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Brevard GOP lawmaker Randy Fine sanctioned by Facebook over school masks post …

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TALLAHASSEE – State Rep. Randy Fine got in hot water with Facebook over a post he said was informing residents about a school board meeting on masks, but a board member said was an incitement to harass her on her personal cell phone.

Now, the incident means the fight over mask mandates in schools could lead to new changes to Florida’s new Big Tech law, another heavily-debated new law that’s already been temporarily halted by a judge.

Fine, R-Brevard County, was sanctioned by Facebook and prevented from posting on the platform for 24 hours. He said the penalty was for a post he made last month that included the personal cell phone number of Brevard County School Board member Jennifer Jenkins, who is pushing for a mask requirement for K-12 students.

Jenkins was so alarmed she sent a complaint to the state attorney’s office based on the provisions of the new anti-riot law against online harassment, who forwarded it on to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Fine said he hasn’t heard from any law enforcement official telling him he’s under investigation.

The Big Tech law includes fines for social media platforms that “deplatform” a candidate for office and Fine is running for reelection in 2022. The law has been struck down by a federal judge for now, but Fine’s brush with Facebook’s penalties is pushing him to draft changes to it.

“What is particularly concerning is Facebook’s refusal to provide an explanation as to why I was deplatformed,” Fine said in a statement. “As the digital public square, there is no question that the Florida Legislature needs to ensure that Facebook is not engaged in arbitrary viewpoint discrimination. Should our current law not be upheld in court, I will propose new legislation to hold them accountable.”

The day-long digital time-out started Sunday and ended Monday afternoon.

Fine was told by Facebook that his post on the morning of July 29 violated its standards. The post alerted constituents to a Brevard County School Board meeting later that day when the subject of masks in schools was to be discussed and urged them to call Jenkins, a vocal proponent of a mask requirement.

“At tonight’s school board meeting, Jenkins intends to ask the board to compel parents to require their children to wear masks next school year,” Fine wrote. “If you want to stand up for your rights, call Jenkins RIGHT NOW and let her know exactly how you feel,” then added Jenkins’ number.

Posting personal identifying information such as addresses and personal phone numbers on social media has been seen as harassment or bullying, which could violate the terms of service of Facebook and other platforms.

But Fine wasn’t specifically told why he was in Facebook’s penalty box. He said he doesn’t think the post was harassing, saying it only directed readers to contact a public official about upcoming school board matters.

Jenkins disagrees. She received “hundreds” of calls to her personal phone but said she didn’t send a complaint to Facebook. Jenkins has a history with anti-LBGBT protesters gathering outside her home in April, upset at comments she made in support of proposals to allow transgender women to compete in girls’ sports.

That history led her to file the complaint.

“My privacy has been more than breached,” Jenkins said in an interview. “It’s not about me, it’s not about the inconvenience that you had people calling my phone, I couldn’t care less about that. It’s more that I have to worry about the safety of my daughter and my neighbors. And any fuel you add to the fire … I feel like you’re being complicit in it.”

After Fine’s ability to post on Facebook was restored, he scoffed at Jenkins’ complaints at his post.

“Replatformed on FB,” Fine posted on Twitter. “If you complain of doxxing (because of a) ‘private phone’ given to 200 voters, probably shouldn’t distribute (it) publicly during campaign.”

The post included a photo of the Brevard County Supervisor of Elections website that showed her number and home address.

The new law prohibits Big Tech companies from removing users who are political candidates from its sites or censoring their posts. As written, the law only applies to large tech companies like Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon. They would face fines of $250,000 per day for statewide candidates and $25,000 for local candidates.

Other parts of the law bar tech companies from removing users who aren’t candidates from their site for more than 14 days.

DeSantis cited former President Donald Trump’s removal from Facebook, Twitter and other platforms after the Jan. 6 insurrection, when his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to prevent Congress from certifying the 2020 election results in favor of President Joe Biden.

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But Tallahassee federal judge Robert Hinkle issued a temporary injunction against the new Big Tech law on July 1, the day it took effect, in a lawsuit brought by NetChoice, an industry trade group that counts Facebook, Amazon, Google and Twitter among its members. Hinkle said the group was likely to prevail on the merits and the law violated the First Amendment. DeSantis’ office has said he will appeal the ruling.

Fine, chairman of the House PreK-12 Appropriations Subcommittee, has warned the Brevard School Board its budget will suffer if they follow through with a mask requirement for students.

“I can tell you, if my school district requires masks, I will make sure they get hurt next year,” Fine told the Tampa Bay Times last week. “I’m not going to share what I will do. But it will hurt.”

Fine, who was sick with COVID-19 last year, has said he suffers from long-term complications from the disease.

The Brevard School Board has already voted 3-2 against a mask requirement, but Jenkins says she will continue to try to convince her colleagues to pass it.

grohrer@orlandosentinel.com

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Facebook tries adding video and voice calls back into its main app – The Verge

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<b>Facebook</b> tries adding video and voice calls back into its main app - The Verge thumbnail

Facebook is testing adding voice and video calls to the main Facebook app, Bloomberg reports. The features are currently part of the standalone Messenger app, which Facebook originally spun out of its big blue main app in 2011 and officially removed in 2014.

Voice and video calls are two of several Messenger features that Facebook has introduced in its other products like Portal video cameras and Oculus virtual reality headsets. The company hasn’t shared if it plans to bring other parts of Messenger back into the fold, but Messenger’s director of product management did tell Bloomberg that “you’re going to start to see quite a bit more of this over time.”

Facebook confirmed to The Verge that it is testing voice and video calls in “several countries, including the US.” The company did not share how many users will see the features or what this means for the standalone Messenger app in the future other than “for a full-featured messaging, audio and video call experience, people should continue using Messenger.”

Adding voice and video calls to the Facebook app makes about as much sense as spinning off Messenger in the first place. Yes, it means there’s one less app to switch between while you’re doing other things on your computer or phone, but it also means you’ll have to interact with (or at least see) Facebook on the way — something I’m not sure everyone is interested in doing.

There’s also the risk that weaving Messenger into Facebook draws the same kinds of criticism that unifying Messenger and Instagram direct messages did. It seems like it makes a giant company like Facebook even harder to break up — which may be the point.

This isn’t the first suggestion that Facebook was considering getting Messenger back into Facebook, either. In 2019, the company tested bringing text chats back into the main app with a dedicated inbox and splashed “from Facebook” across Oculus, Instagram, and WhatsApp.

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Facebook to bring voice and video calling to main app | Reuters

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FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration taken March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc is letting some users make voice and video calls within its main app on a trial basis, aiming to make it easier to place calls without opening its standalone Messenger app.

The social media giant spun out Messenger from its main app years ago, meaning users would have to download a separate app in order to send messages and make calls.

Facebook has been trying to tie together messaging across its suite of apps and first enabled it between Instagram and Messenger last September. The move enabled users of each service to find, message and hold video calls with contacts on the other without needing to download both apps.

It plans to eventually integrate WhatsApp into the mix.

However, a Facebook spokesperson said on Monday that for a full-featured messaging, audio and video call experience, people should continue using Messenger.

Reporting by Eva Mathews in Bengaluru; Editing by Devika Syamnath

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ELI5: Zstandard – Smaller and faster data compression

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In this blog post, we explain Zstandard (ZSTD), a fast data compression algorithm that offers best-in-kind performance, in a way that is super simple to understand. If you’re interested in learning by watching or listening, check out a video about this open source project on our Facebook Open Source YouTube channel.

Why Zstandard?

Zstandard (ZSTD) is a fast, lossless compression algorithm. It provides high compression ratios as well as great compression and decompression speeds, offering best-in-kind performance in many conventional situations. In addition to this, ZSTD now has a number of features that make a lot of real-world scenarios that have previously been difficult to achieve for compressors, possible.

There are three standard metrics for comparing compression algorithms and implementations:

  • Compression ratio: A ratio between the original size and the compressed size.
  • Compression speed: How quickly the data can be made smaller, measured in MB/s.
  • Decompression speed: How quickly the original data can be reconstructed from the compressed data, measured in MB/s.

Many of the algorithms commonly used today focus on one of the metrics from above or try to strike a balance between them. Several fast compression algorithms were tested and compared and as shown in the figure below, there are often drastic compromises between speed and size (source).

The fastest algorithm, Iz4 1.9.2, results in lower compression ratios; the one with the highest compression ratio (other than ZSTD), zlib 1.2.11-1, suffers from a slow compression speed. However, ZSTD shows substantial improvements in both compression speed and decompression speed, while maintaining a high compression ratio. Note that the negative compression levels, specified with –fast=X, offer faster compression and decompression speeds in exchange for some loss in compression ratio compared to level 1.

As shown in the chart below, ZSTD offers a very wide range of speed/compression trade-offs, which lets ZSTD trade compression speeds for better compression ratios and vice versa. ZSTD can provide these speeds because it is backed by an extremely fast decoder (source).

However, most of these results apply to typical file and stream scenarios, which are typically several MBs in size. Data smaller than this is handled in a slightly different manner.

Generally speaking, the smaller the amount of data to compress, the more difficult it is to compress. Compression algorithms learn from past data how to compress future data. At the beginning of a new data set, there is no past data to build upon, making it more challenging. To solve this problem, ZSTD offers a special training mode, which can be used to tune the algorithm for a selected type of data. A dictionary is generated from the results obtained from this training and helps capture common patterns in the data. This dictionary must be loaded before the compression and decompression. Once the patterns have been captured, the dictionary assumes future data will be similar and begins the compression. By using this dictionary, the compression ratio on small data improves drastically as shown in the graph below (source).

The type of data being compressed can also affect these metrics. Many algorithms are tuned for specific types of data, such as English text, genetic sequences, or rasterized images; however, ZSTD is meant for general-purpose compression for a variety of data types.

Where is ZSTD used?

ZSTD was open-sourced in 2016 and is used continuously to compress large amounts of data in multiple formats in Facebook’s development servers, data warehouse, databases and compressed file systems as a powerful and flexible compressor engine. To get a better understanding of where ZSTD is used check out this Facebook Engineering blog that explains how Facebook improved compression at scale with ZSTD.

ZSTD is used by Linux, FreeBSD, Amazon Web Services, and many more. For a detailed list of industries where ZSTD is being used, check out their website.

Where can I learn more?

ZSTD has a rich collection of APIs and supports a number of popular programming languages. To learn more about ZSTD, visit their website, which contains great information on the benchmarks and the various languages that are supported. If you’d like to learn about how to use this algorithm, build instructions and testing, make sure to visit the project’s Github page. For detailed API reference, check out its documentation.

If you have any further questions about ZSTD, please let us know on our YouTube channel, or by tweeting at us. We always want to hear from you and hope you will find this open source project and the ELI5 series useful.

About the ELI5 series

In a series of short videos, one of our Developer Advocates on the Facebook Open Source team explains a Facebook open source project in a way that is easy to understand and use.

We will write an accompanying blog post (like the one you’re reading right now) for each of these videos, which you can find on our YouTube channel.

To learn more about Facebook Open Source, visit our open source site, subscribe to our YouTube channel, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

Interested in working with open source at Facebook? Check out our open source-related job postings on our career page by taking this quick survey.

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