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The Facebook Papers reveal the limits of regulation. It’s time to think bigger – Politico




Mark Scott is chief technology correspondent at POLITICO.

If the revelations from the so-called Facebook Papers showed us anything, it’s that new rules for policing what’s posted online are needed. And fast.

The bad news: That’s not going to happen — at least not in ways that will make a real difference.

Even before the inside look into Facebook’s handling of online content, first reported by the Wall Street Journal and then by multiple media outlets, including POLITICO, policymakers in the European Union, United States and elsewhere were putting together proposals to force global platforms to be more accountable for what people posted online content, including potentially hefty fines when things inevitably go wrong.

But as lawmakers battle it out over the EU’s Digital Services Act, the United Kingdom’s Online Safety Bill and the U.S.’ stumbling efforts to revamp its own law, known as Section 230 of the U.S. Communications Decency Act, none of this legislation will tackle the underlying issues laid bare by what has been revealed about Facebook’s oversight of online content.

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What the internal research, emails and insights show is a complex web of interconnected levers, which — taken together — have created arguably one of the most profitable businesses the world has ever seen, and built an online behemoth that shapes how almost all of us live.

As I waded through these internal documents, what struck me was how all-encompassing Facebook is. Engineers routinely tweaked content algorithms to prioritize some content over others. California-based executives regularly made choices that affected people in far-flung locations in almost real time. What the tech giant knows about people’s daily digital habits — based on minute-by-minute monitoring of everyone’s online interactions — would make George Orwell’s “1984” look like a children’s bedtime story.

The documents show that lawmakers are still not thinking big enough.

So far, the legislative proposals focus too narrowly on taking small bites at a much bigger problem. They would force social media companies to open up their data to outside researchers; limit how some political ads can target would-be supporters online; and demand companies make public their plans for tackling existential risks like when elected political leaders peddle misinformation and hate speech on their platforms.

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But it’s not enough to legislate on parts of what social media companies do. Until lawmakers take a step back and think more broadly about the rules overseeing online content — and its links to other digital priorities like privacy and competition — the abuses outlined from the internal documents are unlikely to go away.

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For its part, Facebook has defended its oversight of online content, saying it has spent billions of euros, hired tens of thousands of content moderators and changed its algorithms to tamper down hate speech, misinformation and divisive political material and protect its 2.4 billion users worldwide.

What content to police?

So where have things gone wrong? Let’s start with arguably the most far-reaching online content rules — the EU’s Digital Services Act.

These proposals tick a lot of boxes.

Under plans expected to become law sometime next year, Facebook and others will be required to conduct regular risk assessments on potential problematic hotspots on their platforms, and hire independent auditors to make sure they’re not cheating. Some outside groups will have (limited) access to internal social media data to analyze what’s going on, while the bloc’s regulators will be able to fine firms up to 6 percent of their annual revenue, amounting to billions of euros, if they don’t comply with the rules. So far, so good.

But where this legislation falls is that it narrowly focuses on illegal content. Other material, including suspect social media posts that nudge up to the line of illegality, but never cross it, remain out of scope.

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What internal Facebook documents show is that such “harmful non-violating narratives,” to borrow from the company’s own language, have repeatedly played a significant role in fomenting division and, in some cases, offline violence.

In the days around the January 6 Capitol Hill riots, for instance, the tech giant’s engineers didn’t take action against posts that questioned the legitimacy of last year’s U.S. presidential election, even as such material was being used to promote political attacks in Washington. Another example: content that verged on anti-vaccine misinformation, now banned on the platform, was also not subject to review, despite that content fomenting online conspiracy theories around COVID-19.

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European lawmakers said they had to draw the line somewhere, and expanding the scope of the bloc’s proposed content rules to include harmful, but not illegal, material would have proved unwieldy. But this gap in the legislation — one that will allow reams of problematic content to remain online and off-limits to regulators — is a major blind spot in Europe’s push to police social media

Political ads, politicians and the media

In London, the country’s lawmakers want to solve that problem by regulating harmful online content, even if it is legal.

Under the U.K.’s Online Safety Bill, which is expected to voted on before the end of the year, social media companies will have a so-called duty of care to protect users from such problematic content — even if it doesn’t break the country’s existing hate speech laws. Fines totaling 10 percent of annual revenue could be levied for noncompliance, while social media companies’ executives could even be sent to prison if the worst-offending material is ignored.

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But, again, London’s plans are flawed too.

Negotiations are still underway. But the proposals currently exempt online political ads, as well as posts from politicians and publishers, from any form of content moderation.

Facebook’s internal documents revealed that paid-for partisan messages played a significant role in promoting divisive, nonpaid content across the platform. Elected officials and media organizations (some of which have been created by political groups to push their own agenda) also had a hand in fomenting distrust — and the problem went well beyond former U.S. President Donald Trump.

Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower, said these limits could undermine the U.K.’s upcoming content rules by failing to confront what was really going on within Facebook.

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“I am extremely concerned about paid-for advertising being excluded because engagement-based ranking impacts ads as much as it impacts organic content,” she told U.K. lawmakers on October 25. “It is cheaper, substantially, to run an angry hateful divisive ad than it is to run a compassionate, empathetic ad.”

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Et tu, Washington?

Across the Atlantic, content moderation legislation continues to move at a glacial pace, even as Haugen meets with U.S. lawmakers also wading through Facebook’s internal documents looking for answers.

New rules aren’t likely anytime soon. But even the proposed bills — most of which would make social media companies more liable for what’s posted online and force greater transparency over how decisions are made in Silicon Valley — fail to tackle how these firms’ algorithms often push harmful, viral content over more staid material. Other bills specifically looking at monitoring such algorithms face little, if any, chance of becoming law.

No plans to regulate, or even monitor, such systems are expected to pass in Washington for the foreseeable future.

Internal Facebook documents, from 2018 and 2019, respectively, highlighted how Facebook’s automated systems prioritized negative content because it was more likely to go viral — and therefore keep people on the social network. No likely law in the U.S. would deal with this underlying issue.

Until Western policymakers start thinking bigger, these fundamental flaws with existing online content proposals will not be fixed — and still leave people mostly unprotected from the dangers that the Facebook Papers have made painfully clear.

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This article is part of POLITICO’s premium Tech policy coverage: Pro Technology. Our expert journalism and suite of policy intelligence tools allow you to seamlessly search, track and understand the developments and stakeholders shaping EU Tech policy and driving decisions impacting your industry. Email [email protected] with the code ‘TECH’ for a complimentary trial.

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Enabling developers to create innovative AIs on Messenger and WhatsApp





Every week over 1 billion people connect with businesses on our messaging apps. Many of these conversations are made possible by the thousands of developers who build innovative and engaging experiences on Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.

Since opening access to our Llama family of large language models, we’ve seen lots of momentum and innovation with more than 30 million downloads to date. As our messaging services continue to evolve, we believe the technology from Llama and other generative AI models have the potential to enhance business messaging through more natural, conversational experiences.

At Connect Meta announced that developers will be able to build third-party AIs – a term we use to refer to our generative AI-powered assistants – for our messaging services.

We’re making it easy for any developer to get started, so we’re simplifying the developer onboarding process and providing access to APIs for AIs that make it possible to build new conversational experiences within our messaging apps.

All developers will be able to access the new onboarding experience and features on Messenger in the coming weeks. For WhatsApp, we’ll be opening a Beta program in November – if you’re interested in participating please sign up to the waitlist here to learn more.

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We’ll keep everyone updated as we make these tools available to more developers later this year. We look forward to your feedback and seeing what you create.

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Introducing Facebook Graph API v18.0 and Marketing API v18.0





Today, we are releasing Facebook Graph API v18.0 and Marketing API v18.0. As part of this release, we are highlighting changes below that we believe are relevant to parts of our developer community. These changes include announcements, product updates, and notifications on deprecations that we believe are relevant to your application(s)’ integration with our platform.

For a complete list of all changes and their details, please visit our changelog.

General Updates

Consolidation of Audience Location Status Options for Location Targeting

As previously announced in May 2023, we have consolidated Audience Location Status to our current default option of “People living in or recently in this location” when choosing the type of audience to reach within their Location Targeting selections. This update reflects a consolidation of other previously available options and removal of our “People traveling in this location” option.

We are making this change as part of our ongoing efforts to deliver more value to businesses, simplify our ads system, and streamline our targeting options in order to increase performance efficiency and remove options that have low usage.

This update will apply to new or duplicated campaigns. Existing campaigns created prior to launch will not be entered in this new experience unless they are in draft mode or duplicated.

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Add “add_security_recommendation” and “code_expiration_minutes” to WA Message Templates API

Earlier this year, we released WhatsApp’s authentication solution which enabled creating and sending authentication templates with native buttons and preset authentication messages. With the release of Graph API v18, we’re making improvements to the retrieval of authentication templates, making the end-to-end authentication template process easier for BSPs and businesses.

With Graph API v18, BSPs and businesses can have better visibility into preset authentication message template content after creation. Specifically, payloads will return preset content configuration options, in addition to the text used by WhatsApp. This improvement can enable BSPs and businesses to build “edit” UIs for authentication templates that can be constructed on top of the API.

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Note that errors may occur when upgrading to Graph API v18 if BSPs or businesses are taking the entire response from the GET request and providing it back to the POST request to update templates. To resolve, the body/header/footer text fields should be dropped before passing back into the API.

Re-launching dev docs and changelogs for creating Call Ads

  • Facebook Reels Placement for Call Ads

    Meta is releasing the ability to deliver Call Ads through the Facebook Reels platform. Call ads allow users to call businesses in the moment of consideration when they view an ad, and help businesses drive more complex discussions with interested users. This is an opportunity for businesses to advertise with call ads based on peoples’ real-time behavior on Facebook. Under the Ad set Level within Ads Manager, businesses can choose to add “Facebook Reels” Under the Placements section.
  • Re-Launching Call Ads via API

    On September 12, 2023, we’re providing updated guidance on how to create Call Ads via the API. We are introducing documentation solely for Call Ads, so that 3P developers can more easily create Call Ads’ campaigns and know how to view insights about their ongoing call ad campaigns, including call-related metrics. In the future, we also plan to support Call Add-ons via our API platform. Developers should have access to the general permissions necessary to create general ads in order to create Call Ads via the API platform.

    Please refer to developer documentation for additional information.

Deprecations & Breaking Changes

Graph API changes for user granular permission feature

We are updating two graph API endpoints for WhatsAppBusinessAccount. These endpoints are as follows:

  • Retrieve message templates associated with WhatsAppBusiness Account
  • Retrieve phone numbers associated with WhatsAppBusiness Account

With v18, we are rolling out a new feature “user granular permission”. All existing users who are already added to WhatsAppBusinessAccount will be backfilled and will continue to have access (no impact).

The admin has the flexibility to change these permissions. If the admin changes the permission and removes access to view message templates or phone numbers for one of their users, that specific user will start getting an error message saying you do not have permission to view message templates or phone numbers on all versions v18 and older.

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Deprecate legacy metrics naming for IG Media and User Insights

Starting on September 12, Instagram will remove duplicative and legacy, insights metrics from the Instagram Graph API in order to share a single source of metrics to our developers.

This new upgrade reduces any confusion as well as increases the reliability and quality of our reporting.

After 90 days of this launch (i.e. December 11, 2023), we will remove all these duplicative and legacy insights metrics from the Instagram Graph API on all versions in order to be more consistent with the Instagram app.

We appreciate all the feedback that we’ve received from our developer community, and look forward to continuing to work together.

Please review the media insights and user insights developer documentation to learn more.

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Deprecate all Facebook Wi-Fi v1 and Facebook Wi-Fi v2 endpoints

Facebook Wi-Fi was designed to improve the experience of connecting to Wi-Fi hotspots at businesses. It allowed a merchant’s customers to get free Wi-Fi simply by checking in on Facebook. It also allowed merchants to control who could use their Wi-Fi and for how long, and integrated with ads to enable targeting to customers who had used the merchant’s Wi-Fi. This product was deprecated on June 12, 2023. As the partner notice period has ended, all endpoints used by Facebook Wi-Fi v1 and Facebook Wi-Fi v2 have been deprecated and removed.

API Version Deprecations:

As part of Facebook’s versioning schedule for Graph API and Marketing API, please note the upcoming deprecations:

Graph API

  • September 14, 2023: Graph API v11.0 will be deprecated and removed from the platform
  • February 8, 2024: Graph API v12.0 will be deprecated and removed from the platform
  • May 28, 2024: Graph API v13.0 will be deprecated and removed from the platform

Marketing API

  • September 20, 2023: Marketing API v14.0 will be deprecated and removed from the platform
  • September 20, 2023: Marketing API v15.0 will be deprecated and removed from the platform
  • February 06, 2024: Marketing API v16.0 will be deprecated and removed from the platform

To avoid disruption to your business, we recommend migrating all calls to the latest API version that launched today.

Facebook Platform SDK

As part of our 2-year deprecation schedule for Platform SDKs, please note the upcoming deprecations and sunsets:

  • October 2023: Facebook Platform SDK v11.0 or below will be sunset
  • February 2024: Facebook Platform SDK v12.0 or below will be sunset

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Allowing Users to Promote Stories as Ads (via Marketing API)





Before today (August 28, 2023), advertisers could not promote images and/or videos used in Instagram Stories as ads via the Instagram Marketing API. This process created unwanted friction for our partners and their customers.

After consistently hearing about this pain point from our developer community, we have removed this unwanted friction for advertisers and now allow users to seamlessly promote their image and/or video media used in Instagram Stories as ads via the Instagram Marketing API as of August 28, 2023.

We appreciate all the feedback received from our developer community, and hope to continue improving your experience.

Please review the developer documentation to learn more.

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