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Facebook’s negative impact affects far more than teenage girls – The Irish Times

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Facebook has been getting lots of negative press because of a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) exposé. Most of the headlines focus on the tech giant’s failure to release research showing that teenage girls who use Instagram self-report significant negative impacts on their wellbeing and mental health.

The other claims made by the WSJ have received only a fraction of the attention. They include allegations Facebook knows about but does very little about the platform being used by drug cartels and human traffickers. For example, in January 2021, an ex-policeman working for Facebook revealed in internal documents that a brutal Mexican drug cartel, known as Cartél Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) was using Facebook and Instagram to recruit, train and pay hitmen.

Nine days after the internal Facebook report was published, the WSJ alleges that a new Instagram page for the cartel posted a “video of a person with a gold pistol shooting a young man in the head while blood spurts from his neck. The next post is a photo of a beaten man tied to a chair; the one after that is a trash bag full of severed hands.”

CJNG leaves a trail of destruction in Mexico. Last June, the gang attacked a drug rehabilitation centre and killed 28 residents. It has murdered more than 100 public servants. Facebook took five months to remove some of the most savagely violent posts but CJNG just keeps creating new Facebook and Instagram pages.

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Right-wing

Imagine if a right-wing government was behaving the way Facebook has behaved about this cartel. There would be outrage at the level of incompetence, and allegations that the cartel had in some way corrupted government officials so that the response would be sluggish.

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Then, there are the organisations that use Facebook to incite violence against minorities, like against Tigrayans in Ethiopia. Facebook claims that while it took a while to accomplish, it is now translating Facebook standards into the languages that Ethiopians use and has improved AI surveillance of the worst content. Given its record on the Mexican drug cartel, that is far from reassuring. 

Facebook spends only a fraction of its time investigating concerns outside the US. According to the WSJ, Facebook spent more than 3.2 million hours in 2020 finding and sometimes taking down false and misleading information. Some 2.8 million of those hours, or approximately 319 years, were spent on the US, with a mere 13 per cent of the total of 3.2 million being spent outside the US.

Facebook spent approximately three times as long, or the rough equivalent of 656 years, ensuring “brand safety”, that is, ensuring advertisements do not appear beside content to which advertisers might object.

The WSJ also uncovered there is an elite to whom Facebook standards do not apply at all, or apply in a delayed fashion, including issues that are normally covered by a “one strike, close the account” approach, like posting sexual imagery of others without their consent.

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These favoured ones comprise politicians, celebrities and anyone where a PR gaffe is likely to cost Facebook in terms of negative publicity.

Facebook has published extensive refutations of the WSJ stories and has fielded Nick Clegg, vice-president of global affairs, to bat for the defence.

Facebook said of the WSJ series, “These stories have contained deliberate mischaracterisations of what we are trying to do, and conferred egregiously false motives to Facebook’s leadership and employees”.

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Some of what Clegg says is correct. Ironically, one of the things he gets right is that the social science on the impact of social media on mental health is far from settled. Two impeccably fair researchers, Jonathan Haidt and Jean Twenge, who believe social media is implicated in mental health issues, have acknowledged research tells us sometimes contradictory things about social media’s impact.

Research

You can check out their

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lengthy document

Believe me, this is not a defence of social media. I have seen an explosion in anxiety and depression among young girls in particular since the advent of the smartphone. But is it because those prone to anxiety and depression are driven to obsessive interaction with social media, or the resultant lack of sleep, or the demands of work that leave parents time-starved and near burnout? We do not know.

What we do know is that a company that thrived during the pandemic and has made more than $100 billion in profit in the past five years, is hosting drug cartels, human traffickers and those inciting ethnic cleansing on its platforms and doing very little, very slowly about it. 

Why should it be particularly troubled if teenage girls are collateral damage in this vast, profit-making enterprise? Facebook has spawned a monster.

The troubling thing is that it is not clear that either society or Facebook has any real will to hobble the monster in any meaningful way.

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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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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

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