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Opinion | The Endless Facebook Apology – The New York Times

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Kara Swisher

Credit…Arsh Raziuddin, The New York Times

Kara Swisher

In March of 2018, I interviewed Marc Benioff, the chief executive of Salesforce, at the top of the company’s San Francisco tower. He offered up an astonishing metaphor when I asked him for his take on the impact of social media companies.

“Facebook is the new cigarettes,” Benioff said. “It’s addictive. It’s not good for you.” As it did with cigarette companies, “the government needs to step in,” he added.” The government needs to really regulate what’s happening.”

At the time, I thought it was a flashy reach by an executive who often went out on verbal limbs to make brazen points. But today, after the latest series of investigations into the sketchy acts of the social media giant, Benioff seems like Nostradamus.

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In the past weeks, The Wall Street Journal published “The Facebook Files” — well reported pieces that rely on whistle-blowers who are now just tossing incriminating documents over the wall at a furious pace.

The Journal’s series includes: internal reports showing that Facebook was fully aware of Instagram’s deleterious impact on the mental health of teen girls, while moving full steam ahead with an Instagram for Kids product; internal documents inferring that the company lied to its independent Oversight Board when it said it gave only a small amount of celebs, pols and other grandees a wide berth to break its rules on the platform while, in fact, the free pass was given to millions; and the latest revelation that Facebook makes people angry, in part because of futile efforts of its leader, Mark Zuckerberg, to stop the endless rage.

Even when Zuckerberg tries to do the right thing, and loudly, The Journal’s reporting shows how the platform he built is used to undermine his efforts, as we’ve seen with anti-vaccination misinformation.

“Facebook made a heralded change to its algorithm in 2018 designed to improve its platform — and arrest signs of declining user engagement. Mr. Zuckerberg declared his aim was to strengthen bonds between users and improve their well-being by fostering interactions between friends and family. Within the company, the documents show, staffers warned the change was having the opposite effect. It was making Facebook, and those who used it, angrier,” The Journal reported. “Mr. Zuckerberg resisted some fixes proposed by his team, the documents show, because he worried they would lead people to interact with Facebook less.”

It’s important to have this proof of Facebook’s duplicity. But these revelations come as a shock to no one who has been paying attention to the slippery machinations at the company over the years.

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What’s most revealing is the persistence of the tired old, so-so-sorry, we’ll-do-better excuses that its executives trot out when the company is called out for its destructive products.

At this point, it’s probably best for Facebook executives to say nothing, since every time they do they trip all over themselves in their weird analogies — which are often centered on the idea that humanity sucked before Facebook.

Yes, fine, mankind has not always bathed itself in glory. But nowadays the human race seems even more abhorrent, and in many more twisted and amplified ways, and it’s because of Facebook, the biggest and least accountable communications and media platform in history.

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As The Times’s Kevin Roose noted on Twitter about Facebook’s reaction to the Journal pieces: “It’s just such a weird tactic. Like if Chipotle was getting criticized for having salmonella in its guac or whatever and the CEO’s response was like “well, scaled food production has had many benefits for humanity, including freeing us from being hunter-gatherers.”

The stylings of the company’s head of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, are perhaps ground zero for this pointless logrolling.

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“Cars create way more value in the world than they destroyed. And I think social media is similar,” he said to Peter Kafka on Recode Media. After giving that feeble analogy, Mosseri was frustrated that he got dunked on because his critics apparently failed to note that he discussed regulation, too, with Kafka. (Listen to the whole interview, to make Mosseri feel better, as it was substantive.)

About the problems for teen girls, Mosseri tried to shine up the, well, you know, noting in another tweet: “The WSJ’s story today on research we’re doing to understand young people’s experiences on IG casts our findings in a negative light, but speaks to important issues. We stand by this work and believe more companies should be doing the same.”

Obviously, you don’t get claps for doing your job. Nor should you get credit when you do the very least to fix problems like these.

So, sadly, I am coming around to the idea that Benioff’s once-over-the-top metaphor — that social media companies like Facebook are as bad for us as cigarette companies — might not be so far off the mark.

Let me say up front, I am not a tech-product reviewer, and this is not a tech review, so take what I say here with a grain of salt. Or rather, with a heaping tablespoon of sugar.

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The latest investment trend to occupy the self-absorbed I’ll-never-die efforts of tech dudes — and they are mostly dudes — is continuous glucose monitoring.

C.G.M. is aimed at delivering a fine-grain look at what is being called our “metabolic” health, with devices that have typically been used by those with illnesses like diabetes. The goal is to give a wide range of people more data to grok about glucose-level reactions to the foods we eat, when we eat them, and in what combination.

There are lots of C.G.M. devices out there, all trying to attract the attention of the same groups of consumers who are already counting steps, hours of sleep, meditation effectiveness and much more. The goal is to commercialize and popularize the idea that everything you do physically can be measured digitally.

The C.G.M. app that I tried is from a start-up called Levels, which recently grabbed $12 million in Silicon Valley funding. It’s not the only one getting big investment rounds recently in this fast-growing space, which includes January AI ($8.8 million) and Supersapiens ($13.5 million).

Interest from the tech sector is not a surprise; these guys have long embraced the idea of the “quantified body.” It’s a tiresome term known to anyone who has spent any time around start-up entrepreneurs, who talk about their optimal intermittent fasting schedules ad nauseam.

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Earlier entries into this space — so-called wearables — came out about a decade ago. Those include Fitbit, Nike+, Jawbone UP, the Oura Ring, and Whoop. And we can’t forget the all-purpose Apple Watch, which ended up besting them all with close to 34 million devices sold in 2020.

I have owned every one of these and took to calling them “unwearables,” since they came and went like the latest cooking gadget. I have a drawer at home with three Apple Watches, four Fitbits, an Oura Ring and so, so many Ups, as well as others I’ve lost track of.

Besides being mostly bulky, their overall efficacy escaped me. While it’s nice to know my step count, or my sleep patterns, the payoff for wearing these devices, as if I were some kind of pet experiment to tech, was minimal. That is largely because — other than getting links to articles that would help me understand that I should sleep more than four hours a night (duh) or buzzing reminders to stand up more during the workday (double duh) — most of these apps never gave me what I consider truly actionable information.

There have been some more helpful signals of late that wearables will become more useful, including some evidence that indicates that devices like Oura might be able to see some illnesses early, using data from things like heart rate variability and body temperature; some may even be able to pick up early indications of Covid.

One important feature of C.G.M. devices is that they offer data that may be useful. Knowing your steps, for example, is interesting, but that information tells you little about how the steps impact your body. It’s the same for a range of other data you might get from monitoring devices — all informative, but mostly lacking insight that you can use to make changes.

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With a C.G.M. device, you can see how your body reacts to specific foods. In my case, the device knew that pita bread was evil incarnate for me — shooting my glucose numbers off the charts. It gave specific data about what I felt — an inevitable energy crash whenever I ate bread in the morning, even as I craved it. Level’s co-founder and chief medical officer, Casey Means, called bread “blood sugar bombs.”

People with diabetes have long used C.G.M. monitors for just these reasons, but now everyone is the market. When I talked with Means over Zoom, she reeled off some anonymized data from 6,000 beta users — there are over 100,000 on a wait list — that shows the foods that impact most people badly. Along with cake, bagels and cookies, some of the big surprises have been granola, oatmeal and even potatoes. Worst takeout: Pizza, Chinese and Thai.

“It looks like an epidemic of metabolic dysfunction,” joked Means. “I see it realistically as making important data more accessible and perhaps help shift the food industry if people begin to demand different options.”

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Means said that in order to be most effective, such devices must eventually become cheap and easy to use for a large number of people (I paid about $395 for mine), so the collective real-time data can be used across populations.

Not everyone is convinced. Some have called these devices a waste of time and money with little benefit to those who mostly live in the normal blood glucose range. They say that the information you get is largely useless, even as others think any monitoring and analysis can set in motion behavioral changes that could help limit the glucose fluctuation.

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We’ll see, but it’s an interesting investing space to watch, as more money pours in. No matter what: Put down that doughnut.

Has there been anything more entertaining this week than watching people react to a tweet by the rap star Nicki Minaj about an alleged reaction to the Covid vaccine by her cousin’s friend in Trinidad?

It’s certainly easy to dunk on her — she claimed the man’s testicles became swollen — and many did, largely with humor (including me). Though her claim was refuted by the health minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Minaj doubled down on exaggerations by saying she had been invited to the White House (they offered a call with a health expert) and that Twitter had disabled her ability to post (it had not); she is now asserting (on Instagram) that she is being attacked by the amorphous “Establishment” so that “no one will ever ask questions again.”

All of which is codswallop from a celebrity seeking attention and relevance, of course. Cancel culture, as Minaj seems to be implying? More like fact-checking.

Amazon said this week that it will hire 125,000 more employees, to add to the close to 450,000 it has hired since the pandemic started — and the company is dangling an average wage of $18 an hour for these jobs. It also said it would pay 100 percent of college tuition for hourly workers who stay longer than 90 days.

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It’s all part of a push by many employers to attract and retain workers amid a dearth of them. But what’s most interesting is that the stimulus checks meant to give relief to workers during Covid have done what union organization was unable to do at the e-commerce giant: Compel it to pay its workers more.

That’s all good, but we should note that Big Tech companies like Amazon have never rewarded shareholders and their executives more, and these changes are no cause for back-patting on the their part.

As the writer Dave Eggers — whose new book, “The Every” imagines a world in which Amazon and Google are merged (Yipes!) — noted to me in a Sway interview this week: “The Bezos way, paying people $15 an hour, a sub-living wage, they hold on to that like it’s such a badge of honor.” Referring to how Amazon touts that it offers health care from day one, along with that $15 an hour, he said: “I don’t understand how that is such a point of pride.”

Word.

Have feedback? Send a note to swisher-newsletter@nytimes.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.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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Now people can share directly to Instagram Reels from some of their favorite apps

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More people are creating, sharing and watching Reels than ever before. We’ve seen the creator community dive deeply into video content – and use it to connect with their communities. We’re running a limited alpha test that lets creators share video content directly from select integrated apps to Instagram Reels. Now, creators won’t be interrupted in their workflow, making it easier for them share share and express themselves on Reels.

“With the shift to video happening across almost all online platforms, our innovative tools and services empower creativity and fuel the creator economy and we are proud to be able to offer a powerful editing tool like Videoleap that allows seamless content creation, while partnering with companies like Meta to make sharing content that much easier.”- Zeev Farbman, CEO and co-founder of Lightricks.

Starting this month, creators can share short videos directly to Instagram Reels from some of their favorite apps, including Videoleap, Reface, Smule, VivaVideo, SNOW, B612, VITA and Zoomerang, with more coming soon. These apps and others also allow direct sharing to Facebook , which is available for any business with a registered Facebook App to use.

We hope to expand this test to more partners in 2023. If you’re interested in being a part of that beta program, please fill out this form and we will keep track of your submission. We do not currently have information to share about general availability of this integration.

Learn more here about sharing Stories and Reels to Facebook and Instagram and start building today.

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FAQs

Q. What is the difference between the Instagram Content Publishing API and Instagram Sharing to Reels?

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A: Sharing to Reels is different from the Instagram Content Publishing API, which allows Instagram Business accounts to schedule and publish posts to Instagram from third-party platforms. Sharing to Reels is specifically for mobile apps to display a ‘Share to Reels’ widget. The target audience for the Share to Reels widget is consumers, whereas the Content Publishing API is targeted towards businesses, including third-party publishing platforms such as Hootsuite and Sprout Social that consolidate sharing to social media platforms within their third-party app.

Q: Why is Instagram partnering with other apps?

A: Creators already use a variety of apps to create and edit videos before uploading them to Instagram Reels – now we’re making that experience faster and easier. We are currently doing a small test of an integration with mobile apps that creators know and love, with more coming soon.

Q: How can I share my video from another app to Reels on Instagram?

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A: How it works (Make sure to update the mobile app you’re using to see the new Share to Reels option):

  • Create and edit your video in one of our partner apps
  • Once your video is ready, tap share and then tap the Instagram Reels icon
  • You will enter the Instagram Camera, where you can customize your reel with audio, effects, Voiceover and stickers. Record any additional clips or swipe up to add an additional clip from your camera roll.
  • Tap ‘Next’ to add a caption, hashtag, location, tag others or use the paid partnerships label.
  • Tap ‘Share’. Your reel will be visible where you share reels today, depending on your privacy settings.
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Q: How were partners selected?

A. We are currently working with a small group of developers that focus on video creation and editing as early partners. We’ll continue to expand to apps with other types of creation experiences.

Q: When will other developers be able to access Sharing to Reels on Instagram?

A: We do not currently have a date for general availability, but are planning to expand further in 2023.

Q: Can you share to Facebook Reels from other apps?

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A: Yes, Facebook offers the ability for developers to integrate with Sharing to Reels. For more information on third-party sharing opportunities, check out our entire suite of sharing offerings .

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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