Tag Archives: Meta

Use Your Meta Avatar In Video Calls On Instagram And Messenger

Meta announced that users can now use their avatars to answer and make video calls on Instagram and Messenger. The company says the new functionality will allow users to take part in video calls in instances where they’re not camera-ready. The result is an animated video call where you and your friends are looking and talking to each other, without actually seeing each other, TechCrunch reported.

The idea of real-time calls using your avatar could be a welcome addition for people who don’t want to show their faces on certain video calls, Tech Crunch noted. On the other hand, it can be seen as a somewhat odd and creepy way to communicate with friend or family member when you could just communicate via a voice call.

The new functionality is available now on both iOS and Android, TechCrunch reported.

Meta posted in its Newsroom an article titled: “Real-Time Avatar Calls For When You’re Not Camera-Ready And More” From the article:

Real-Time Calling With Avatars

We’ve all been there: A call comes in but your hair looks like a hot mess. Or you’ve just been bawling your eyes out while re-watching From Scratch for the umpteenth time (no judgement). Sometimes, we’re just not camera-ready.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were a third option between camera-off and camera-on to let you feel a little more present on the call?

Cue your Meta Avatar. For the first time, we’re giving people using Messenger and Instagram access to real-time calling with Meta Avatars. Android or iOS, we’re phone agnostic. And if you haven’t called your friends as a llama, have you really even lived?

Animated Stickers

Avatar stickers have always been a great way to liven up a conversation, but sometimes a static image just feels a little… flat. Whether you want to give someone a thumbs up, applaud a witty one-liner, or facepalm when sharing an embarrassing story, we wanted to put a little more action in those action verbs and truly bring your convos to life.

You can share animated avatar stickers in Instagram and Facebook Stories and Reels, Facebook comments, and 1:1 message threads on Messenger and Instagram. From a jaunty wave hello or a slow clap of approval to showing off your avatar’s dance moves, there are plenty of ways to put your personality on full display…

Personally, when I read that Meta is allowing people to use their avatar as their representation of who they are, it made me think about people who are very shy, or people who are trans gender, who may not feel ready to show their face to online friends. Meta’s avatars could provide people with a more comfortable call with friends.

That said, the first thing I thought of when reading about the use of an avatar for phone calls reminded me of “The Jetsons” cartoon. There’s a scene where Jane is talking to a friend via a computer screen. Her friend’s mask falls off, and the friend quickly ends the call out of embarrassment.

Meta Open Sources An AI-Powered Music Generator

Meta has released its own AI-powered music generator – and, unlike Google, open-sourced it, TechCrunch reported.

Called MusicGen, Meta’s music-generating tool, can turn a text description (e.g. “An ‘80s driving pop song with heavy drums and synth pads in the background”) into about 12 seconds of audio, give or take. MusicGen can optionally be “steered” with reference audio, like an existing song, in which case it will try to follow both the description and melody.

Meta says that MusicGen was trained on 20,000 hours of music, including 10,000 “high-quality” licensed music tracks and 390,000 instrument-only tracks from ShutterStock and Pond5, a large stock media library. The company hasn’t provided the code it used to train the model, but it has made available pre-trained models that anyone with the right hardware – chiefly a GPU with around 16GB of memory – can run.

So how does MusicGen perform? TechCrunch said – certainly not well enough to put human musicians out of a job. It’s songs are reasonably melodic, at least for basic prompts like “ambient chiptunes music.” Writer Kyle Wiggers said the music is: on par (if not slightly better) with the results from Google’s AI music generator, MusicLM. But they won’t win any awards.

According to TechCrunch, it might not be long before there’s guidance on the matter. Several lawsuits making their way through the courts will likely have a bearing on music-generating AI, including one pertaining to the rights of artists whose work is used to train AI systems without their knowledge.

Music:)ally reported that MusicGen is described as “a simple and controllable music generation LM [language model] with descriptions of the music you’d like it to create, and it whips up 12-second samples in response.”

The first question for many rights holders will be: how was this trained. That’s explained in the accompanying academic paper.

“We use 20k hours of licensed music to train MusicGen. Specifically, we rely on an internal dataset of 10k high-quality music tracks, and on the ShutterStock and Pond5 music data” – referring to the popular stock-music libraries.

Meta joins other technology companies in developing (and releasing for public consumption) AI-music models. Alphabet recently unveiled its MusicLM, trained on around 280,000 hours of material from the Free Music Archive, and made it available for people to test out.

According to music:)ally, the music AI-models developed by OpenAI, Alphabet, and now Meta are research projects rather than commercial products at this point.

They’re more likely to become the basis for startups and developers to use than they are to signify a serious move into AI music by the bigger companies.

In my opinion, all of this is fine, until one of these AI music makers creates something that sounds like a Metallica song.

Germany Required Meta To Allow Users to Opt-Out Of Tracking

Germany’s Bundeskartellamt posted information about Meta (Facebook) introducing a new accounts center. From the news:

Meta has announced plans to introduce a new accounts center. The accounts center will allow Meta’s customers for the first time to make a largely free and informed decision about whether they want to use Meta’s services separately or in combined form. Using the services in combined form would allow them to use additional functionalities such as crossposting, where a post is simultaneously published across several social media outlets, but Meta would then use the combined data for advertising purposes…

…In particular, it remains to be clarified how users can be informed as correctly and neutrally as possible about the use and data processing consequences involved in Meta’s Business Tools and plugins (e.g. Facebook Login, “Like” button) in a central location and how they can consent to or reject the use of their data in a simple way, and under which exceptional circumstances data processing across accounts can be legal even without the user’s consent (e.g. for security purposes). Unless the required consent has been free and informed, it has to be requested again…

…The Bundeskartellamt was in continues talks with Meta regarding the implementation of its decision despite pending litigation of the original decision. Meta then introduced an accounts center and reviewed its data infrastructure. The accounts center allowed users for the first time to decide for themselves whether to combine their Meta service accounts (e.g. on Facebook and Instagram), the linking of accounts allowing Meta to also use the data combined across accounts to create advertising profiles and apply personalized advertising. The Bundeskartellamt considered this first accounts center to be seriously deficient. Neither did it inform customers in a neutral way nor were all relevant pieces of information shown in a transparent and easily accessible form.

In February 2023, Meta presented a plan to implement the Bundeskartellamt’s decision following intensive talks, which included a significantly modified accounts center that was discussed in detail with Bundeskartellamt. Meta made a number of changes to the accounts center in the process, which made the overall user journey significantly more transparent and comprehensible. …The wording was also changed that could have nudged users to combine their accounts. The wording was also changed to in greater detail what is actually meant (e.g. “personal data” instead of “information”)… and the process required to separate accounts was considerably simplified…

TechCrunch reported that Meta is not taking this step to boost user choice over its tracking and profiling – even to this qualified degree – of its own volition; the development follows a lengthy battle wit hGermany’s antitrust authority over the adtech giant’s so called ‘superprofiling’ of users which the FCO views as an “exploitative abuse” of its market power as the dominant player in social media, and therefore as an antitrust abuse it can enforce against it.

Based on all of this, it seems to me that Meta is going to have a harder time gathering the data of its users. Germany appears to have forced Meta to let it’s users know that they can choose to consent to, or reject, Meta’s collection of the user’s data.

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.