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Facebook pushes back against Biden claim that social media is ‘killing people’

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By Cecilia Kang

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Washington: Facebook has pushed back against the Biden administration’s denouncing of the social media giant for spreading misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines, escalating tensions between the Silicon Valley company and the White House.

In a blog post on Saturday (Sunday AEST), Facebook called for the administration to stop “finger-pointing” and laid out what it had done to encourage users to get vaccinated. The social network also detailed how it had clamped down on lies about the vaccines, which officials have said led people to refuse to be vaccinated.

Facebook has hit back against White House claims it has spread vaccine hesitancy.

Facebook has hit back against White House claims it has spread vaccine hesitancy.Credit:AP

“The Biden administration has chosen to blame a handful of American social media companies,” Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice-president of integrity, said in the post. “The fact is that vaccine acceptance among Facebook users in the US has increased.”

Rosen added that the company’s data showed that 85 per cent of its users in the United States had been or wanted to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. While President Joe Biden had set a goal of getting 70 per cent of Americans vaccinated by July 4, which the White House fell short of, “Facebook is not the reason this goal was missed,” Rosen said.

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Facebook’s response follows a forceful condemnation of the company by Biden. When asked on Friday (US time) about the role of social media in influencing vaccinations, Biden declared in unusually strong language that the platforms were “killing people”.

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“Look,” he added, “the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and that — and they’re killing people.”

Other White House officials have also become increasingly vocal about how social media has amplified vaccine lies.

On Thursday (US time), Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general, accused social media companies of not having done enough to stop the spread of dangerous health misinformation, calling it a national health crisis that had fostered vaccination hesitancy among Americans.

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Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, also called out misinformation “that is leading to people not taking the vaccine, and people are dying as a result.” She said the White House had a responsibility to raise the issue.

The White House declined to comment on Facebook’s blog post on Saturday.

Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites have long struggled with their role as platforms for speech while protecting their users from disinformation campaigns, like Russian efforts to influence presidential elections or false statements about the pandemic.

In recent months, Facebook has taken steps against anti-vaccination ads and misstatements about the vaccines. In October, it said it would no longer allow anti-vaccination ads on its platform. In February, the company went further and said it would remove posts with erroneous claims about vaccines, including assertions that vaccines cause autism or that it is safer for people to contract the coronavirus than to receive the vaccinations.

But online misinformation about the vaccines has not been eradicated. Lies have spread that vaccines can alter DNA or that the vaccines don’t work.

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On Saturday, Rosen said in the blog post that among Facebook’s American users, vaccine hesitancy had declined by 50 per cent since April and vaccine acceptance had increased by 10 to 15 percentage points, or to over 80 per cent from 70 per cent.

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“While social media plays an important role in society, it is clear that we need a whole of society approach to end this pandemic,” Rosen said. “And facts — not allegations — should help inform that effort.”

The White House’s frustration with Facebook has mounted over several months, people with knowledge of the matter have said. While the Biden administration asked Facebook to share information about the spread of misinformation on the social network, the company refused to cooperate, the people have said.

On Friday, Robert Flaherty, the White House digital director, said in a tweet, “I guess I’m left with a simple question: How many people have seen COVID vaccine misinformation on Facebook?”

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Introducing an Update to the Data Protection Assessment

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Over the coming year, some apps with access to certain types of user data on our platforms will be required to complete the annual Data Protection Assessment. We have made a number of improvements to this process since our launch last year, when we introduced our first iteration of the assessment.

The updated Data Protection Assessment will include a new developer experience that is enhanced through streamlined communications, direct support, and clear status updates. Today, we’re sharing what you can expect from these new updates and how you can best prepare for completing this important privacy requirement if your app is within scope.

If your app is in scope for the Data Protection Assessment, and you’re an app admin, you’ll receive an email and a message in your app’s Alert Inbox when it’s time to complete the annual assessment. You and your team of experts will then have 60 calendar days to complete the assessment. We’ve built a new platform that enhances the user experience of completing the Data Protection Assessment. These updates to the platform are based on learnings over the past year from our partnership with the developer community. When completing the assessment, you can expect:

  • Streamlined communication: All communications and required actions will be through the My Apps page. You’ll be notified of pending communications requiring your response via your Alerts Inbox, email, and notifications in the My Apps page.

    Note: Other programs may still communicate with you through the App Contact Email.

  • Available support: Ability to engage with Meta teams via the Support tool to seek clarification on the questions within the Data Protection Assessment prior to submission and help with any requests for more info, or to resolve violations.

    Note: To access this feature, you will need to add the app and app admins to your Business Manager. Please refer to those links for step-by-step guides.

  • Clear status updates: Easy to understand status and timeline indicators throughout the process in the App Dashboard, App Settings, and My Apps page.
  • Straightforward reviewer follow-ups: Streamlined experience for any follow-ups from our reviewers, all via developers.facebook.com.

We’ve included a brief video that provides a walkthrough of the experience you’ll have with the Data Protection Assessment:

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The Data Protection Assessment elevates the importance of data security and helps gain the trust of the billions of people who use our products and services around the world. That’s why we are committed to providing a seamless experience for our partners as you complete this important privacy requirement.

Here is what you can do now to prepare for the assessment:

  1. Make sure you are reachable: Update your developer or business account contact email and notification settings.
  2. Review the questions in the Data Protection Assessment and engage with your teams on how best to answer these questions. You may have to enlist the help of your legal and information security points of contact to answer some parts of the assessment.
  3. Review Meta Platform Terms and our Developer Policies.

We know that when people choose to share their data, we’re able to work with the developer community to safely deliver rich and relevant experiences that create value for people and businesses. It’s a privilege we share when people grant us access to their data, and it’s imperative that we protect that data in order to maintain and build upon their trust. This is why the Data Protection Assessment focuses on data use, data sharing and data security.

Data privacy is challenging and complex, and we’re dedicated to continuously improving the processes to safeguard user privacy on our platform. Thank you for partnering with us as we continue to build a safer, more sustainable platform.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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Resources for Completing App Store Data Practice Questionnaires for Apps That Include the Facebook or Audience Network SDK

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Resources for Completing App Store Data Practice Questionnaires for Apps That Include the Facebook or Audience Network SDK

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Resources for Completing App Store Data Practice Questionnaires for Apps That Include the Facebook or Audience Network SDK

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Updated July 18: Developers and advertising partners may be required to share information on their app’s privacy practices in third party app stores, such as Google Play and the Apple App Store, including the functionality of SDKs provided by Meta. To help make it easier for you to complete these requirements, we have consolidated information that explains our data collection practices for the Facebook and Audience Network SDKs.

Facebook SDK

To provide functionality within the Facebook SDK, we may receive and process certain contact, location, identifier, and device information associated with Facebook users and their use of your application. The information we receive depends on what SDK features 3rd party applications use and we have structured the document below according to these features.

App Ads, Facebook Analytics, & App Events

Facebook App Events allow you to measure the performance of your app using Facebook Analytics, measure conversions associated with Facebook ads, and build audiences to acquire new users as well as re-engage existing users. There are a number of different ways your app can use app events to keep track of when people take specific actions such as installing your app or completing a purchase.

With Facebook SDK, there are app events that are automatically logged (app installs, app launches, and in-app purchases) and collected for Facebook Analytics unless you disable automatic event logging. Developers determine what events to send to Facebook from a list of standard events, or via a custom event.

When developers send Facebook custom events, these events could include data types outside of standard events. Developers control sending these events to Facebook either directly via application code or in Events Manager for codeless app events. Developers can review their code and Events Manager to determine which data types they are sending to Facebook. It’s the developer’s responsibility to ensure this is reflected in their application’s privacy policy.

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Advanced Matching

Developers may also send us additional user contact information in code, or via the Events Manager. Advanced matching functionality may use the following data, if sent:

  • email address, name, phone number, physical address (city, state or province, zip or postal code and country), gender, and date of birth.
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Facebook Login

There are two scenarios for applications that use Facebook Login via the Facebook SDK: Authenticated Sign Up or Sign In, and User Data Access via Permissions. For authentication, a unique, app-specific identifier tied to a user’s Facebook Account enables the user to sign in to your app. For Data Access, a user must explicitly grant your app permission to access data.

Note: Since Facebook Login is part of the Facebook SDK, we may collect other information referenced here when you use Facebook Login, depending on your settings.

Device Information

We may also receive and process the following information if your app is integrated with the Facebook SDK:

  • Device identifiers;
  • Device attributes, such as device model and screen dimensions, CPU core, storage size, SDK version, OS and app versions, and app package name; and
  • Networking information, such as the name of the mobile operator or ISP, language, time zone, and IP address.

Audience Network SDK

We may receive and process the following information when you use the Audience Network SDK to integrate Audience Network ads in your app:

  • Device identifiers;
  • Device attributes, such as device model and screen dimensions, operating system, mediation platform and SDK versions; and
  • Ad performance information, such as impressions, clicks, placement, and viewability.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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