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How our culture and our government gave too much power to Facebook – New York Post

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Capitalism offers an optimal paradigm to organize a virtuous society’s economic affairs. But virtue is a precondition for capitalism, not a product of it, and no modern phenomenon better highlights that distinction than the rise of addictive social-media platforms.

This past week, The Wall Street Journal reported on Facebook’s knowledge of the harmful impact of its Instagram platform on teen girls; on Facebook’s role in promoting anger on its platform; on Facebook’s weak response to employee-reported drug-cartel and human-trafficking activity on its platform; on how the Facebook platform thwarted Mark Zuckerberg’s desire to promote ­COVID-19 vaccinations; and on Facebook’s “XCheck” program, which exempts high-profile accounts and VIP users from Facebook’s enforcement actions. More stories are still forthcoming.

It’s easy to criticize Facebook for these apparent failures, but we should pause to assess what we as a society should hold Facebook accountable for — and not.

The real problem with Facebook’s behavior is the revelation of its rampant institutional lying. In the XCheck story, we learned that after Facebook spent more than $130 million to create an Independent Oversight Board to oversee its content-moderation decisions, Facebook executives routinely lied to that board. Facebook told the Oversight Board that XCheck was only used in “a small number of decisions,” even though the program had grown to include 5.8 million users in 2020.

“We’re not actually doing what we say we do publicly,” and the company’s actions constitute a “breach of trust,” reads a confidential internal review done by Facebook.

We also learned — shockingly — that the CEO and COO of the trillion-dollar behemoth are regularly involved in decisions of what posts to remove when such posts are made by certain people who are exempted from Facebook’s community guidelines and content-moderation procedures. This is all while Facebook asserted that it applied the same standards to everyone.

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Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wields too much political and social influence on countries such as Israel and India.
The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images

Apparently, XCheck was created to mitigate “p.r. fires” or negative media attentions when Facebook takes the wrong action against a high-profile VIP. Even worse than the existence of the XCheck program was Facebook’s dishonesty about it, reflecting the state of mind of a company that knew it was doing something wrong — and still did it anyway.

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These revelations strengthen the case that Facebook likely serves increasingly as the censorship arm of the US government, just as it does for other governments around the world.

In countries like India, Israel, Thailand, and Vietnam, Facebook frequently removes posts at the behest of the government to deter regulatory reprisal. Here at home, we know that Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg regularly correspond with US officials, ranging from e-mail exchanges with Dr. Anthony Fauci on COVID-19 policy to discussing “problematic posts” that “spread disinformation” with the White House.

Silhouettes of mobile users are seen next to a screen projection of Instagram logo.
Media outlets are now beginning to unravel on the devastating effects Instagram has on today’s youth.
REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File

If Zuckerberg and Sandberg are also directly making decisions about which posts to censor versus permit, that makes it much more likely that they are responsive to the threats and inducements from government officials.

That’s what we should find alarming about the Journal’s reporting. But we should separate that from blaming Facebook for the anger of its users or for the self-esteem of teenage girls who suffer from body-image issues. The underlying cultural problems that create the conditions for anger, hostility and psychological insecurity should be addressed through spheres of public life that go beyond the purview of a social-media company — through family, faith and civic engagement.

To be sure, Facebook and other platforms amplify our pre-existing cultural failures and psychological vulnerabilities. A revival of, say, faith in God might address those issues more effectively than anything Mark Zuckerberg might do on a given day. The flawed premise that it’s Facebook’s job to address these cultural failures through its platform reinforces the uniquely postmodern problem that we have relocated our faith to new gods.

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A female teenager is frustrated while looking onto her laptop.
America’s teenagers are constantly facing self-esteem issues at the expense of Facebook’s lack of moderation.
Peter Dazeley / Getty Images

Instagram has become a church for insecure teenage girls; Facebook has become a church for angry Americans. The Journal’s reporting indicts those churches for failing the faithful, whereas the real problem is that Facebook and Instagram should have never played the role of those churches in the first place.

Don’t like God? Fine — platonic virtue or civic identity can suffice. But our ability to find true meaning in the real world is a precondition for a healthy experience on the Internet. No Web site will ever fill our postmodern cultural void.

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Yes, it’s true that Facebook magnifies our cultural failures, but assigning the responsibility to Facebook to fix these cultural problems wrongly empowers the very actors we should be stripping of social power instead.

Facebook deserves severe criticism for its rampant hypocrisy — claiming to make the world a better place while knowingly doing the opposite, and lying about its knowledge of it at every step along the way. It should be held liable both in the court of public opinion and in federal courts for its lies — drawing from legal doctrines of consumer fraud that punish companies for saying one thing and doing another, as well as doctrines of state action that recognize that private companies ought to be bound by the Constitution if they are working hand-in-glove with government actors to censor political speech that the government cannot itself censor. The social-media giants should also be responsible for illegal activities they allow, like gun-running, drug sales and child pornography.

A photo of a potential hacker on his phone and laptop.
Facebook lets drug dealers, human traffickers and pedophiles run freely on social media while targeting conservative media outlets for political reasons.
Getty Images/EyeEm

These actions would make Facebook less able to sway American democracy and dupe the public.

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But forcing the company to assume responsibility for body image and anger-management issues will, ironically, make Facebook and other social-media players even more powerful in our culture. The government, through big-tech proxy, would soon control what we can and can’t say, politically and culturally. Is that really what we want?

Vivek Ramaswamy is the author of “Woke, Inc.: Inside Corporate America’s Social-Justice Scam.”

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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.

First seen at developers.facebook.com

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