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02.24.17 | 6:00 am

Facebook Reactions: the first year in stats

One year ago today, Facebook responded to one of the biggest requests among users by letting them respond to posts with a wider gamut of reactions than the classic—but often insufficent—Like. Now the company is celebrating the first anniversary of these more expressive Facebook Reactions by sharing some factoids:

• Users have shared 300 billion Reactions so far, or more than 800 million a day.

• The Love Reaction is most popular, beating out ones that express laughter, surprise, anger, and sadness.

• Users shared the most Reactions on Christmas 2016 (with Love being the top one that day).

• The countries where Reactions are most popular include Mexico, Chile, Suriname, Greece, and Paraguay (the U.S. is #7).

02.22.17 | 5:25 am

Facebook is funding the conservative activist conference CPAC

The company's contribution to CPAC this year is "worth more than $120,000," according to the Daily Beast. Half of that sum is reportedly a cash gift, while the rest is in-kind support for CPAC operations. President Trump, Breitbart News executive chair Steve Bannon, and NRA president Wayne LaPierre will all feature at this year's CPAC.

02.21.17 | 9:21 am

”Like” farms are still a big problem for Facebook

A recent Facebook dustup is serving as a fresh reminder of the social network's longstanding battle against "like" farming—which is basically when scammers post outrageous or attention-getting content for the express purpose of collecting likes and shares for profit. In the latest case in point, a U.K. mother discovered scammers using a photo of her child covered in chicken pox, the BBC reported today. The photo was real, except the scammers claimed the boy had cancer and that Facebook would donate money toward his medical bills if the post collected enough likes and comments. 

These kinds of deceitful "call to action" posts have been a corrosive force on Facebook for years, but they've proven frustratingly difficult to completely wipe out. The aforementioned cancer-boy scheme was reportedly back online within 24 hours of Facebook having removed it. Read the full story here.  

[Photo: skeeze via Pixabay]

02.16.17 | 5:39 pm

Zuck’s manifesto reveals how Facebook aims to solve one of its biggest problems

More than 16.4% of all the humans alive use Facebook every single day. That means, of course, that community standards for content—what's allowed, what's not—paint strokes that are too broad for some people, and not broad enough for others. Some are not offended by nudity but hate violence; for others, it's the reverse.

In the 6,000-word manifesto Mark Zuckerberg posted today, he said the company is planning to re-cast the way this core Facebook issue is handled, putting more control over what individual users see in their own hands, and trying to apply standards more locally. 

"The guiding principles are that the community standards should reflect the cultural norms of our community, that each person should see as little objectionable content as possible, and each person should be able to share what they want while being told they cannot share something as little as possible."

The idea is that users will periodically be asked what they want or don't want to see when it comes to nudity, violence, graphic content, profanity, and the like. Those that don't respond would be subject to standards set by the majority of users in their geographic region. Personal updates will always be possible. Implementing changes that accurately reflect users' desires is a function of artificial intelligence, and Zuckerberg said it will take years to complete the project—which he seems to ultimately want to serve as an avatar for similar large-scale problems on Facebook, such as fake news, civic involvement, and safety. "Our hope is that this model provides examples of how collective decision-making may work in other aspects of the global community."

[Flickr user Alessio Jacona]

02.13.17 | 5:48 am

Now Facebook wants to be your weather app

The company has confirmed that its new "weather greetings" feature has launched to about 95% of its users this week, reports TechCrunch. Now short, daily forecasts will appear at the top of your news feed, and a full five-day forecast is accessible in the new "Weather" section of the app.

[Screenshot: Facebook]

02.09.17 | 6:07 am

MTV’s head of scripted development just left to join Facebook

The social network, like everyone else in tech it seems, is looking to beef up its original content. Mina Lefevre is now head of development at Facebook, where she'll oversee the creation of scripted and unscripted content, she wrote on Facebook.

[Screenshot: Facebook]

02.08.17 | 4:23 pm

Here are three changes Facebook just made to prevent discriminatory ads

Last year, Facebook came under fire after a ProPublica investigation revealed how its targeted advertising features let people prohibit specific "ethnic identities" from seeing certain ads—which is particularly problematic when you're advertising things like housing. Today, Facebook said it is rolling out three new changes to its ad platform to prevent such discriminatory practices.

• Updated ad policies that expressly prohibit advertisers from discriminating based on race, sex, age, and other protected classes.

An advertiser education section that helps advertisers better understand the guidelines and federal discrimination laws. 

New AI-powered enforcement tools that use machine learning to help Facebook identify ads that offer housing, employment, or credit opportunities—where discriminatory practices are especially harmful.

Here is Facebook's latest blog post announcing the new changes. 

02.06.17 | 5:06 pm

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative donates $3.6M to legal aid group fighting evictions in Facebook’s backyard

The massive philanthropic initiative founded by Dr. Priscilla Chan and her husband Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is giving the money to Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto, a group that assists families buffeted by the region's sky-high housing costs, reports the San Jose Mercury News. The initiative is also giving a $500,000 grant to the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley to help come up with long-range solutions to the housing crisis.

Read the full story here.

02.06.17 | 12:17 pm

Facebook lawyer says it doesn’t have a “wonder machine” to screen all posts for hate speech

A lawyer for the social media giant told a German court that it can't monitor all of its users' posts for hate speech: "You want us to employ a sort of wonder machine to detect each misuse. Such a machine doesn't exist." In the case, Facebook is being sued by a Syrian refugee whose photo of himself with German chancellor Angela Merkel was shared by other users, who posted incendiary allegations about him, reports Bloomberg.

Read the full story here.

02.06.17 | 6:01 am

Facebook just launched a fake news filter in France

Before the French presidential elections in April and May, the social media giant has teamed up with eight French media companies to fact-check news articles shared on Facebook that are reported to be false, reports Reuters. If an article is verified to be fake news, it will be tagged as "disputed" in a user's news feed and users will see a warning before they share it.

02.03.17 | 2:10 pm

Facebook acknowledges its fake news problem could hurt credibility and the bottom line

Facebook just dropped its Form 10-K, allowing us a detailed glimpse into the company's performance and potential business pitfalls. As is typical of such filings, the social media giant acknowledges the risks it faces, among them that the distribution of potentially false and perhaps even defamatory content could hurt Facebook's bottom line.

When describing potential liabilities on the platform, it writes that it faces claims of content "related to defamation, dissemination of misinformation or news hoaxes," that could put the company at risk. Specifically, countries (unlike the US) that have different laws which could put the onus on Facebook for regulating this kind of content are seen as an unforeseen risk.

We need look no further than Germany which sought to fine Facebook for content it pushes that is considered false. It's unlikely this fake news problem will actually hinder Facebook's performance, but definitely interesting that the social network is taking seriously its impact on its long-term growth.

02.03.17 | 9:27 am

Facebook introduces “Discover People” to help you make more friends

The new section, which feels like a combination of LinkedIn and Tinder, is designed to get you to meet new people who aren't already Facebook friends of yours. To build those connections, "Discover People" encourages users to update their profiles, browse lists of neighbors and work colleagues, and check out lists of upcoming events to see who else is attending  them. The feature is not available to all users, but TechCrunch managed to get a screengrab: