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Frustration and bewilderment: Emails show tension between Facebook and Biden campaign

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(CNN)People working with Joe Biden’s presidential campaign repeatedly warned Facebook about violent campaign-related rhetoric on its platform during the heat of the 2020 election, but a series of email exchanges reveals how the social media giant sometimes brushed them off.

A cache of emails obtained by CNN highlight just how worried Democrats had become about misinformation on Facebook as Election Day approached — and how frustrated they were with Facebook’s response. Further, those concerns increased on January 6 when platforms like Facebook and others were used to plan the violent insurrection at the United States Capitol.

And because some of those same top Biden operatives believe little that the tech giant has changed in the past six months, fears are growing about the role Facebook misinformation could play in the 2022 midterms and beyond. Some of the most pressing concerns stemmed from the way former President Donald Trump and his family were using the platform.

    In September, a Team Trump account on Facebook posted a video of Donald Trump Jr. baselessly claiming Democrats planned to use “millions of fraudulent ballots” to cheat in the election and called on “able-bodied” people to join an election security “army” for his father.

      A senior Biden campaign official emailed Facebook on September 22, “The fact that this video is still on your platform — and is being used to recruit some sort of, and I quote, ‘army for Trump’s election security effort’ — is astounding. It is impossible to reconcile this with any of the policies regarding voting and voter suppression that Facebook has released over the past 3 years and emphasized to us privately in several dozen conversations.”

        After a Facebook official responded explaining the video did not violate the site’s policies that would warrant its removal, the Biden official responded with exasperation.

        “The Trump Campaign has received the message that they may put videos on your platform saying that millions of fraudulent votes will be used to steal the election. And the solution to that is for ‘able-bodied people’ to enlist in an ‘army.’ So, their shrieks of fraud compound and their calls to ‘enlist’ multiply. Good gracious,” the Biden official wrote. “I struggle to believe that is the precedent you are intending to set.”

          They added: “We implore you to approach this problem with seriousness and a sense of mission. We have found that to be lacking thus far. If the effort and mental gymnastics undertaken to allow this post to remain on your platform were instead devoted to carrying out your acknowledged responsibility to democracy, we might see some progress.”

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          The video of Trump Jr. was also posted to Twitter which also allowed the video to remain on its site. Both companies affixed labels to the videos pointing to accurate information about voting.

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          The following month, Facebook brought in a new policy against militarized language and polling locations, but the policy did not apply retrospectively, meaning Trump Jr.’s video could stay on the platform.

          Facebook officials are keen to stress that the scourge of misinformation is not only an issue on Facebook. CNN reported last month how a DNC team that was focused on online misinformation is evolving to also monitor and help respond to messaging from bourgeoning pro-Trump cable networks and talk radio.

          However, Democrats are still particularly focused on Facebook because of the central role it plays in American discourse. Some now fear misinformation on the platform will hinder their efforts in next year’s midterms.

          “Some of the more systemic concerns that we have really have not been addressed at all,” said a top former Biden campaign aide who worked on these issues. “If the primary news source in America is one that is spewing people basically nonsense based on simply whether that nonsense is more likely to be read or go viral, that has profound effects on the entire political system.”

          ‘The most frustrating series of conversations’

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          In 2020, concerns about misinformation were so worrisome to the Biden campaign that the presidential candidate himself was kept abreast of some of the misinformation on the site, a former Biden campaign aide said.

          “It was the most frustrating series of conversations,” the aide said. “We went to Facebook with a series of letters, public complaints, private emails and all throughout, they essentially did nothing.” Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone said the company has done more that any other internet company to combat harmful content.

          The complaints from Democrats to Facebook continued after Election Day.

          In the days immediately after the election, emails show a DNC official flagging a series of Facebook posts that were said to be inciting violence and promoting the QAnon conspiracy theory from a Facebook forum dedicated to the “Stop the Steal” movement — an election disinformation campaign that became a rallying cry for the January 6 insurrection.

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          Around the same time, another DNC official pointed out to Facebook staff that one “Stop the Steal” group on its platform appeared to be moderated by a potential member of the militia group the Three Percenters.

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          Members of the “Three Percenters” went on to take part in the Capitol insurrection and some have been charged with conspiracy, according to the Justice Department.

          Facebook says it removed the individual’s profile. CNN has not confirmed if the person was a member of the Three Percenters or if they went on to take part in the insurrection.

          On November 5, two days after the election, Facebook shut down a major Stop the Steal group which had gathered hundreds of thousands of members. But groups and pages dedicated to the movement continued to pop up and Facebook only banned all Stop the Steal content after the insurrection.

          Although Facebook did review and remove some content flagged by Democrats for violating its rules, Timothy Durigan, a DNC official who flagged posts to Facebook, told CNN it felt like his warnings were falling on deaf ears.

          “Facebook is ground zero for the Big Lie and the Capitol insurrection,” Durigan said. “Facebook chose to put election misinformation in front of millions of Americans, systematically relaxed its rules for the insurrection’s leader, Donald Trump, and provided an organizing platform for insurrectionists.”

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          Durigan added: “The DNC repeatedly warned Facebook that its inaction would undermine American democracy and fuel violence. Those warnings went unheeded.”

          Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesperson, took issue with the allegation that the platform did little to combat misinformation and content that promoted political violence.

          “Creating a positive environment on our services is not just better for people, it’s also better for our business. That’s why we’ve designed our algorithms to limit clickbait and sensationalist content, which turns people away,” Stone said. “It’s also why we’ve done more than any other internet company to combat harmful content, including limiting content that sought to delegitimize the outcome of the election, both before and after January 6. We banned hundreds of militarized social movements, took down tens of thousands of QAnon pages, groups, and accounts from our apps, removed the original #StopTheSteal Group, labeled candidates’ posts that sought to prematurely declare victory, and suspended former President Trump from our platform for at least two years.”

          But some senior Democrats say Facebook is still simply not doing enough.

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          “They make cosmetic tweaks, whatever they think is enough to signal that they are taking things seriously. But they don’t actually care,” said Jesse Lehrich, the co-founder of Accountable Tech, an outside political organization that pressures social media giants to make structural changes. “I have zero expectation that they’ll make any meaningful changes to prevent another catastrophe.”

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          Lehrich added that it was “hard to overstate how much Democratic sentiment toward Facebook devolved even from mid-2019 to mid-2020.”

          “The entire Democratic Party basically came to view Facebook as a right-wing propaganda machine — Fox News with more reach and lower standards,” he said.

          Implications beyond 2020

          While Biden went on to win the presidential election, Democrats have grown increasingly concerned that the use of misinformation on Facebook and other social media sites will become more influential in the coming years.

          In some ways, the Biden campaign was in a better position to work with Facebook than many others. Because the campaign had hundreds of people on staff and millions to spend on social media platforms, they were able to get more direct contact with Facebook, something that wouldn’t be the case for smaller campaigns like those for House, Senate and even some gubernatorial campaigns.

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          Democratic super PACs like Priorities USA, the primary super PAC for the Biden campaign in the 2020 election, also regularly complained to Facebook about their ad policy on the platform, using both public and private pressure to get the social media giant to address their issues. Throughout the election campaign, Facebook stood by its controversial policy of not fact-checking ads from politicians, stating they should not be arbitrators of truth when it came to statements from politicians.

          “I wish you could run a political advertising campaign without using Facebook, but you just can’t,” said Maddie Kriger, the integrated media director at the super PAC. “That is where people are, especially persuadable voters. … That is where a lot of people in the United States get their information and build communities.”

            Throughout this process, Kriger said she learned that Facebook’s response to complaints was often to say “whatever our system is doing is right, therefore you must be doing something wrong.”

            And when asked whether Democrats should have hope that things will change in time for the 2022 midterms, Kriger was blunt: “None whatsoever.”

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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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            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 .

            First seen at developers.facebook.com

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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.

            First seen at developers.facebook.com

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