linux Foundation. This year, the event takes place December 7-8 at the Computer History Museum. You can register here. Each year at PrestoCon, you can hear about the latest major evolutions of the platform, how different organizations use Presto and what plans the Technical Steering Committee has for Presto in the coming year.

Presto’s scalability is especially apparent as every year we hear from small startups, as well as industry leaders like Meta and Uber, who are using the Presto platform for different use cases, whether those are small or large. If you’re looking to contribute to open source, PrestoCon is a great opportunity for networking as well as hearing the vision that the Technical Steering Committee has for the project in the coming year.

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Explore what’s happening at PrestoCon 2022:

Where is Presto used?

Since its release in November of 2013, Presto has been used as an integral part of big data pipelines within Meta and other massive-scale companies, including Uber and Twitter.

The most common use case is connecting business intelligence tools to vast data sets within an organization. This enables crucial questions to be answered faster and data-driven decision-making can be more efficient.

How does Presto work?

First, a coordinator takes your statement and parses it into a query. The internal planner generates an optimized plan as a series of stages, which are further separated into tasks. Tasks are then assigned to workers to process in parallel.

Workers then use the relevant connector to pull data from the source.

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The output of each task is returned by the workers, until the stage is complete. The stage’s output is returned by the final worker towards the next stage, where another series of tasks must be executed.

The results of stages are combined, eventually returning the final result of the original statement to the coordinator, which then returns to the client.

How do I get involved?

To start using Presto, go to prestodb.io and click Get Started.

We would love for you to join the Presto Slack channel if you have any questions or need help. Visit the community page on the Presto website to see all the ways you can get involved and find other users and developers interested in Presto.

If you would like to contribute, go to the GitHub repository and read over the Contributors’ Guide.

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Where can I learn more?

To learn more about Presto, check out its website for installation guides, user guides, conference talks and samples.

Make sure you check out previous Presto talks, and attend the annual PrestoCon event if you are able to do so.

To learn more about Meta Open Source, visit our open source site, subscribe to our YouTube channel, or follow us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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How to Interpret Webhook Components in the WhatsApp Business Platform

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The ways customers want to connect are changing. The WhatsApp Business Platform gives businesses an integrated way to communicate with customers right where they are. In order to integrate properly when using the Cloud API, hosted by Meta, you’ll need to leverage webhooks so applications have a way to respond to events. Webhooks allow your application to monitor three primary events on WhatsApp so you can react with different functionality depending on your goals.

This article looks at these three components, goes through the information they carry, and provides some use-case scenarios to give you an idea of the possibilities.

Interpreting Different Webhook Components

To send and receive messages on WhatsApp, it’s critical to keep track of statuses and errors to help ensure you’re communicating effectively with your customers, which you can do with webhooks.

With webhooks, the WhatsApp Business Platform monitors events and sends notifications when one occurs. These events are one of three components: messages, statuses, and errors.

Let’s explore each of these and examine examples of how you can use them.

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Messages

The messages component is the largest of the three event types and contains two core objects:

  • Contacts — which contain information about the message’s sender.

  • Messages — which provide information about a message’s type and contents.

These two event types allow your application to manage and respond to people that interact with your application. The contacts object contains two pieces of information: name and WhatsApp Id. The contact’s name allows your application to use their name without further lookups. In contrast, the contact’s WhatsApp ID lets you keep track of these contacts or use the contacts/ endpoint to add additional functionality.

For instance, you can verify the customer and start the opt-in process within the customer-initiated conversation, which allows you to message them outside the initial 24-hour response window. It’s important to note that only the text, contacts, and location message types provide contact information.

The message object is where the bulk of the information is stored, including the message contents, type of message, and other relevant information. Depending on the message type, the actual payload of the message component can vary widely. It’s crucial to determine the message type to understand the potential payload. Message types include:

  • Text: a standard text-only message

  • Contact: contains a user’s full contact details

  • Location: address, latitude, and longitude

  • Unknown: unsupported messages from users, which usually contain errors.

  • Ephemeral: disappearing messages

  • Media message types: contain information for the specified media file. These types include:

    • Document

    • Image

    • Audio

    • Video

    • Voice

These different data types can have very different uses, from reviewing images and screenshots from concerned customers to collecting information about where to ship goods and send services. To use these different data types most effectively, you can create applications to handle different forms of communication, with functionalities such as:

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  • Ask your customers to provide a shipping or mailing address. You can use the location-based message feature to capture your users’ location to determine where to send their goods and services.

  • Show customers products and communicate product details through a message. You can use the referred_product field within messages to offer your users specific product details. Using this field develops a more personal, conversational shopping experience and customer interactions.

  • Build support functionality that allows customers to take and send images and videos of product concerns, and submit those for a support case. Once the user has submitted a support ticket, the app can track the case — including steps taken towards resolution and conversations between support teams and the customer through WhatsApp — using a unique case identifier.

These are just some potential features you can build using the interactivity provided by webhooks and the message object. These features extend your current communication channels and provide additional options for customers.

Statuses

Where the messages component provides your application with insight into events that originate directly from your customers, the statuses component keeps track of the results of messages you send and the conversation history. There are six status components:

  • Sent: the application sent your message and is in transit.
  • Delivered: the user’s device successfully received the message.
  • Read: the user has read your message.
  • Deleted: a user deleted a message that you sent.
  • Warning: a message sent by your application contains an item that isn’t available or doesn’t exist.
  • Failed: a message sent by your application failed to arrive.

Status components also contain information on the recipient ID, the conversation, and the pricing related to the current conversation. Conversations on WhatsApp are a grouping of messages within a 24-hour window that are either user-initiated or business-initiated. Keeping track of these conversations is vital, as a new conversation occurs when you send additional responses after the 24-hour period ends.

Some functionality you may want to add to your application based on status events includes:

  • Ensuring your application has sent generated messages, they arrived, and the recipient potentially read them by using a combination of these status types and timestamps within the status object. This information allows your application to follow up with customers if they didn’t engage.
  • Keep analytical information about your application’s messages, especially regarding business-initiated conversations. For example, if your application uses a WhatsApp customer contact list to send offer messages, the status component helps you understand how many were sent, delivered, read, responded to, or failed to measure your campaign’s success.

Errors

Finally, the errors component allows your application to receive any out-of-band errors within WhatsApp that affect your platform. These errors don’t stop your application from compiling or working but are typically caused when your application is misusing specific functionality. The following are some typical errors.

Error Code 368, Temporarily Blocked for Policy Violations

If your application violates WhatsApp Business Messaging or Commerce policy, your account may be temporarily banned. You can monitor this and pause your application while troubleshooting.

Error 506, Duplicate Post

If your workflows unintentionally generate duplicate messages, you can monitor this to find the source.

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Error 131043, Message Expired

Sometimes, messages are not sent during their time to live (TTL) duration. Use this code to know which messages to schedule for resending if needed.

Error handling is a broad, complex subject, and there are many other use cases for which you should be implementing error handling. The errors component helps extend your error handling on the WhatsApp Business Platform for greater consistency.

Conclusion

This article took a high-level look at messages, statuses, and errors returned by webhooks and explored ways you can use these three components to expand your application’s functionality.

Messages provide information on customer interactions, statuses give insight into messages your app sends, and error notices enable you to increase your application’s resilience. Webhooks are critical to ensuring your app interacts with customers seamlessly.

The WhatsApp Business Platform’s webhooks provide your applications with real-time data, enabling you to build better experiences as you interact with customers. Ready to know more? Dive deeper into everything the WhatsApp Business Platform has to offer.

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