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[OPINION] When Facebook takes down a journalist’s account without due process – Rappler

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It was like a Pearl Harbor experience. Bombs dropped on a Sunday night as I was deeply sleeping.

Unlike the December 1941 sneaky Japanese raid, there was no physical destruction, only that I was virtually incapacitated.

Upon waking up on Monday morning, I realized that Facebook had banned me from liking, sharing, and commenting on my account as well as in Messenger. I could not even make a call.

I virtually became a ghost. On the surface, my Facebook account was up and running. People on my Friends list could send me messages and post on my timeline – commenting, liking, and sharing my posts. 

But they could think I was rude for not responding or reacting to their posts. 

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My apologies for that; not my fault.

I could blame the diehard supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte. I had probably stirred a hornet’s nest when I posted a comment on Duterte’s threat to cut government ties with a non-government humanitarian agency, the Philippine Red Cross. The Philippine Red Cross head is a high-profile senator, who chairs the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, the upper house’s public accountability panel, which is scrutinizing the government’s procurement deal with a small Davao City-based company which supplied billions of pesos worth of medical products – from face masks, face shields and personal protective equipment (PPEs), to expensive RT-PCR testing machines, the gold standard in the testing for coronavirus.

Facebook has taken down hundreds of pages and accounts promoting disinformation – but only after a long process.

In my case as a journalist, I was easily shut down. Journalists who speak truth to power seem to be a lonely voice in the wilderness of networked pages and accounts, which can defy shutdowns by creating new identities.

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My post about a bad contract
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Duterte has been defending the multi-billion peso deal between the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) and the little known Pharmally Pharmaceuticals Corporation by attacking the senators who have been digging into what could be an anomalous contract.

The maverick leader is also bent on supporting a personal friend who was linked to the transaction.

Only a politically-connected entity can do that. It even got around time-honored practices of government procurement processes and procedures.

Pharmally does not manufacture any of the products it was able to sell to the government. It has no logistics network, including warehouses, to deliver what it offered the government.

Yet the PS-DBM accepted the delivery of 500,000 face masks. Could it be that the PS-DBM tailor fit the purchase order to what Pharmally had delivered?

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There is nothing new to the practice of designing the specifications of a product to match a favored contractor’s offer, which is usually done during tenders for a project or procurement contract.

But what is unusual in this case was that there were no tenders, and even if there was a negotiated deal, the products were delivered ahead of the purchase order.

It’s like putting the cart ahead of the horse, a shameless disregard of the government procurement law.

Then-undersecretary Lloyd Christopher Lao, who headed the PS-DBM last year, cited the pandemic as a convenient excuse to shortcut the processes, arguing that the government was rushing the acquisition of medical materials at the onset of the health crisis last year.

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In one of the earlier Blue Ribbon Committee hearings, Lao admitted throwing away due diligence and best practices in awarding a contract because the President ordered the purchase of medical supplies at all costs. He would then deny making this claim in subsequent Senate hearings.

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Could it be that Lao awarded the contract to Pharmally because the executives of the untested company are Davao City-based Chinese businessmen who have links with the President’s friend?

These Chinese businessmen were used to Divisoria-style business practices, which is actually bad for a big government contract.

Why could the government not go straight to the manufacturers and get a good price for the medical supplies it was buying? Why would it go to the middlemen or sales agents who are offering higher prices for a face mask?

The senators said a 100% Filipino company, which had been generating employment at the time of the pandemic, was selling similar face masks at half the price Pharmally was offering.

Bad decision. Bad contract. And a waste of precious government resources. Those were the facts and insights I posted on my account.

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Duterte’s followers obviously did not like my commentaries, which were shared by my friends. I surmise that they took action and reported en masse my account as a violation of Facebook’s community standard rules.

Facebook arbitrarily suspended my account for three days without any due process. It never asked for my side and may not even have looked into what I had posted if it was a violation of community standards.

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Facebook has an appeal process, but I suggest they review a post thoroughly before it takes unilateral action against an account.

Perhaps I could also take some blame for not identifying myself as a journalist in my account. I am using an alias in my account name and have not changed it since 2016. But I was forced to make that alias after I was hacked and fell victim to cyber bullying for reporting on Duterte’s war on drugs. I have since then changed the settings of my account and restricted it to my friends, who can see and comment on my private posts. A quick browse through my account should have shown Facebook that I’m real, I’m a journalist, and I am no fake.

But this latest incident got me to think that there is no more reason to use an alias. Followers and ardent admirers of the administration would be on the lookout anyway, for I could make another commentary against the president as he spirals out of control.

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This administration has found a way to censor adverse commentaries about government policies and actions which are detrimental to public interest. It has exploited the Facebook community standard rules to muzzle freedom of expression and constructive criticism. It has effectively silenced dissent and hijacked the narrative to advance their own political agenda and interests.

At the same time, it has been spreading “fake news” or disinformation through several social media influencers, and Facebook seems helpless in policing its hate messages and propaganda.

We live with these realities, such as the actions taken by Facebook, and treat them as hazards of the job. 

Pearl Harbor was decades ago. But we could still fall victims to a sneak attack under a new world order.

And all because we tell it like it is.  – Rappler.com

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Manny Mogato is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and 2017 McLuhan Fellow.

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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

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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