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Nothing to ‘like’ about Facebook’s impact on Asian democracy – Nikkei Asia

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William Pesek is an award-winning Tokyo-based journalist and author of “Japanization: What the World Can Learn from Japan’s Lost Decades.”

If you think Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is having a terrible October, spare a thought for Rodrigo Duterte and Narendra Modi.

The corporate nation-state Zuckerberg founded in a Harvard dorm room 17 years ago is essentially the internet homepage in the Philippines and India.

It has also morphed into the fuel enabling Philippine President Duterte and Indian Prime Minister Modi to drag backward two of Asia’s most promising economies. Both revel in how the social media Godzilla helps them silence opposing voices and deaden democratic institutions.

Thanks to a flurry of whistleblowers and news reports, we are learning the extent to which Facebook’s algorithms do what billions of dollars of television advertising and stump speeches cannot: prioritize whatever message Duterte and Modi want, true or not, and bury what they prefer voters not to know under a blizzard of “likes,” “shares” and misleading content that fattens Zuckerberg’s wallet.

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Do not take my word for it, take Maria Ressa’s. The brave founder of news portal Rappler recently won a Nobel Peace Prize, an honor shared with Russia’s Dmitry Muratov.

This well-deserved honor was a brilliant checkmate by the Nobel Committee. By championing journalists speaking truth to power in Manila and Moscow, officials in Oslo expertly trolled not only Duterte and Vladimir Putin, but Modi, Donald Trump and Zuckerberg himself.

The prize embarrassed Duterte and Russian leader Putin. It further ruined former U.S. President Trump’s year. Not just because Trump had, weirdly, been arguing that he deserved the honor. The Nobel crowd called out Duterte, Putin and, by extension, Modi and Trump on the dangerous “fake news” mantra that gives these men common cause.

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Zuckerberg, too. Few thought leaders have done more to expose Facebook’s spin about connecting the world than Nobel laureate Ressa. Facebook, she argues, is “biased against facts.” At a “dark time” in the Philippines, she told Reuters, its algorithms “prioritize the spread of lies laced with anger and hate over facts.”

Facebook is the rocket fuel Trumpism used to foment the Jan. 6 riots on Capitol Hill. It is the vessel Trumpism uses to join forces with, and support, strongmen like Duterte and Modi.

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Again, do not take my word for it. This week, The New York Times and other news outlets detailed that, far from policing an avalanche of disinformation, hate speech and inflammatory content, Facebook plays right into Modi’s hands in the company’s biggest market.

Facebook, it seems painfully clear, is too busy shoveling advertising profits into shareholders’ pockets to notice how Team Zuckerberg is helping Modi drag India back toward 2004.

That year is worth considering because it is not just when Facebook went live. It is when voters last tossed Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party from power. At the time, the BJP glorified itself with an “India Shining” campaign glossing over the inequality, corruption and dysfunction stymieing the economy. Too bad for then-Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee that he did not have Facebook to bluster and blur his way to another term.

Ten years later, Mori returned the BJP to power by, in part, harnessing Facebook’s growing reach in the second most populous nation. In 2019, Modi fans gamed Zuckerberg’s algorithms to win another term extolling his Hindu nationalism and consigning India’s troubles to the bottom of Facebook feeds.

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There are many common threads pulling the Philippines and India together: the Trumpian assault on truth and reality; the casual political violence; craven efforts to spin poor COVID-19 responses; the false narrative that Duterte and Modi are once-in-many-generations reformers deserving of rabid praise.

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Few economies in Asia, though, present public faces more at glaring odds with the underlying reality.

Manila’s standing in global corruption rankings has tanked on Duterte’s watch. His bloody assault on the drug trade put the Philippines in the worst human-rights spotlight since the bad-old Ferdinand Marcos days. And yet, polls show Duterte still enjoys reasonably high approval ratings.


Rodrigo Duterte still enjoys reasonably high approval ratings.

The Facebook effect also lets Modi create a new India Shining narrative. This time, turbocharged by powerful algorithms banishing all those who dare to question him as “haters.” In 2020 alone, New Delhi’s ranking on Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index plunged six places to 86th from 80th. In 2014, when Modi first took power, India was 85th.

Seven-plus years ago, Modi talked big about morphing Asia’s No. 3 economy into Silicon Valley East. “Digital India,” was it? Yet recent events make you wonder if Modinomics is more focused on building the next China. It includes billionaire cronies growing richer while average Indians have to scroll through Facebook to learn how well Modi wants them to think they are doing.

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That Modi is obscuring the truth with the full help of Facebook is disturbing, but not surprising. He enjoys ginormous followings on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter which are amplified exponentially by loyal armies of online fans. Suffice to say, I cringe at the thought of what the Modiverse will heap my way for writing this column. Ditto for Duterte’s “social media army” sure to pounce.

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There is nothing to like about Facebook’s cyber dominance over the direction of political and economic discourse throughout developing Asia. It is high time governments took aim at this virtual Godzilla trampling progress.

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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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