Tag Archives: Meta

EU Launches Probe Into Meta Over Social Media Addiction In Children



Brussels has opened an in-depth probe into Meta over concerns it is failing to do enough to protect children from becoming addicted to social media platforms such as Instagram, Financial Times reported.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, announced on Thursday it would look into whether the Silicon Valley giant’s apps were reinforcing “rabbit hole” effects, where the users get drawn ever deeper into online feeds and topics.

EU investigators will also look into whether Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram, is complying with legal obligations to provide appropriate age-verification tools to prevent children from accessing inappropriate content. 

The probe is the second into the company under the EU’s Digital Services Act. The landmark legislation is designed to police content online, with sweeping new rules on the protection of minors. 

European Commission wrote: Today, the Commission has opened formal proceedings to assess whether Meta, the provider of Facebook and Instagram, may have breached the Digital Services Act (DSA) in areas linked to the protection of minors.

The Commission is concerned that the systems of both Facebook and Instagram, including their algorithms, may stimulate behavioural addictions in children, as well as create so-called ‘rabbit-hole effects.’ In addition, the Commission is also concerned about age-assurance and verification methods put in place by Meta.

The current proceedings address the following areas:

  • Meta’s compliance with DSA obligations on assessment and mitigation of risks caused by the design of Facebook’s and Instagram’s online interfaces, which may exploit the weaknesses and inexperience of minors and cause addictive behaviour and/or reinforce so-called ‘rabbit hole effect. Such an assessment is required to counter potential risks for the exercise of the fundamental right to the physical and mental well-being of children as well as to the respect of their rights.
  • Meta’s compliance with DSA requirements in relation to the mitigation measures to prevent access by minors to inappropriate content, notably age-verification tools used by Meta, which may not be reasonable, appropriate, proportionate and effective.
  • Meta’s compliance with DSA obligations to put in place appropriate and proportionate measures to ensure a high level of privacy, safety, and security for minors, particularly with regard to default privacy settings for minors as part of the design and functioning of their recommended systems.

The Guardian reported that a Meta spokesperson said: “We want young people to have safe, age-appropriate experiences online and have spent a decade developing more than 50 tools and policies designed to protect them. This is a challenge the whole industry is facing, and we look forward to sharing the details of our work with the European Commission.”

If the commission is not satisfied with Meta’s response, it can impose a fine equating to 6% of its global turnover. More immediately, it can carry out on-site investigations and interview company executives, with no deadline publicly fixed to complete the investigation.

In my opinion, parents with young children, who want to view Instagram, should sit down with them and act as a filter for content that is inappropriate for their kids. Clearly, Meta isn’t trying hard enough to keep children safe on their platform.


Meta Wants To Put Students And Teachers In Quest VR Headsets



If Meta has its way, students will tour faraway museums, walk among dinosaurs and view human intestines up close — all from the comfort of their classroom, using Quest, virtual reality (VR) headsets, Axios reported.

Why it matters: As educators grapple with AI and other new tech tools, a deep-pocketed push to turn VR into a classroom staple raises new questions about the future of learning — and what’s best for kids.

According to Axios, the two big companies competing VR/MR (mixed reality) headsets — Meta’s Quest and Apple’s Vision Pro – are heavy, expensive and don’t work for people with some vision impairments.

Plus, there are plenty of VR skeptics who say its much better for kids to communicate and socialize in person without headsets — particularly during school hours.

Meta’s Nick Clegg, President, Global Affairs, posted on the Meta website:

Of all the ways in which metaverse technologies like virtual, mixed, and augmented reality could prove to be transformative, the potential they have for education is one of the most exciting.

For most of us, learning is social — we learn from and with others, and from each other’s experiences. It’s about interaction and discussion as much as it is about absorbing facts. That’s why the unique feeling of presence and immersion these technologies create can be so impactful in education.

They also make things possible that are impossible in the physical world. Instead of telling students that what the dinosaurs were like, they can walk among them. Virtual science laboratories can be built and filled with equipment that most schools would never be able to afford. Classes can go on field trips to the best museums, no matter how far away they are. And they can be used to take the risk out of otherwise dangerous or expensive technical or vocational training…

…To make it easier for educators, later this year Meta will be launching a new product offering for Quest devices dedicated to education, just as last year’s Meta Quest for Business was designed for the workplace. It will allow teachers, trainers, and features, and make it possible for them to manage multiple Quest devices at once, without the need for each device in a classroom or training environment to be updated or prepared individually. This will save teachers time and allow students to pick up the headsets and get started right away — something that educators using our devices have consistently told us they want…

TechCrunch reported on Monday, the company announced in a blog post that later this year it will be launching a new education product for Quest to position its VR headset as a go-to device for teaching in classrooms. The product is yet to be named.

Business models for hardware and services also have yet to be spelled out. With nothing on the table, the company is framing it as a long-term bet.

In my opinion, the Quest devices remind me of the book “Ready Player One”, where the characters used a headset to virtually attend school. The difference is that the students will already be at school. I wonder what the cost of the Quest headsets will be, and how many schools will be able to afford them.


Meta Is Testing Messaging Capabilities For Threads



As Threads has grown to more than 130 million users, one of the major remaining “missing” features users often complain about is the lack of direct messaging abilities. But those missing out on DMs may soon have a new option to message other Threads users, Engadget reported.

Meta is starting to test messaging features that rely on Instagram’s inbox but allow new messages to be initiated from the Threads app. The feature has begun to appear for some Threads users, who report seeing a “message” button atop other users’ profiles where the “mention” feature used to be. A spokesman for Meta confirmed the change, saying the company was “testing the ability to send a message from Threads to Instagram.”

Of note, Threads still doesn’t have its own inbox, and it’s not clear if it ever will. Instagram head Adam Mosseri has said multiple times that he doesn’t want to create a separate inbox for Threads, but would rather “make the Instagram inbox work” in the app. A Meta spokesperson further confirmed that “this is not a test of the DMs on Threads.”

CNET reported that the “fediverse” is a collection of social media platforms that can talk to each other. Meta announced on March 21 that Threads would be joining the fediverse. With its more than 130 million monthly active subscribers. Threads is introducing millions of people to the fediverse.

According to CNET, the way you use your Threads account won’t change. It just means you’ll have more opportunities to share your posts more widely, particularly with another popular platform in the fediverse, Mastodon. Eagle-eyed Threads users recently spotted President Biden’s Threads account taking advantage of the new feature.

If you’re on Threads, you can now choose to opt into fediverse sharing. If you do, your Threads account and posts will be discoverable on all fediverse platforms, exposing your posts more widely. You can post on Threads, and people can like, reply, and repost on Mastodon.

Social Media Today reported this week, Meta launched a new live test of DMs on Threads, with some users seeing a new “Message” CTA button on Threads profiles.

According to Social Media Today, the Threads DM option will technically enable you to send messages to users via the app. But, that message won’t be via Threads itself. Instead, you’ll actually be sending your DM to their Instagram inbox.

It’s still a DM option within Threads, providing an advanced connection process within the app. But many will be disappointed that Threads isn’t getting its own DM inbox, which, as a replica of Twitter, would bring it more in line with Twitter’s functionality, and make it easier to use in a broader range of applications.

In my opinion, it’s good that Threads’ users can send DMs to people they know on Instagram. Unfortunately, as someone who uses Instagram (but not Threads), those messages feel like clutter.


Meta Announces Approach To Labeling AI-Generated Content



Monika Bickert, Vice President of Content Policy at Meta posted information regarding their approach to labeling AI-generated content and manipulated media. 

We are making changes to the way we handle manipulated media on Facebook, Instagram and Threads based on feedback from the Oversight Board that we should update our approach to reflect a broader range of content that exists today and provide context about the content through labels. These changes are also informed by Meta’s policy review process that included extensive public opinion surveys and consultations with academics, civil society organizations, and others.

We agree with the Oversight Board’s argument that our existing approach is too narrow since it only covers videos that are created or altered by AI to make a person appear to say something they didn’t say. Our manipulated media policy was written in 2020 when realistic AI-generated content was rare and the overarching concern was about videos. 

In the last four years, and particularly in the last year, people have developed other kinds of realistic AI-generated content like audio and photos, and this technology is quickly evolving, As the Board noted, it’s equally important to address manipulation that shows a person doing something they didn’t do.

The Board also argued that we unnecessarily risk restricting freedom of expression when we remove manipulated media that does not otherwise violate our Community Standards. It recommends a “less restrictive” approach to manipulated media like labels with context. 

In February, we announced we’ve been working with industry partners on common technical standards for identifying AI content, including video and audio. Our “Made with AI” labels on AI-generated video, audio, and image will be based on our detection of industry-shared signals of AI images or people self-disclosing that they’re uploading AI-generated content. We already add “Imagined with AI” to photorealistic images created using our Meta AI features.

TechCrunch reported Meta announced changes to its rules on AI-generated content and manipulated media, following criticism from its Oversight Board. Starting next month it said it will label a wider range of such content, including by applying a “Made with AI” badge to deepfakes (aka synthetic media). Additional contextual information may be shown when content has been manipulated in other ways that pose a high risk of deceiving the public on an important issue.

According to TechCrunch, the move could lead the social networking giant labeling more pieces of content that have the potential to be misleading — a step that could be important in a year of many elections taking place around the world. However, for deepfakes, Meta is only going to apply labels where the content in question has “industry standard AI-generated content.

AI generated content that falls outside those bounds will, presumably, escape unlabeled.

ArsTechnica reported Meta announced policy updates to stop censoring harmless AI-generated content and instead begin “labeling a wider range of audio, video, and image content as ‘Made with AI.”

Previously, Meta would only remove “videos that are created or altered by AI to make a person appear to say something they didn’t say,” The Oversight Board warned that this policy failed to address other manipulated media, including “cheap fakes,” manipulated audio, or content showing people doing things they’d never done.

In my opinion, it is a good idea for Meta to start adding “Made with AI” labels to connect that was detected as AI-generated. Doing so might reduce confusion on Meta’s sites. 


Meta Tells Small Businesses To Boost And Avoid Apple Service Charges



Meta announced “New Ways For Small Businesses To Boost And Avoid Apple Service Charges” From the announcement:

Businesses with limited resources have found tremendous value in advertising through boosted posts to find new customers and have been utilizing them for many years. In fact, nearly all boosted post users are small businesses.

To support the millions of small businesses that use boosted posts on Facebook and Instagram, advertisers can now go to instagram.com and facebook.com on mobile and desktop their content and avoid a 30% Apple service charge.

The Apple service charge is a result of updates Apple made to the App Store Review Guidelines. Starting later this month, when an advertiser uses the Facebook or Instagram iOS app to Boost a post, they will be billed through Apple, which retains a 30% service charge on the total ad payment, before any applicable taxes. This charge is retained by Apple, not Meta.

We are required to either comply with Apple’s guidelines, or remove boosted posts from our apps. We do not want to remove the ability to boost posts, as this would hurt small businesses by making the feature less discoverable and potentially deprive them of a valuable way to promote their business.

We are committed to offering businesses flexible and convenient options to help them navigate this change and maximize the results of their ad spend. As parts of our efforts to do this, we have invested in alternative ways to boost posts.

Specifically, advertisers can access facebook.com and instagram.com on both desktop computers or a mobile web browser to boost their content. When doing this, they will have the same features as boosting posts from the iOS apps, except now they will avoid the Apple service charge…

MacRumors reported that in response to Meta’s announcement, Apple said App Store apps have always been required to use its in-app purchase system for the sale of digital goods and services.

“We have always required that purchases of digital goods and services within apps must use In-App Purchase,” said Apple, in a statement shared with MacRumors today. “Boosting, which allows an individual or organization to pay to increase the reach of a post or profile, is a digital service — so of course, In-App Purchase is required. This has always been the case and there are many examples of apps that do it successfully.”

As part of its response, Apple said that it has indeed given Meta ample opportunity to comply with the App Store Review Guidelines in October 2022. That grace period is clearly ended now.

The Verge reported that Meta is one of many companies that waged criticism against Apple and it’s new policies in recent months. After introducing a 27 percent tax on alternative payment methods in the US, Apple also announced plans to start allowing developers in the European Union to have their apps exist on alternative app stores, as long as they pay a brand-new “Core Technology Fee.”

Overall, I feel like this is a fight between Meta and Apple. Their spat isn’t going to affect people who casually use Facebook or Instagram. That said, it might cause some problems for Meta if advertisers flee.


Tech Layoffs Balloon in January As Wall Street Rally Lifts Tech Companies



The S&P 500 is trading at a record and the Nasdaq is at its highest in two years, CNBC reported. Alphabet shares reached a new pinnacle on Thursday, as did Meta and Microsoft, which ran past $3 trillion in market cap. 

While Wall Street cheers on Silicon Valley, tech companies are downsizing at an accelerating clip So far in January, some 23,670 workers have been laid off from 85 tech companies, according to the website Layoffs.fyi.  That’s the most since March, when almost 38,000 people in the industry were shown the exits.

According to CNBC, activity picked up this week with SAP announcing job changes or layoffs for 8,000 employees and Microsoft cutting 1,900 positions in its gaming division. Additionally, high-valued fintech startup Bret laid off 20% of its staff and eBay slashed 1,000 jobs, or 9% of its full-time workforce. 

Earlier in the month, Google confirmed that it cut several hundred jobs across the company, and Amazon has eliminated hundreds of positions spanning its Prime Video and MGM Studios, Twitch and Audible divisions. Unity, said it’s cutting about 25% of its staff, and Discord, which offers a popular messaging service used by gamers, is shedding 17% of its workforce.

CNBC also reported that the swarm of activity comes ahead of barrage of tech earnings next week, when Alphabet, Amazon, Apple, Meta and Microsoft are all scheduled to report quarterly results. Investors lauded the cost-cutting measures that companies put in place last year in response to rising inflation, interest rates hikes, recession concerns and a brutal market downturn in 2022. Even with an improving economic outlook, the thriftiness continues.

International Business Times reported that the industry’s pursuit for efficiency and cost-cutting measures is thoroughly connected to tech industry riding into artificial intelligence (AI) wave. 

Meta’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, said 2023 was the “year of efficiency,” with a stock surge alongside 20,000 job cuts. The increasing demand for AI technologies has led some companies to strategically scale down headcount in non-profitable areas and relocate resources toward AI development.

According to International Business Times, tech execs are strategically crafting their downsizing messages emphasizing the need for focus and efficiency. Microsoft Gaming CEO Phil Spencer described the layoffs part of a larger “execution plan,” while Alphabet’s CEO Sundar Pichai focused on the importance of making tough decisions for meeting the ambitious goals. Amazon’s Audible CEO, Bob Carrigan, emphasized the necessity of becoming “leaner and more efficient”.

In my opinion, it is never a good idea to suddenly lay off employees with absolutely no warning.  Choosing to do layoffs of real humans, in favor of adding more artificial intelligence to take over their jobs, is a terrible decision. The “robots” should not be allowed to replace the livelihood of humans.

 


Meta’s Threads Launches In Europe



Meta Platforms rolled out Threads in Europe, months after the Facebook and Instagram parent launched the microblogging app in the U.S. The Wall Street Journal reported.

Meta Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch Thursday on Threads, writing that “we’re opening Threads to more countries in Europe.”

Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that Meta planned to launch Threads in Europe in December in its largest market expansion since its debut in July.

Upon its initial launch, Threads became available to most markets worldwide, but Meta had withheld launching in the European Union because of the bloc’s regulations for online services, which are among the toughest in the world.

Users in the EU can choose to create a Threads profile connected to their Instagram account, or use it without a profile to search accounts, browse and share content via link copying or platform sharing, but without the ability to create a post or interact with other content, Meta said in a statement.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Threads’ market expansion comes after several advertisers paused their ad spending on Elon Musk’s X, formerly known as Twitter, after he made controversial comments from his account.

Meta posted an update about Threads on December 14, 2023:

Today, Mark Zuckerberg announced that we are expanding Threads to countries across Europe. We’re excited to give more people the opportunity to follow and join the conversations they care about. Since launching Threads in July, we’ve made significant improvements to the app, including a web experience, a Following Feed, the ability to edit a post, search with keywords, tag topics and more.

People in the EU can choose to create a Threads profile that is connected to their Instagram account – which means they get the same experience as everyone else around the world – or use Threads without a profile. People who use Threads without a profile can browse content on Threads, search for accounts, share content via link copying or platform sharing, and report Threads content, but can’t create a post or interact with content.

We are excited to see more people using Threads and will continue to listen to community feedback to further improve the experience for everyone.

The Guardian reported that before launching Threads in the EU, Meta first needed to seek approval from the European Commission over the app’s privacy provisions. Many speculated the delay was due to the EU Digital Markets Act, which addressed a variety of big tech antitrust and privacy concerns – including sharing content across platforms.

Meta did not specifically site the act as the reason for the delay, but the Instagram executive Adam Mosseri said: “The complexities without complying with some of the laws coming into effect next year are significant.”

I don’t use Threads, but I can see the benefit of it for people who have chosen that social media platform. In my opinion, (almost) any social media site is better than what’s going on at X, formerly known as Twitter.