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Facebook Isn’t Scandal-Proof – The New York Times

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This social network may finally be paying the price for its bad reputation.

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CreditCredit…Kiel Mutschelknaus

Shira Ovide

All of that is, at least in part, the price that Facebook is already paying for its bad reputation.

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Let me go back to Instagram because it helps show the weight of Facebook’s baggage.

Almost the minute that news broke this year about Facebook’s plans for a version of the app for preteens, there were shrieks of “NOPE!” from attorneys general and some children’s advocates. Facebook now says it will hear out critics.

Instagram Kids isn’t necessarily a bad idea. U.S. law requires limits on online accounts of children under 13, but many lie about their age. Facebook was in part trying to acknowledge reality and draw preteens to a version of Instagram with more protections. Facebook pointed out on Monday that both YouTube and TikTok have tailored their apps for kids. (And they have attracted criticism at times.) All of this is complicated for parents, regulators, internet companies and children.

The biggest problem was that Instagram Kids came from Facebook, which people didn’t trust to create a safe space for children. Many don’t trust the company, period. This was at least the second high-profile product that Facebook backed away from after pushback. Last year, Facebook also changed its mind about starting its own virtual currency, called Libra, after its business partners balked and some U.S. government officials worried about potential disruptions to the financial system.

If a more trusted company like General Motors, or even Apple, were behind Libra or a an app for kids, there still might have been a backlash to those proposals. But U.S. senators might not have criticized the company’s work using an expletive or likened it to a toddler arsonist, as they did with Facebook.

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I know it feels as if lots of people say they dislike Facebook but still use the social network or one of its other apps. There are weak spots in Facebook’s popularity, though, that may be the result of Americans feeling as though they have to hold their noses when they log in.

The number of people in the U.S. and Canada who use Facebook or its Messenger app at least once a month have increased only about 8 percent since the end of 2017 — before the Cambridge Analytica scandal about harvesting users’ information exposed Facebook’s lax treatment of personal data.

Facebook may simply have maxed out now that two-thirds of the combined population of the U.S. and Canada use the social media network. Those numbers don’t include people who use Instagram or WhatsApp, owned by the same company. Facebook doesn’t regularly reveal numbers for those apps.

You could look at these facts and reach the opposite conclusion: Nothing matters. On the scoreboard of money and power, Facebook is winning.

Yup, I hear you. The cynical devil on my shoulder is yelling that a few project delays, screaming politicians, rejections from job candidates and armies of public relations specialists and lawyers are simply the costs of doing business for a high-profile company.

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Maybe Facebook can skate past the mistrust forever and remain hated but rich. But I wonder whether at some point the burden of a bad reputation does become too much and starts hurting Facebook where it counts — in its wallet. Or maybe I just wish this were true because companies shouldn’t be able to mess up repeatedly and face few consequences.


Your lead

I wrote last week that we all might be better off if Facebook retreated from many less affluent countries. The company has repeatedly not devoted enough money, attention and cultural competence to many countries outside the United States and Western Europe, and this has resulted in a horrible human toll including ethnic violence and government harassment of citizens.

An On Tech reader in Sofia, Bulgaria, Antoniya Staneva, disagreed with me and made great points. I wanted to share part of the email, slightly edited for clarity:

Yes, it is absolutely clear to me that there are places where Facebook is a tool for misinformation, manipulation, propaganda and other dangerous practices (is this not the same even in the U.S. when you think about it?), but being from a smaller unimportant country (Bulgaria), I can assure you that those things would happen in those places with or without Facebook present there. They would happen via (social) media channels and networks at a local level.

The big difference, however, for people in countries like those would be that they would lose an important window to the bigger world, which is what very often Facebook is in smaller, non-Western, not-so-well-developed countries.

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  • Meet Amazon’s latest invention: It’s called Astro, and it is essentially a $1,000 Alexa screen on wheels, with googly eyes.

  • More Amazon! The company has mostly failed for years to create a hit video game for die-hard gamers. An executive told my colleague Kellen Browning that Amazon’s newest release “has to be our breakthrough game — there’s no doubt about it.”

    Related: The video game company Activision Blizzard agreed to pay $18 million in a settlement with a federal employment agency. The agency had accused Activision of discriminating against pregnant employees, paying female workers less than their male counterparts because of their gender and retaliating against employees who complained about unfair treatment.

  • Happy Meg Ryan cozy-sweater season! TikTok looks have been inspired by the actress’s characters in “You’ve Got Mail,” “When Harry Met Sally” and “Sleepless in Seattle.” This is another twist in our obsession with hating or loving all things autumn, Vox’s Rebecca Jennings writes.

Have you ever seen a baby riding a robot vacuum cleaner? Now you have.


We want to hear from you. Tell us what you think of this newsletter and what else you’d like us to explore. You can reach us at ontech@nytimes.com.

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.

The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.

With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.

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Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.


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Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to tasneema@ndtv.com.

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Facebook Owner Meta Launches New Platform, Safety Hub to Protect Women in India

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Meta (formerly Facebook) on Thursday announced a slew of steps to protect woman users on its platform, including the launch of StopNCII.org in India that aims to combat the spread of non-consensual intimate images (NCII).

Meta has also launched the Women’s Safety Hub, which will be available in Hindi and 11 other Indian languages, that will enable more women users in India to access information about tools and resources that can help them make the most of their social media experience, while staying safe online.

This initiative by Meta will ensure women do not face a language barrier in accessing information Karuna Nain, director (global safety policy) at Meta Platforms, told reporters here.

“Safety is an integral part of Meta’s commitment to building and offering a safe online experience across the platforms and over the years the company has introduced several industry leading initiatives to protect users online.

“Furthering our effort to bolster the safety of users, we are bringing in a number of initiatives to ensure online safety of women on our platforms,” she added.

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StopNCII.org is a platform that aims to combat the spread of non-consensual intimate images (NCII).

“It gives victims control. People can come to this platform proactively, hash their intimate videos and images, share their hashes back with the platform and participating companies,” Nain said.

She explained that the platform doesn’t receive any photos and videos, and instead what they get is the hash or unique digital fingerprint/unique identifier that tells the company that this is a known piece of content that is violating. “We can proactively keep a lookout for that content on our platforms and once it”s uploaded, our review team check what”s really going on and take appropriate action if it violates our policies,” she added.

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In partnership with UK Revenge Porn Helpline, StopNCII.org builds on Meta’s NCII Pilot, an emergency programme that allows potential victims to proactively hash their intimate images so they can”t be proliferated on its platforms.

The first-of-its-kind platform, has partnered with global organisations to support the victims of NCII. In India, the platform has partnered with organisations such as Social Media Matters, Centre for Social Research, and Red Dot Foundation.

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Nain added that the company is hopeful that this becomes an industrywide initiative, so that victims can just come to this one central place to get help and support and not have to go to each and every tech platform, one by one to get help and support.

Also, Bishakha Datta (executive editor of Point of View) and Jyoti Vadehra from Centre for Social Research are the first Indian members in Meta”s Global Women”s Safety Expert Advisors. The group comprises 12 other non-profit leaders, activists, and academic experts from different parts of the world and consults Meta in the development of new policies, products and programmes to better support women on its apps.

“We are confident that with our ever-growing safety measures, women will be able to enjoy a social experience which will enable them to learn, engage and grow without any challenges.

“India is an important market for us and bringing Bishakha and Jyoti onboard to our Women”s Safety Expert Advisory Group will go a long way in further enhancing our efforts to make our platforms safer for women in India,” Nain said.

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Facebook Adds New Trend Insights in Creator Studio, Which Could Help Shape Your Posting Strategy

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Facebook’s looking to provide more content insight within Creator Studio with the rollout of a new ‘Inspiration Hub’ element, which highlights trending content and hashtags within categories related to your business Page.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

As you can see in these screenshots, posted by social media expert Matt Navarra, when it becomes available to you, you’ll be able to access the new Inspiration Hub from the Home tab in Creator Studio.

At the right side of the screen, you can see the first of the new insights, with trending hashtags and videos from the last 24 hours, posted by Pages similar to yours, displayed above a ‘See more’ prompt.

When you tap through to the new hub, you’ll have a range of additional filters to check out trending content from across Facebook, including Page category, content type, region, and more.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

That could be hugely valuable in learning what Facebook users are responding to, and what people within your target market are engaging with in the app.

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The Hub also includes insights into trending hashtags, within your chosen timeframe, which may further assist in tapping into trending discussions.

Facebook Inspiration Hub

How valuable hashtags are on Facebook is still up for debate, but you’ll also note that you can filter the displayed results by platform, so you can additionally display Instagram hashtag trends as well, which could be very valuable in maximizing your reach.

Much of this type of info has been available within CrowdTangle, Facebook’s analytics platform for journalists, for some time, but not everyone can access CrowdTangle data, which could make this an even more valuable proposition for many marketers.

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Of course, overall performance really relates to your own creative, and thinking through the action that you want your audience to take when reading your posts. But in terms of detecting new content trends, including hashtag usage, caption length, videos versus image posts, and more, there’s a lot that could be gleaned from these tools and filters.

It’s a significant analytics addition – we’ve asked Facebook for more info on the rollout of the new option, and whether it’s already beyond test mode, etc. We’ll update this post if/when we hear back.

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