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Word ‘militia’ may have triggered Facebook to freeze Westmoreland Historical Society page …

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A group whose mission is to preserve and promote Westmoreland County’s historic resources has had its Facebook page shut down, possibly triggered by the non-political use of the word “militia” in reference to local reenactors.

Staff at the Westmoreland Historical Society are baffled and frustrated after Facebook accounts for the nonprofit and some of those associated with the organization were disabled last week.

According to Executive Director Lisa Hays, a “glitch” closed the society’s Facebook page on Sept. 8, while a staffer was attempting to enter a post about an upcoming event. When staff tried to log back on, she said, they received a message indicating the account had been disabled.

Personal Facebook accounts for Hays, two other staffers and a volunteer also were disabled. When they sought an appeal, each received a message from Facebook indicating their account was disabled because “it did not follow our Community Standards. This decision can’t be reversed.”

“No reason was given, and no other recourse was offered,” Hays said, adding that the group’s repeated attempts to reach out to Facebook via phone or email have been fruitless.

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“Facebook has been a widely used marketing tool for the Westmoreland Historical Society,” Hays said.

“I feel bad for the historical society, but I feel bad for them, too,” she said of those whose personal Facebook pages were shut down. “They had family album … pictures that were shared. It’s terrible.”

One of those affected “tried to set up another Facebook page with a different email, but they traced it back to her and took it down,” Hays said.

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When the Tribune-Review inquired about the disabled accounts on Thursday afternoon, a Facebook representative indicated she would look into the matter.

Hays suspects the accounts may have been shut down because the society has used the word “militia” when posting descriptions of Revolutionary War reenactors involved in events at its Historic Hanna’s Town site in Hempfield.

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“Their activities and demonstrations have absolutely nothing to do with anti-American activities,” she said, but she cited media accounts of reenactors in other areas that were portraying historic militia groups and had associated Facebook pages shut down.

The New Republic reported on a Revolutionary War-era militia reenactor active in New England who was banned from Facebook in October. His accounts were restored following an inquiry by the magazine.

Scott Henry of Greensburg, captain of a Revolutionary War reenactment group that often participates in Hanna’s Town events, said the group specifically avoided using its popular name — Proctor’s Militia — when it set up a private Facebook page, so as not to trigger a possible shutdown by the social media giant.

Instead, the group uses its more formal name, the Independent Battalion Westmoreland County Pennsylvania.

“There’s no sense attracting undue attention,” Henry said, adding, “It’s so ridiculous.”

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Heather Starr Fiedler, a professor of multimedia who chairs the community engagement department at Point Park University, said algorithms that social media companies use are good at picking up on words such as “militia” that could be a sign of misuse of the platform. But, she noted, those algorithms can’t provide context.

“These rules are in place so hate groups aren’t using the platform and people aren’t distributing misinformation,” she said. “The rules are in place for a good reason, but there’s not a really good escape net for people who have essentially been caught up in these algorithms.”

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Fiedler said groups such as the local historical society can find themselves on the short end of a “David and Goliath” situation when attempting to appeal an account shutdown.

She said Facebook’s creation of a 20-member oversight board last year to hear appeals is a step in the right direction. But, she noted, “They’re mostly taking on much bigger cases that have the potential to impact a lot of users around the world.”

In most cases, she said, “There isn’t a lot of recourse aside from requesting a review and filing an appeal, and that takes time. From what I’ve heard, people usually don’t hear back in any kind of a quick manner.”

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Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, jhimler@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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Updates to Section 7 of the Developer Policies – Facebook Gaming Policies

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We have updated Section 7 of the Developer Policies effective immediately. No change is required from the developers’ end, only awareness about these changes.

As part of our continuous focus on improving developers’ experience, we have made some updates to the Section 7 of the Developer Policies which covers all Facebook Gaming Products, such as Web Games on Facebook.com, Instant Games and Cloud Games. As part of this update we have removed outdated policies, and streamlined the language and structure of Section 7 to better reflect the existing state of our Facebook Gaming Products. We have also reorganized some policies under the Quality Guidelines. These updates do not introduce any product change, nor do they include any new requirements for developers.

Please review the updated Section 7 to familiarize yourself with the updated content structure.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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Creating Apps with App Use Cases

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With the goal of making Meta’s app creation process easier for developers to create and customize their apps, we are announcing the rollout of an updated process using App Use Cases instead of the former product-focused process. App Use Cases will enable developers to quickly create apps by selecting the use case that best represents their reason for creating an app.

Currently, the product-focused app creation process requires developers to select an app type and individually request permission to API endpoints. After listening to feedback from developers saying this process was, at times, confusing and difficult to navigate, we’re updating our approach that’s based on App Use Cases. With App Use Cases, user permissions and features will be bundled with each use case so developers can now confidently select the right data access for their needs. This change sets developers up for success to create their app and navigate app review, ensuring they only get the exact data access they need to accomplish their goals.

Starting today Facebook Login will be the first use case to become available to developers. This will be the first of many use cases that will be built into the app creation process that will roll out continually in 2023. For more information please reference our Facebook Login documentation.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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Understanding Authorization Tokens and Access for the WhatsApp Business Platform

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The WhatsApp Business Platform makes it easy to send WhatsApp messages to your customers and automate replies. Here, we’ll explore authentication using the Cloud API, hosted by Meta.

We’ll start with generating and using a temporary access token and then replace it with a permanent access token. This tutorial assumes you’re building a server-side application and won’t need additional steps to keep your WhatsApp application secrets securely stored.

Managing Access and Authorization Tokens

First, let’s review how to manage authorization tokens and safely access the API.

Prerequisites

Start by making sure you have a developer account on Meta for Developers. You’ll also need WhatsApp installed on a mobile device to send test messages to.

Creating an App

Before you can authenticate, you’ll need an application to authenticate you.

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Once you’re signed in, you see the Meta for Developers App Dashboard. Click Create App to get started.

Next, you’ll need to choose an app type. Choose Business.

After that, enter a display name for your application. If you have a business account to link to your app, select it. If not, don’t worry. The Meta for Developers platform creates a test business account you can use to experiment with the API. When done, click Create App.

Then, you’ll need to add products to your app. Scroll down until you see WhatsApp and click the Set up button:

Finally, choose an existing Meta Business Account or ask the platform to create a new one and click Continue:

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And with that, your app is created and ready to use. You’re automatically directed to the app’s dashboard.

Note that you have a temporary access token. For security reasons, the token expires in less than 24 hours. However, you can use it for now to test accessing the API. Later, we’ll cover how to generate a permanent access token that your server applications can use. Also, note your app’s phone number ID because you’ll need it soon.

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Click the dropdown under the To field, and then click Manage phone number list.

In the popup that appears, enter the phone number of a WhatsApp account to send test messages to.

Then, scroll further down the dashboard page and you’ll see an example curl call that looks similar to this:

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curl -i -X POST https://graph.facebook.com/v13.0//messages -H 'Authorization: Bearer ' -H 'Content-Type: application/json' -d '{ "messaging_product": "whatsapp", "to": "", "type": "template", "template": { "name": "hello_world", "language": { "code": "en_US" } } }'

Note that the Meta for Developers platform inserts your app’s phone number ID and access token instead of the and placeholders shown above. If you have curl installed, paste the command into your terminal and run it. You should receive a “hello world” message in WhatsApp on your test device.

If you’d prefer, you can convert the curl request into an HTTP request in your programming language by simply creating a POST request that sets the Authorization and Content-Type headers as shown above, including the JSON payload in the request body.

Since this post is about authentication, let’s focus on that. Notice that you’ve included your app’s access token in the Authorization header. For any request to the API, you must set the Authorization header to Bearer .

Remember that you must use your token instead of the placeholder. Using bearer tokens will be familiar if you’ve worked with JWT or OAuth2 tokens before. If you’ve never seen one before, a bearer token is essentially a random secret string that you, as the bearer of the token, can present to an API to prove you’re allowed to access it.

Failure to include this header causes the API to return a 401 Unauthorized response code.

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Creating a Permanent Access Token

Knowing that you need to use a bearer token in the Authorization header of an HTTP request is helpful, but it’s not enough. The only access token you’ve seen so far is temporary. Chances are that you want your app to access the API for more than 24 hours, so you need to generate a longer-lasting access token.

Fortunately, the Meta for Developers platform makes this easy. All you need to do is add a System User to your business account to obtain an access token you can use to continue accessing the API. To create a system user, do the following:

  • Go to Business Settings.

  • Select the business account your app is associated with.
  • Below Users, click System Users.
  • Click Add.
  • Name the system user, choose Admin as the user role, and click Create System User.
  • Select the whatsapp_business_messaging permission.
  • Click Generate New Token.
  • Copy and save your token.

Your access token is a random string of letters and numbers. Now, try re-running the earlier request using the token you just created instead of the temporary one:

curl -i -X POST https://graph.facebook.com/v13.0//messages -H 'Authorization: Bearer ' -H 'Content-Type: application/json' -d '{ "messaging_product": "whatsapp", "to": "", "type": "template", "template": { "name": "hello_world", "language": { "code": "en_US" } } }'

Your test device should receive a second hello message sent via the API.

Best Practices for Managing Access Tokens

It’s important to remember that you should never embed an App Access Token in a mobile or desktop application. These tokens are only for use in server-side applications that communicate with the API. Safeguard them the same way you would any other application secrets, like your database credentials, as anyone with your token has access to the API as your business.

If your application runs on a cloud services provider like AWS, Azure, GCP, or others, those platforms have tools to securely store app secrets. Alternatively there are freely-available secret stores like Vault or Conjur. While any of these options may work for you, it’s important to evaluate your options and choose what works best for your setup. At the very least, consider storing access tokens in environment variables and not in a database or a file where they’re easy to find during a data breach.

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Conclusion

In this post, you learned how to create a Meta for Developers app that leverages the WhatsApp Business Platform. You now know how the Cloud API’s bearer access tokens work, how to send an access token using an HTTP authorization header, and what happens if you send an invalid access token. You also understand the importance of keeping your access tokens safe since an access token allows an application to access a business’ WhatsApp messaging capabilities.

Why not try using the Cloud API, hosted by Meta if you’re considering building an app for your business to manage WhatsApp messaging? Now that you know how to obtain and use access tokens, you can use them to access any endpoint in the API.

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