May 5 has come and gone, and former U.S. President Donald Trump is still locked out of Facebook. The decision by the world’s largest social media company’s advisory board has left no one satisfied. The right wing is outraged that Trump’s account was not reinstated; the left wing is outraged that Facebook didn’t ban him permanently from the platform. Instead, the advisory board merely postponed a final decision, setting a six-month timetable for Facebook management to come up with a more robust rationale for any ban.
The decision papered over more serious questions than many in Silicon Valley can yet answer. Namely, can social media companies like Facebook and Twitter reduce or reverse the socially destructive impact of their platforms—specifically, the tendency of their algorithms to stoke divisions and conflicts? More importantly, can these companies create business models that replace a destructive attention economy that relies on pawning detailed user data and is so easily gamed and abused by bad actors?
The answer to this question may come from an unlikely source: Apple. The company has anointed itself the privacy gatekeeper for its legions of iPhone customers. Apple is now threatening to choke off the flow of data that feeds algorithms used by social media companies to target ads and content and enable the abuses.
The primary problem with social media isn’t that it has provided a platform for white supremacists, conspiracy theorists, violent extremist groups, or populist politicians with a history of spreading lies and inciting violence. It is that such platforms are designed, at their very heart, to multiply the messages of these groups to users who might be most swayed by them.
The matching engines at Facebook don’t care if they get more clicks by pushing posts denying the Holocaust; Facebook’s algorithms are soulless and care only about clicks as they translate into money. The company’s content moderation is a fig leaf and easily abused by groups of users reporting accounts they don’t like. Social media’s algorithmic echo chamber automatically and inexorably amplifies much of the most dangerous, salacious, offensive, and generally destructive content. If Apple cuts off the data that drive algorithms, these machines will flounder and sputter.
The company, built by Steve Jobs, has no skin in the social media game and is putting its users’ privacy before the greed of application developers. Apple isn’t doing this out of the goodness of its heart, of course. It makes money by selling hardware, warranties, and subscription fees associated with iCloud and Apple Music; indeed, walling off its platform to control monetization has long been part of its business model.
It’s not surprising this puts Apple at odds with Facebook. In late April, Apple enacted a policy that all applications on its iPhone platform must ask permission before they can collect user data. This will force social media companies to develop business models that are less reliant on targeting. Facebook will be especially affected because of the granular targeting it offers, not only on its platform but also throughout its advertising network.
The early returns from the release of Apple’s update show that 88 percent of worldwide users—and a stunning 96 percent of U.S. users—refused to allow apps to track them. It is doubtful whether Facebook and other social media platforms can sustain their current business models when such a large group of users are blocking access to their data. Indeed, collecting user data advertisers can use to finely target ads is the core business model of the social media giants. Facebook now relies on ads via its mobile applications for the majority of its revenue. The iPhone is a crucial part of that revenue stream.
This is why Facebook has strenuously objected to the policy change, saying Apple’s move would harm small businesses that market on the platform. Left unsaid was who else might be harmed: Trump’s campaign. Though both major parties have mounted vigorous efforts to use Facebook for fundraising, Trump has been a pioneer in building his campaign largely on an extremely sophisticated Facebook advertising effort to collect donations, email addresses, and mobile numbers. In fact, Facebook employees were ensconced in Trump’s campaign as early as his 2016 presidential run, playing a key role in Silicon Valley companies’ technical and advisory support for Trump.
Depriving the algorithms of data may go a long way toward reducing the worst impacts of social media. We don’t know the long-term outcome, but Apple is imposing a fascinating social media experiment on Facebook, Twitter, and other social networks that may yield some surprising results. Perhaps this experiment will force the networks to search for better ways to make money than by vacuuming up user data and behavior to feed targeted ads and angry mobs.
Evidence already exists to challenge the assumption that social media can work only with targeted ads. In 2019, to protect itself from potential fines under the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, the New York Times cut off all behaviorally targeted advertising and replaced it with contextual ads (that is, ads relating to the content of the page rather than the user) and geographically relevant advertising. The paper’s ad revenues did not plummet. On the contrary, digital ad revenues increased significantly after these steps were taken. In all likelihood, the newspaper’s readers appreciated not seeing ads that were obviously tracking their personal data.
Dismantling the worst elements of the attention economy will be a challenge. Thousands of players are vested in perpetuating this model, including influential politicians and their campaigns, giant advertising technology companies, and businesses that believe they can reach users only through targeted ads. But the attention economy is the only internet business model the world has ever really known. The die was cast in the early days of online advertising, and no alternatives were ever seriously considered once the Google juggernaut got underway. It may turn out that for Facebook, Apple’s new emphasis on user privacy is the proverbial gift horse. By forcing Facebook to consider other business models, Apple may force it to consider how to drive healthier forms of engagement.
In depriving Facebook of behavioral data, Apple will stop giant pattern-matching algorithms and blunt both the impact of and backlash against social media. None of this, however, implies Facebook can avoid having to make a decision on banning Trump. Using social media platforms to incite violence, such as the Jan. 6 insurrection, still crosses a line. That said, there is no conceivable way to police all the content flowing through the platforms. And the very algorithms so expert at matching users primed for anger with memes that make them angrier still are helpless in judging the content and context of posts. The final decisions take human judgement.
That’s why Trump is a symptom rather than a source of the problem. And it’s the deeper illness that must be treated. Taking painkillers is an obvious response to a painful tooth, but removing the tooth or stopping the infection that caused the pain is the only way to feel better in the long run. There will always be figures like Trump riling up unsavory groups on social media. But defanging the algorithms and creating a different business model will reduce a problem that’s presently virulent and out of control to one that’s manageable.
In the end, Facebook may thank Apple for its inadvertent assistance. And all of us may end up with social media platforms that are no longer personalized echo chambers designed to profit by stoking humanity’s very worst impulses.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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
- 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
First seen at developers.facebook.com
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.
First seen at developers.facebook.com
Launching second release of Facebook Reels API: An enterprise solution for desktop and web publishers
We’re excited to announce that the second release of FB Reels API is now publicly available for third-party developers. FB Reels API enables users of third-party platforms to share Reels directly to public Facebook Pages and the New Pages Experience.
FB Reels API has grown significantly since the first release in September 2022. The new version of the APIs now support custom thumbnails, automatic music tagging, tagging collaborators, longer format of reels and better error handling.
FB Reels API will also support scheduling and draft capability to allow creators to take advantage of tools provided either by Meta or by our partners. Based on the feedback we received from our partners, we’ll now provide additional audio insights via the Audio Recommendations API and reels performance metrics via the Insights API.
Our goal in the next couple of releases is to continue to make it easier for creators to develop quality content by adding features like early copyright detection and A/B testing. We’re also excited to start working on enhanced creation features like Video clipping- so stay tuned to hear more about those features in the future.
If you are a developer interested in integrating with the Facebook Reels API, please refer to the Developer Documents for more info.
Not sure if this product is for you? Check out our entire suite of sharing offerings.
Tune in to Product @scale event to learn more about FB Video APIs and hear from some of our customers.
First seen at developers.facebook.com
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