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Facebook gardening group triumphs over slapdash Zuck censorbots

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A Facebook group dedicated to gardening in western New York State is celebrating a victory over the company’s algorithms after having been repeatedly threatened with censure and deletion due to use of the word “hoe”.

According to Elizabeth Licata, a moderator for the 7,700-member WNY Gardeners group, posts which referred to the handy implement were being flagged by Facebook algorithms as “violating community standards.”

The hoe is an ancient device dating back at least to the Neolithic period. Facebook dates back to 2004.

The AI was apparently under the misapprehension that the Empire State horticulturalists were referring to a similar-sounding offensive slang term for a prostitute (mostly aimed at women) and is usually spelled without the “e” at the end. You could nevertheless argue that the two words are… *ahem* hoemonyms.

Facebook’s somewhat scattershot community monitoring algos will usually flag and delete posts containing material they consider offensive, although the processes they use to arrive at these decisions are opaque, and difficult – if not impossible – to reverse, even if they are obviously mistaken.

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Worse still, if a community’s members and moderators post too much material that the algorithms deem to be inappropriate, the entire group can be arbitrarily shut down, with little chance of appeal or redress.

This obviously left the group’s moderators, including Licata, in a difficult situation. The pandemic increased the group’s popularity and “hoe” is a perfectly normal word in a gardening context, so Facebook’s “gung-ho” approach to content moderation looked like it might lead to the end of WNY Gardeners on the platform.

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Licata said she tried to contact the social media company to explain her group’s situation but, like many group moderators before her, found that its contact section is seemingly hermetically sealed, making it almost impossible to actually talk to a human being. She added that trying to navigate Facebook’s blizzard of tools and settings was simply a waste of time.

“I said this is a gardening group, a hoe is gardening tool,” Licata told The Associated Press. “I contacted Facebook, which was useless. How do you do that?”

The Mark Zuckerberg-led social panopticon is renowned for its bafflingly inconsistent application of first amendment free speech rights, with algorithms blindly marking out normal terms as hate speech or against community standards – including cases when the site came out against the Lincolnshire town of Scunthorpe and the Devon landmark Plymouth Hoe – while appearing unbothered by holocaust denial and far-right activity.

Fortunately in this case, Facebook did eventually respond to the WNY Gardeners’ concerns, but only after having the matter flagged to it by AP’s enquiries related to the story.

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An email from a Facebook representative promised that mistaken takedowns and warnings threatened due to references to the tool would be reversed, and any future flags attached to the group’s posts arising from hoe-related matters would be checked by a human moderator before action is taken.

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“We have plans to build out better customer support for our products and to provide the public with even more information about our policies and how we enforce them,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying.

So Facebook is listening to your concerns, is always willing to admit when it has made a mistake, is amenable to change and always looking to improve its services, just so long as you can call on a global news agency to ask your questions for you.

I think there is a message there for us all. ®

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Updating Special Ad Audiences for housing, employment, and credit advertisers

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On June 21, 2022 we announced an important settlement with the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that will change the way we deliver housing ads to people residing in the US. Specifically, we are building into our ads system a method designed to make sure the audience that ends up seeing a housing ad more closely reflects the eligible targeted audience for that ad.

As part of this agreement, we will also be sunsetting Special Ad Audiences, a tool that lets advertisers expand their audiences for ad sets related to housing. We are choosing to sunset this for employment and credit ads as well. In 2019, in addition to eliminating certain targeting options for housing, employment and credit ads, we introduced Special Ad Audiences as an alternative to Lookalike Audiences. But the field of fairness in machine learning is a dynamic and evolving one, and Special Ad Audiences was an early way to address concerns. Now, our focus will move to new approaches to improve fairness, including the method previously announced.

What’s happening: We’re removing the ability to create Special Ad Audiences via Ads Manager beginning on August 25, 2022.

Beginning October 12th, 2022, we will pause any remaining ad sets that contain Special Ad Audiences. These ad sets may be restarted once advertisers have removed any and all Special Ad Audiences from those ad sets. We are providing a two month window between preventing new Special Ad Audiences and pausing existing Special Ad Audiences to enable advertisers the time to adjust budgets and strategies as needed.

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For more details, please visit our Newsroom post.

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Impact to Advertisers using Marketing API on September 13, 2022

For advertisers and partners using the API listed below, the blocking of new Special Ad Audience creation will present a breaking change on all versions. Beginning August 15, 2022, developers can start to implement the code changes, and will have until September 13, 2022, when the non-versioning change occurs and prior values are deprecated. Refer below to the list of impacted endpoints related to this deprecation:

For reading audience:

  • endpoint gr:get:AdAccount/customaudiences
  • field operation_status

For adset creation:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdAccount/adsets
  • field subtype

For adset editing:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdCampaign
  • field subtype

For custom audience creation:

  • endpoint gr:post:AdAccount/customaudiences
  • field subtype

For custom audience editing:

  • endpoint gr:post:CustomAudience

Please refer to the developer documentation for further details to support code implementation.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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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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We’re having trouble playing this video.

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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