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Health News Roundup: Facebook says it should not be blamed for US failing to meet vaccine goals …

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Following is a summary of current health news briefs.

Facebook says it should not be blamed for the U.S. failing to meet vaccine goals

Facebook on Saturday defended itself against U.S. President Joe Biden’s assertion that the social media platform is “killing people” by allowing misinformation about coronavirus vaccines to proliferate, saying the facts tell a different story. “The data shows that 85% of Facebook users in the US have been or want to be vaccinated against COVID-19,” Facebook said in a corporate blog post by Guy Rosen, a company vice president. “President Biden’s goal was for 70% of Americans to be vaccinated by July 4. Facebook is not the reason this goal was missed.”

Olympics-Competitors in athletes’ village infected with COVID-19

Tokyo Olympics organizers on Sunday reported the first COVID-19 cases among competitors residing in the athletes’ village, as its population swells ahead of the start of the pandemic-hit Games next week. Two athletes from the same country and competing in the same sport staying in the village in the Harumi waterfront district tested positive for the virus, organizers said without providing further details.

British ministers decide against mass vaccination for teens – The Telegraph

Britain has opted against mass COVID-19 vaccinations for all children and teenagers, with ministers instead preparing to offer doses to vulnerable 12 to 15-year-olds and those about to turn 18, the Telegraph newspaper reported late on Saturday. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) is believed to have advised ministers against the rollout of vaccines to all children until further evidence on the risks is available, the report added https://bit.ly/3etYxPG.

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Mexico’s coronavirus death toll rises to 236,240 as cases surge

Mexico’s health ministry on Saturday reported 12,631 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the country and 225 more fatalities, bringing the total to 2,654,699 infections and 236,240 deaths. The number of daily new infections has surged this past week to levels not seen since February.

Britain backs slew of ‘long COVID’ research studies

Britain is backing 15 new studies into the treatment and diagnosis of “long COVID”, a condition that can include dozens of symptoms and last for months after an initial bout of infection with COVID-19. The projects, which will have nearly 20 million pounds ($27.54 million) of government funding, will focus on better understanding the condition, identifying effective treatments, and the best ways to care for those suffering from it.

Thailand expands lockdown areas as COVID-19 cases surge

Thailand on Sunday announced an expansion of coronavirus restrictions that include travel curbs, mall closures, and a night-time curfew to three more provinces after the country reported a third consecutive day of record case numbers. The country reported 11,397 infections and 101 deaths on Sunday, bringing the cumulative total to 403,386 cases and 3,341 fatalities, the vast majority from an outbreak since early April that is being fuelled by the highly transmissible Alpha and Delta COVID-19 variants.

Australia, under lockdown, reports a slight dip in COVID-19 cases

Australia’s two largest states on Sunday reported slight declines in new COVID-19 infections, prompting authorities to say it could be days before tough lockdown measures showed progress in containing the spread of the Delta variant. The country’s most populous city, Sydney, and all of Victoria state – totaling nearly half the country’s 25 million population – are under stay-home orders after a flare-up of the highly infectious virus strain began last month.

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‘Not backed by science:’ LA County sheriff will not enforce new mask mandate

A new mask mandate in Los Angeles County, set to go into effect at a minute before midnight Saturday and designed to combat the spread of COVID-19, will not be enforced by the county’s top lawman or his deputies. The new mandate from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health requires people to wear masks indoors, even if they are already vaccinated against the disease.

All adults in Britain offered a COVID-19 shot ahead of Monday reopening

Every adult in the United Kingdom has been offered the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, the health ministry said on Sunday, ahead of the end of legal restrictions in England on Monday. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s target was for every adult who wanted a shot to be able to get one by July 19.

India’s daily COVID-19 infections rise by 41,157 – health ministry

India on Sunday reported 41,157 new coronavirus cases over the last 24 hours, taking the nationwide tally to 31.1 million, health ministry data showed. The number of deaths rose by 518, taking the total to 413,609, according to ministry data.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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

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

Facebook Inspiration Hub

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

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

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

Facebook Inspiration Hub

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

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

Facebook Inspiration Hub

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

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

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

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

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

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

As per Meta:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meta messaging security options

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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