Category Archives: Meta

WhatsApp Announces Chat Lock

WhatsApp posted on its blog “Chat Lock” Making your most intimate conversations even more private”. The purpose of this new feature appears to give users a more secure way to protect their intimate conversations behind one more layer of security. From the blog post:

Our passion is to find new ways to help keep your messages private and secure. Today, we’re excited to bring to you a new feature we’re calling Chat Lock, which lets you protect your most intimate conversations behind one more layer of security,

Locking a chat takes that thread out of the inbox and puts it behind its own folder that can only be accessed with your device password or biometric, like a fingerprint. It also automatically hides the content of that chat in notifications, too.

We think this feature will be great for people who have reason to share their phones from time to time with a family member of those moments where someone else is holding your phone at the exact moment an extra special chat arrives.You can lock a chat by tapping the name of a one-to-one or group and selecting the lock option. To reveal these chats, slowly pull down on your inbox and enter your phone password or biometric.

Over the next few months, we’re going to be adding more options for Chat Lock, including locking for companion devices and creating a custom password for your chats so that you can use a unique password different from the one you use for your phone.

Engadget reported that Chat Lock should allow users to keep certain conversations more private. The tool lets you lock any conversation, which it places in a specialized folder that is only accessible via biometrics, like a fingerprint or a face scan, or by entering a current password.

According to Engadget, WhatsApp says they’re busy prepping for more features for Chat Lock, like the ability to create a custom password for each chat and a tool to lock chats across multiple devices. Parent company Meta has been extraordinarily busy trying to keep WhatsApp safe and reliable, as it recently beefed up the verification system to hinder would-be scammers and added more options to deal with disappearing messages.

iPhone in Canada reported that Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg commented on Chat Lock, saying “New locked chats in WhatsApp make your conversations more private. They’re hidden in a password protected folder and notifications won’t show sender or message content.”

Chat Lock brings further privacy to conversations and is something iMessage should integrate at some point as well. There’s nothing worse than seeing some embarrassing notifications pop up from your group chats that aren’t silenced, iPhone in Canada reported. On iPhone, it is possible to lock down the opening of WhatsApp with Face ID or Touch ID, but that doesn’t stop or hide notifications from chats.

iPhone in Canada also reported: We’re not seeing WhatsApp Chat Lock in Canada yet, but if you are, let us know.

To me, it makes sense for WhatsApp to provide the kind of privacy that should be enabled for private, personal chats. This new feature makes WhatsApp one of the most secure apps for people who want to have personal chats with someone special.

Meta Introduces AI Sandbox For Advertisers

Meta, parent company of Facebook, introduced the AI Sandbox. “Today we were sharing more details about how we’re using AI to improve the performance of ads for businesses, including a look at our AI Sandbox that’s testing generative AI capabilities for advertisers, new features in our Meta Advantage suite of ad automation tools and more details on our AI infrastructure and modeling investments that underpin it all.”

The AI Sandbox will act as our testing playground for early versions of new tools and features, including generative AI-powered ad tools. Our goal is to learn what works for advertisers and make these features easy to use in our ads tools. To start, we are building tools like text variation, background generation and image outcropping to do things like make an ad’s text more engaging or improve parts of its creative, Meta wrote.

Text Variation: Generates multiple versions of text to highlight the important points of an advertiser’s copy, giving advertisers choice to try different messages for certain audiences.

Background Generation: Creates background images from text inputs, allowing advertisers to try various backgrounds more quickly and diversify their creative assets.

Image Outcropping: Adjusts creative assets to fit different aspect ratios across multiple surfaces, like Stories or Reels, allowing advertisers to spend less time and resources on repurposing creative assets.

Meta wrote: Currently, we’re working with a small group of advertisers in order to quickly gather feedback that we can use to make these products even better. In July, we will begin gradually expanding access to more advertisers with plans to add some of these features into our products later this year.

TechCrunch reported that Meta’s announcement comes after the company’s CTO Andrew Bosworth said last month that the company was looking to use generative AI tech for ads.

According to TechCrunch, Meta had positive quarterly results for Q1 2023. The company beat analyst expectations and posted year-on-year revenue growth for the first time in three quarters. Mark Zuckerberg mentioned that, while the tech giant has started working on different AI tools, it remained committed to metaverse development.

CNBC reported that, in a prepared demo, Meta showed how prompts such as “NYC street blurred” and “snow mountain blurred abstract high quality” would generate the corresponding background image behind a product. With image cropping, advertisers are able to automatically adjust images to be the correct size across Meta’s platforms. If an advertiser wants to post on Instagram’s main feed as well as Stories and Reels, for example, it will only have to adjust one image for all three.

Personally, I find most ads on social media to be annoying and obtrusive, especially if the ad has nothing to do with my interests. I’m definitely not a fan of having an AI replace an actual human artist who could do the same work with more insight, depth, and understanding of the target market.

People join social media because their friends and family are there. Nobody decides to join a social media site because they are delighted to see tons of adds that clutter up their feed and push away the content from the people they enjoy interacting with.

Meta Is Exploring Ads On Reels

Meta posted in its Newsroom information titled: “Expanding Ads on Reels”. Meta started the post with: Today, we’re updating and expanding our Ads on Reels tests so more creators can earn money of creating and sharing engaging public reels.

We’re inviting thousands more creators on Facebook to join our updated tests, including many of the creators who previously participated in our Reels Play bonus program on Facebook. And in the coming weeks, we’ll begin testing a similar program on Instagram.

We’re also evolving the program to pay creators baed on the performance of their public ad reels, not the earning of ads on their reels. This means creators can focus on creating engaging content while we optimize the ad experience for advertisers and people.

How to Earn

Payouts will be determined by the number of plays. The better a creator’s reel performs, the more they can earn. Over time, we may begin to incorporate other signals into payouts.

Many variables outside the creators’ control have traditionally influenced their ad earnings, such as how many ads have already been shown to the person viewing their content or whether there’s a relevant ad to deliver that viewer. With a performance-based model, creators can focus on the content that’s resonating with their audiences and helping them grow; advertisers get access to more ad inventory to reach more people; and people get a more consistent viewing experience with more relevant ads.

All creators onboarding to the test will automatically be added to the new payout model, and over the coming weeks creators previously testing Ads on Facebook Reels will be transitioned in. In addition, we’ll begin to test Ads on Instagram Reels with a similar performance-based payout model among a small group of creators and advertisers in select markets.

We also plan to start testing a performance-based payout model for In-Stream ads on Facebook with a small group of creators to support creators making all types of content.

TechCrunch reported that payouts for reels are determined by the number of plays, which means that the better a creators Reel performs, the more the creator can earn. Over time, Meta may look at other factors when determining payouts, the company says.

To be eligible for an invite for the program on Facebook, TechCrunch noted, creators must live in one of 52 countries and meet minimum requirements, such as being at least 18 years of age and passing Facebook’s Partner Monetization Policies and Content Monetization Policies.

Once a creator is added to the program they must complete the onboarding process, which includes accepting the terms of use and providing payout details. From there, they just need to create engaging Reels to start earning.

Engadget reported that it’s not clear just how much creators can expect to make through this new program. Meta had previously promised Reeks creators monthly bonuses up to $35,000 a month when it launched the Reels Play bonus program in 2021.

But the company reportedly slashed those payments last year, before “pausing” the program entirely in March. According to a Meta spokesperson, the ‘overarching goal’ is for creators to be able to earn consistent payouts, but these numbers “will very widely by creator.”

Based on all of this, it seems to me that those who chose to opt-into Meta’s new Reels monetization are taking a gamble. Sure, some super popular people on Facebook and Instagram will likely find that Reels is a gold mine. Not sure regular creators will see much money from Meta.

Facebook Pages Impersonating Meta Are Spreading Malware

Sketchy Facebook pages impersonating businesses are nothing new, but a flurry of recent scams is particularly brazen, TechCrunch reported.

A handful of verified Facebook pages were hacked recently and spotted slinging likely malware through ads approved by and purchased through the platform. But the accounts are easy to catch – in some cases, they were impersonating Facebook itself.

TechCrunch also reported that the compromised accounts include official-sounding pages like “Meta Ads” and “Meta Ads Manager.” Those accounts shared suspicious links to tens of thousands of followers, though their reach probably extended well beyond the paid posts.

In another instance, a hacked verified account purporting to be “Google AI” pointed users toward fake links for Bard, Google’s AI chatbot. That account previously belonged to Indian singer and actress Miss Pooja before the account name was changed on April 29. That account, which operated for at least a decade, boasted more than 7 million followers.

Meta posted on their Engineering at Meta blog information titled: “The malware threat landscape: NodeStealer, DuckTail, and more” Here is part of what the company posted:

  • We’re sharing our latest threat research and technical analysis into persistent malware campaigns targeting businesses across the internet, including threat indicators to help raise our industry’s collective defenses across the internet.
  • These malware families – including Ducktail, NodeStealer and newer malware posing as ChatGPT and other similar tools – targeted people through malicious browser extensions, ads, and various social media platforms with an aim to run unauthorized ads from compromised business accounts across the internet.
  • We’ve detected and disrupted these malware operations, include previously unreported malware families, and have already seen rapid adversarial adaptation in response to our detection, including some of them choosing to shift their initial targeting elsewhere on the internet.

“…We know that malicious groups behind malware campaigns are extremely persistent, and we fully expect them to keep trying to come up with new tactics and tooling in an effort to survive disruptions by any one platform whee they spread. That’s why our security teams tackle malware – one of the most persistent threats online – as part of our defense-in-depth approach through multiple efforts at once. 

It includes: malware analysis and targeted threat disruption, continuously improving detection systems to block malware at scale, security product updates, community support and education, threat information sharing with other companies and holding threat actors accountable in court. This helps raise the cost for these malicious groups and limits the lifecycle of any single strain of malware – forcing threat actors to continue to invest time and resources into constantly adapting to stay afloat…

Meta provided some information about Ducktail:

“…A long-running malware family known in the security community as Ducktail is a good example. For several years, we’ve tracked and blocked iterations of Ducktail originating from Vietnam that have evolved as a result of enforcements by Meta and our industry peers. Ducktail is known to target a number of platforms across the internet, including:

LinkedIn to socially engineer people into downloading malware;

Browsers like Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Brave, and Firefox to gain access to people’s information on desktop; and

File-hosting services such as Dropbox and Mega, to host malware.

Meta also provided some information about Novel NodeStealer malware:

“In late January 2023, our security team identified a new malware NodeStealer that targeted internet browsers on Windows with a goal of stealing cookies and saved usernames and passwords to ultimately compromise Facebook, Gmail, and Outlook accounts. NodeStealer is custom-written in JavaScript and bundles the Node.js environment. We assessed the malware to be of Vietnamese origin and distributed by threat actors from Vietnam…”

Regarding NodeStealer, Meta wrote: “While the file is a Windows executable file (with an exe Extension) it is disguised as a PDF file with a PDF icon. We also observed metadata on the file that attempts to disguise the file as a product of “MicrosoftOffice”. 

The best advice I can give people who are on Facebook is to put a 2FA app (two-factor authentication) on your phone. In addition, be wary of sketchy looking ads that have clickable links in them.

Meta’s Job Cuts Are Gutting Customer Service

CNBC reported that when Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram began its cost-cutting spree in late 2022 and amped it up this year, it affected Instagram influencers in negative ways.

According to CNBC, as part of the company’s two rounds of layoffs, equaling roughly 21,000 job cuts, Meta gutted wide swaths of its customer service operation, leaving influencers and businesses with nobody to contact about their accounts.

According to former Meta employees and documents filed to the U.S. Department of Labor, many of the layoffs affected staffers in client support, customer experience and communities.

CNBC spoke with influencers, small businesses and Meta account managers as well as a half-dozen contractors and former Meta employees about the deterioration in customer service at the company since the job cuts began in November. Taken together, they tell the story of a company whose quick pivot in late 2022 from rapid expansion mode to forced contraction had an outsized impact on parts of the business that don’t generate revenue.

CNBC also reported that the slashing of customer service has left Meta unable to address user issues ranging from people being locked out of their accounts to software bugs not getting fixed in Facebook Groups. It’s long been a challenge for Meta, given that Facebook and Instagram are used daily by billions of people. In August, Meta’s vice president of governance, Brent Harris, told Bloomberg News the tech giant was looking to improve its support.

In addition, CNBC notes that, according to a screenshot shared with CNBC, Facebook notified group administrators on Jan. 19 that Groups Support would no longer be available as of Jan. 23. The message with the headline “Saying goodbye to Groups Support,” didn’t provide an explanation for the change and referred administrators to various help pages and resources in case they experienced technical problems.

Also according to CNBC, Meta shares lost two-thirds of their value last year as year-over-year revenue dropped for three straight quarters. The struggling ad business coincided with Zuckerberg’s effort to pivot the company to the nascent metaverse, a futuristic proposition that’s costing billions of dollars every quarter.

Some of CNBC’s article features Instagram influencers who are being taken advantage of by nefarious people who are hoping to make money off of a popular influence’s photos. People take photos of influencers and use them to make a fake account – likely in the hopes of tricking people to send them money – because they person doesn’t know the account is not legitimate.

I don’t use Facebook, but I do have an Instagram account. It is a private one, which allows me to post my art in a place where my friends can see it. I don’t accept friend requests from strangers, in part, because there is always a chance that an artist’s work could be stolen from them.

In my opinion, this entire situation, which is causing chaos on Instagram and harming Groups on Facebook, did not need to happen. Meta should be putting in effort to prevent account stealing, but it appears the company just doesn’t care what happens to their users.

Meta Threatens To Block News Access If C-18 Bill Passes

Meta says it would end news access on its platforms for Canadians if the country passes legislation requiring companies like Meta and Alphabet parent Google to pay news outlets for linking to news articles, PCMag reported. The original source of this information appears to be Reuters (who put it behind a paywall).

According to PCMag, Meta has criticized the planned legislation, the Online News Act (Bill C-18), for compelling it to pay for content it does not post but is instead shared by its users.

C-18 is titled: “An Act respecting online communications platforms that make news content available to persons in Canada”. The sponsor of this bill is Minister of Canadian Heritage.

Here is the summary portion of the bill:

This enactment regulates digital news intermediaries to enhance fairness in the Canadian digital news marketplace and contribute to its sustainability. It establishes a framework through which digital news intermediary operators and news businesses may enter into agreements respecting news content that is made available by digital news intermediaries. The framework takes into account principles of freedom of expression and journalistic independence.

The enactment includes a long list of items – here are some of them:

  • Applies in respect of a digital news intermediary if, having regard to specific factors, there is a significant bargaining power imbalance between its operator and news businesses;
  • Requires the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission… to maintain a list of digital news intermediaries in respect of which the enactment applies;
  • Establishes a bargaining process in respect of matters related to the making available of certain news content by digital news intermediaries;
  • Requires the Commission to establish a code of conduct respecting bargaining in relation to news content;
  • Requires the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to provide the Commission with an annual report if the Corporation is a party to an agreement with an operator;
  • Authorizes the Commission to impose, for contraventions of the enactment, administrative monetary penalties on certain individuals and entities and conditions on the participation of news business in the bargaining process;
  • Establishes a mechanism for the recovery, from digital news intermediary operators, of certain costs related to the administration of the enactment;

PCMag reported that in its protests against the Canadian legislation, Meta has stressed that news content is neither the main reason people use its platforms nor does it represent a significant revenue source for the company. Meta has also criticized the legislation for not reflecting the interests of small independent media outlets that benefit from the sharing of the news content.

Speaking to Reuters, Meta spokesperson Lisa Laventure said: “A legislative framework that compels us to pay for links or content that we do not post, and which are not the reason the vast majority of people use our platforms, is neither sustainable nor workable.”

The Star reported that tech giants like Meta and Google have long fought against the proposed law known as Bill C-18, which would require digital giants such as Meta and Google to negotiate deals that would compensate Canadian media companies for linking to or otherwise repurposing their content online. 

Large Canadian media companies and the federal Liberal government have supported the bill, saying it would level the playing field for news outlets that compete with tech firms for advertising dollars. 

Several years ago, I wrote on Geek News Central that the Australian federal government asked the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to create a mandatory code of conduct that would require companies like Google and Facebook to pay media companies for news.

A few months later, Facebook rejected the proposal to share advertising revenue with Australian news organizations, saying that there would “not be significant” impacts on its business if it stopped sharing news altogether. Several months later, Facebook reversed its block on Australian users sharing news on its site after the government agreed to make amendments to the proposed bargaining laws that would force tech giants to pay news outlets for their content.

I fully expect the same shenanigans to happen as Meta and Google push back against paying news organizations for their content that is shared on Meta and/or Google’s services.

Meta Exploring Plans For Twitter Rival

Meta Platforms Inc. is exploring plans to launch a new social media app in its bid to displace Twitter as the world’s “digital town square”, Reuters reported.

“We’re exploring a standalone decentralized social network for sharing text updates. We believe there’s an opportunity for a separate space where creators and public figures can share timely updates about their interests,” a Meta spokesperson told Reuters in an emailed statement.

According to Reuters, Meta’s app will be based on a similar framework that powers Mastodon, a Twitter-like service that was launched in 2016. A Twitter-like app would allow Meta to take advantage of the current chaos at the Elon Musk-led company, where cost-cutting has been rampant.

Twitter has been struggling to hold on to its advertising base since Musk’s takeover of the platform last year. Companies have pulled back spending following Twitter’s move to restore suspended accounts and release a paid account verification that resulted in scammers impersonating firms.

TechCrunch wrote: If there is a social media phenomenon getting some kind of popularity, Meta will try to jump in. We have seen the company copy different kinds of formats ranging from Stories to short videos after seeing the success of other platforms. Now, the Mark Zuckerberg-led company is working on a decentralized text-based app.

Meta confirmed this development in a statement, but didn’t give out details about when it plans to release the app.

This new decentralized app, codenamed P92, is still under development – as first reported by MoneyControl According to documents seen by the publication, the app will let users log-in through their Instagram credentials. This could irk people who might not want to share that data with another Meta app.

According to TechCrunch, a report by Platformer said that the project will be overseen by Instagram head Adam Mosseri. The company is already involving the legal department to sniff out early privacy concerns before the app is public, the report added.

Engadget reported that P92 will carry Instagram’s branding and will let users register and log in using their Instagram credentials, according to the sources. It will populate users’ profile with their Instagram account details if they use their login on the photo-sharing app. But based on the product brief MoneyControl saw, “data sharing from Instagram to P92 will be minimal, if not one” after the initial sign up.

According to Engadget, a source told MoneyControl that the app will allow users to broadcast their posts to those on other servers, but it remains to be seen whether they will be able to follow each other, as well. If the app supports ActivityPub, though, people will likely expect it to be somewhat interoperable with Mastodon and other decentralized apps that use the protocol.

Personally, I believe that if you want something Twitter-like, you could easily join a Mastodon server that matches your interests. Most are run by a small handful of moderators who – unlike Twitter – actually do make changes in order to keep the people on their server safe from harm. I strongly prefer my Mastodon instance over the mess that Twitter has become.