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The Facebook Papers may be the biggest crisis in the company’s history – CNN

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New York (CNN Business)Facebook has confronted whistleblowers, PR firestorms and Congressional inquiries in recent years. But now it faces a combination of all three at once in what could be the most intense and wide-ranging crisis in the company’s 17-year history.

On Friday, a consortium of 17 US news organizations began publishing a series of stories — collectively called “The Facebook Papers” — based on a trove of hundreds of internal company documents which were included in disclosures made to the Securities and Exchange Commission and provided to Congress in redacted form by Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen‘s legal counsel. The consortium, which includes CNN, reviewed the redacted versions received by Congress.

CNN’s coverage includes stories about how coordinated groups on Facebook (FB) sow discord and violence, including on January 6, as well as Facebook’s challenges moderating content in some non-English-speaking countries, and how human traffickers have used its platforms to exploit people.

    The reports from CNN, and the other outlets that are part of the consortium, follow a month of intense scrutiny for the company. The Wall Street Journal previously published a series of stories based on tens of thousands of pages of internal Facebook documents leaked by Haugen. (The consortium’s work is based on many of the same documents.)

      The publication of the Journal’s “Facebook Files,” which raised concerns about the impact of Instagram on teen girls, among other issues, prompted a Senate subcomittee hearing with Facebook head of global safety Antigone Davis. Haugen herself then testified before the Senate subcommittee, during which she said she believes that “Facebook’s products harm children, stoke division, and weaken our democracy.”

      There’s currently no end in sight for Facebook’s troubles. Members of the subcommittee have called for Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to testify. And on Friday, another former Facebook employee anonymously filed a complaint against the company to the SEC, with allegations similar to Haugen’s.

      Not stopping 'Stop the Steal:' Facebook Papers paint damning picture of company's role in insurrection

      Facebook has dealt with scandals over its approach to data privacy, content moderation and competitors before. But the vast trove of documents, and the many stories surely still to come from it, touch on concerns and problems across seemingly every part of its business: its approach to combatting hate speech and misinformation, managing international growth, protecting younger users on its platform and even its ability to accurately measure the size of its massive audience.

      All of this raises an uncomfortable question for the company: Is Facebook actually capable of managing the potential for real-world harms from its staggeringly large platforms, or has the social media giant become too big not to fail?

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      Facebook tries to turn the page

      Facebook, for its part, has repeatedly tried to discredit Haugen, and said her testimony and reports on the documents mischaracterize its actions and efforts.

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      “At the heart of these stories is a premise which is false,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to CNN. “Yes, we’re a business and we make profit, but the idea that we do so at the expense of people’s safety or wellbeing misunderstands where our own commercial interests lie.”

      In a tweet thread last week, the company’s Vice President of Communications, John Pinette, called the Facebook Papers a “curated selection out of millions of documents at Facebook” which “can in no way be used to draw fair conclusions about us.” But even that response is telling –— if Facebook has more documents that would tell a fuller story, why not release them? (During her Senate testimony Facebook’s Davis said Facebook is “looking for ways to release more research.”)

      Instead, Facebook is now reportedly planning to rebrand itself under a new name as early as this week, as the wave of critical coverage continues. (Facebook previously declined to comment on this report.) The move appears to be a clear attempt to turn the page, but a fresh coat of paint won’t fix the underlying issues outlined in the documents — only Facebook, or whatever it may soon be called, can do that.

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      Take the example of a report published by the Journal on September 16 that highlighted internal Facebook research about a violent Mexican drug cartel, known as Cartél Jalisco Nueva Generación. The cartel was said to be using the platform to post violent content and recruit new members using the acronym “CJNG,” even though it had been designated internally as one of the “Dangerous Individuals and Organizations” whose content should be removed. Facebook told the Journal at the time that it was investing in artificial intelligence to bolster its enforcement against such groups.

      Despite the Journal’s report last month, CNN last week identified disturbing content linked to the group on Instagram, including photos of guns, and photo and video posts in which people appear to have been shot or beheaded. After CNN asked Facebook about the posts, a spokesperson confirmed that multiple videos CNN flagged were removed for violating the company’s policies, and at least one post had a warning added.

      Facebook knew it was being used to incite violence in Ethiopia. It did little to stop the spread, documents show

      Haugen has suggested Facebook’s failure to fix such problems is in part because it prioritizes profit over societal good, and, in some cases, because the company lacks the capacity to put out its many fires at once.

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      “Facebook is extremely thinly staffed … and this is because there are a lot of technologists that look at what Facebook has done and their unwillingness to accept responsibility, and people just aren’t willing to work there,” Haugen said in a briefing with the “Facebook Papers” consortium last week. “So they have to make very, very, very intentional choices on what does or doesn’t get accomplished.”

      Facebook has invested a total of $13 billion since 2016 to improve the safety of its platforms, according to the company spokesperson. (By comparison, the company’s annual revenue topped $85 billion last year and its profit hit $29 billion.) The spokesperson also said Facebook has “40,000 people working on the safety and security on our platform, including 15,000 people who review content in more than 70 languages working in more than 20 locations all across the world to support our community.”

      “We have also taken down over 150 networks seeking to manipulate public debate since 2017, and they have originated in over 50 countries, with the majority coming from or focused outside of the US,” the spokesperson said. “Our track record shows that we crack down on abuse outside the US with the same intensity that we apply in the US.”

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      Still, the documents suggest that the company has much more work to do to eliminate all of the many harms outlined in the documents, and to address the unintended consequences of Facebook’s unprecedented reach and integration into our daily lives.

      An uncertain future

      In the meantime, the company appears to be quickly losing trust — not only among some of its users and regulators, but internally, as well.

      Several of the internal documents point to concerns among Facebook employees about the company’s actions, including one December 2020 post on Facebook’s internal site about attrition on the company’s integrity team in which an employee notes in a comment, “Our recent Pulse results show confidence in leadership has declined across the company.” (Pulse surveys are often used by companies to gauge employee sentiment on certain topics.)

      The internal post came after Facebook’s Civic Integrity team was broken up following the Presidential election and its staff assigned to other roles within the company, a move that Haugen criticized but that Facebook Vice President of Integrity Guy Rosen has said was done “so that the incredible work pioneered [by the team] for elections could be applied even further … their work continues to this day.”

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      And on Thursday, Facebook’s independent oversight board accused the company of not being “fully forthcoming” on the details of its Cross-Check program that reportedly shielded millions of VIP users from the social media platform’s normal content moderation rules. (A Facebook spokesperson said in a statement that the company had “asked the board for input into our Cross-Check system, and we will strive to be clearer in our explanations to them going forward.”)

      Facebook has known it has a human trafficking problem for years. It still hasn't fully fixed it

      The good news for Facebook: Haugen, and the team supporting her, aren’t aiming to shut down or break up the company. During her Senate testimony, Haugen repeatedly told lawmakers that she was there because she believes in Facebook’s potential for good, if the company is able to address its serious issues. Haugen even said she would work for Facebook again, if given the chance. She suggested that Congress give the company the chance to “declare moral bankruptcy and we can figure out how to fix these things together.”

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      “The most interesting thing I discovered as I read these documents is how extraordinary the company is,” Lawrence Lessig, a Harvard Law School professor and strategic legal adviser to Haugen, told CNN. “The company is filled with thousands of thousands of Frances Haugens … who are just trying to do their job. They are trying to make Facebook safe and useful and the best platform for communication that they can.”

        What remains to be seen is how much Facebook will change in response to the revelations from current and future whistleblowers, especially if its advertising-fueled business continues to chug along unimpeded, as it has so far. Will it agree to the kind of transparency and cooperation that Haugen, regulators and others have called for? Or will it simply continue with business as usual under a new name?

        This article is part of a CNN series published on “The Facebook Papers,” a trove of over ten thousand pages of leaked internal Facebook documents that give deep insight into the company’s internal culture, its approach to misinformation and hate speech moderation, internal research on its newsfeed algorithm, communication related to Jan. 6, and more. You can read the entire series here.

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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.


        For the latest tech news and reviews, follow Gadgets 360 on Twitter, Facebook, and Google News. For the latest videos on gadgets and tech, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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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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