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Leaving Facebook? Easier said than done

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But the 36-year-old communications professional in Ann Arbor, Mich., realized some of her photos were only stored on Facebook, so she periodically “would reactivate to like, find a funny picture of a friend on their birthday or something like that, and then I would immediately deactivate my account,” she says. “I did not want to get sucked back in.”

It happened in 2019, when Wanamaker had a baby, and was up, alone, for late-night feedings.

“I was so bored. I felt like I had reached the end of the Internet,” she says. “I’d read all the books I wanted to read. I would watch, oh my God, I watched so many shows on HGTV.”

And when there was nothing left to watch, the siren call of former classmates and past co-workers and so-and-so from that one conference five years ago proved too irresistible to ignore.

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“I’m just going to look around for a couple hours to see what’s going on, and see what’s on this dystopian hellscape,” is what she told herself. Sure, Beth. A couple hours turned into days, which turned into joining a Facebook group for local moms, and then an active Buy Nothing group, which turned into still being here, 2½ years later, even though she disapproves of pretty much everything the company has done recently.

Which is a long list. Here’s a quick summary from the Facebook Papers, a trove of leaked documents: The platform fomented the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, fueled covid misinformation, prioritized “angry” emoji reactions to circulate provocative and violent content in users’ feeds, fueled hate speech and violence in India, and chose growth over safety. Internal research found that its sister platform, Instagram, makes body image issues worse for 1 in 3 teen girls. And then there was the Cambridge Analytica scandal from the 2016 election, the antitrust lawsuit last year, a 2019 data breach, and the PTSD its content moderators developed after reviewing horrific images every day. Now the company has changed its name to Meta, keeping the original name for the website, moving on with its plans for what sounds a lot like total brain domination.

The takeaway from all of this? Facebook is bad! Nevertheless, more than 2 billion of us are still there — some reluctantly, some enthusiastically. Because even though the platform is a cesspool of toxicity, there are reasons to stay. Maybe it’s the only way you keep in touch with your aunt. Or find out what’s happening in your hometown. Or catch up with gossip from your high school friends. That’s Facebook’s trap: The emotional connections are inextricable from the algorithm that keeps us clicking against our own best interests.

“I kind of hate Facebook, but also can’t cut ties,” says Abbie Grotke, 54, of Silver Spring, Md. She’s still here because it’s the easiest way to keep in touch with family living abroad, and certain friends.

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“We don’t talk all that regularly. So like, cousins and things like that, some photos and then lighthearted news,” she says. “I would probably just email them. But it’s also — they’re all there.”

We’re all there, which is why it’s hard to leave.

Kathy Delgado, 55, is a Los Angeles importer of French antiques. Though she describes Facebook as “a very toxic place,” many customers buy things through her Facebook and Instagram business pages.

“I made three sales this morning,” she says. “If you don’t respond in a timely fashion, people spend their money elsewhere.”

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Tori Matejovsky, 40, of Wolf Point, Mont., says Facebook is “not even fun anymore,” but she’s trapped, because “That’s where everything is,” including critical information about her children’s schools, like weather closings. “They might send out a text, but they put it on Facebook first.”

Those are practical concerns. But what about the emotional ones? The love/hate for Facebook runs deep among millennials of a certain age, who joined the platform in the mid-aughts and have chronicled their lives there ever since. They can’t quite bear to part with an archive of their burgeoning adult years: from keggers to graduation to first job announcements to big “relationship status” updates. It’s like a digital scrapbook — one that now happens to be mixed up with people’s furious political rants and cringey “Minions” memes.

“I just wanted the college [email], the dot edu, so I could have a Facebook,” says Laura Lape, 33, of Fort Worth, Tex. “I remember getting my acceptance letter while I was a senior in high school and then going to the computer lab at my high school to set up an account.” She friended upperclassmen at random. She updated her status when Facebook still prompted people to do so in the third person. She never thought that 15 years later, she’d find the site “sketchy.”

Hence, the recent spate of “I quit” announcements that have been flitting across people’s news feeds. (“This is not an airport, you don’t have to announce departures,” is inevitably someone’s reply.)

Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) issued a news release last week that he will “deactivate his Facebook and Instagram accounts until both its parent company and Congress make substantial reforms that protect our children, health and democratic values.” (The release notes that constituents can reach out to him via Twitter, phone, email, snail mail and, helpfully, fax.)

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Jaden Perkins, 21, of Omaha, posted on Aug. 13 that he was leaving Facebook, where he had been active since the eighth grade.

“I am making the conscious decision to permanently delete my Facebook account as I see very little benefit of using this platform any longer,” he wrote. Two months later, he was back, with a post that began “LIFE UPDATE!!!!!” He was starting a political podcast.

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“Even though I’ve been trying to grow that audience on other platforms, Facebook is my largest audience,” he told The Post.

Or you could post that you’re leaving, and give everyone multiple ways to contact you, and hear . . . crickets.

“I made a post on Facebook saying, ‘I’m done,’ ” says Shadrach Stanleigh, 55, of New York, who gave friends a grace period, and alternate contact info. “No one has reached out to me through any other means.”

He’s not asking for pity. Rather, Stanleigh thinks it’s an example of how Facebook has made us all lazy communicators: “Maybe people just get so conditioned to it when they can just send a direct message in lieu of a phone call or an email,” he says.

That’s also why the tech accountability group Kairos is easing people into its Facebook Logout campaign, which encourages users to log out Nov. 10-13. The goal isn’t to get people to leave Facebook permanently, says Mariana Ruiz Firmat, executive director at Kairos and a Facebook user. It’s “to get Facebook to change its policies and practices so that it is protecting users’ privacy.”

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“It’s not a light ask to ask people to log out or even think about logging out because we have a lot on these platforms,” says Jelani Drew-Davi, Kairos’s campaigns director. The campaign has helped people prepare practically — by showing them the steps to log out, something many people have never actually done before — and emotionally.

“Is it someone’s birthday during that time? Do you want to send them a card instead of writing on their wall? Or do you have something that you need to pick up from your no-buy swap group? Like, maybe do that before the log out,” says Drew-Davi.

Or you could just quit and overcome the FOMO. Jamie Mangrum, 35, of Largo, Md., used to be a self-described “avid user.” Her relationship with the platform became unhealthy, she says, when she found herself “seeing that what other people were doing was kind of like, a commodity for me,” and comparing herself to her peers constantly. So she quit. Ten years ago. And hasn’t looked back.

Yes, she’s missed more than a few invitations to parties that were organized on Facebook. And it made her sad, she says, to think about people she might never see or hear of again. People she might forget, and who might forget her. The little updates on loved ones’ lives she would miss.

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“I had to be okay with that for my own peace of mind,” says Mangrum. “I knew that if I was intended to know that information, if I was intended to understand it, it would have come to me.”

That’s Lape’s logoff fear: being forgotten. The Texas mom’s posts on Facebook are basic family updates.

“It’s just kind of a reminder,” she says. “Hi, it’s us, we’re alive. We have kids. They’re doing great. Don’t forget about us.”

If a Facebook news feed is a collection of all of the people in our lives, there’s a certain comfort in knowing how those people are doing. How else will you know when your high school chem lab partner has a third kid? Or that your former hairdresser has become an “energy healer?” Or that your neighbor just took a lovely trip to Greece? Having a Facebook-only relationship doesn’t preclude you from getting a fuzzy feeling when you see that someone’s kid learned how to walk, or sparing a thought for them when you see that their grandpa died. Even if all you did was click that huggy-heart reaction button.

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Yes, we lived many decades without knowing quite so many things about so many people, and that was fine, and we were fine. And some people would be happy to return to the blissful days of not having to waste any brainspace on the relationship status of your sophomore roommate’s friend who came to your Halloween party once. But for others — maybe the more sentimental among us — going back to that ignorance feels like a loss.

“Maybe that’s a little bit of what ties me to it, is just a bit of my own personal history, and all the people I’ve met along the way that I may not remember their names or have much direct contact with them,” says Lynda Laughlin, 44, of D.C. They remind her of who she used to be, and how far she’s come.

It makes real-life interactions easier, too. When Delgado’s father died, she posted about it on Facebook as an efficient way to not have the same sad conversation several dozen times.

“When someone says, ‘What’s going on? You don’t want to jolt someone on the spot by saying, ‘Oh, my dad just died,’ you know?” Acquaintances who saw it online offered their in-person condolences. “I found it all extremely comforting,” she says, and not just when she was grieving. “Even with the birthdays, to have people all reach out.”

Is one day of birthday wishes worth 364 other days of bad takes and antivax posts and political disinformation? A few hours after she spoke with a reporter, Wanamaker wrote back with a status update: “So I just deactivated my Facebook again.”

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Godspeed, Beth. Maintain your resolve. See you again, in a few months, or years.

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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.

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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:

Something Went Wrong

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We’re having trouble playing this video.

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.

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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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