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Facebook Chief Operating Officer Supports Releasing Russia-linked Advertisements

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Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, delivers a speech during the visit of a start-up companies gathering at Paris' Station F, in Paris. voa

Washington, October 12: Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said Thursday she “absolutely” supports the public release of all advertisements produced by a Russia-linked organization during the 2016 presidential election.

Sandberg said the company is “working on transparency” following the revelation last month that a group with alleged ties to the Russian government ran $100,000 worth of ads on Facebook promoting “divisive” causes like Black Lives Matter.

“Things happened on our platform that shouldn’t have happened,” she said during the interview with Axios’s Mike Allen.

Later Thursday, Facebook Chief Operating Officer is set to meet with Congressional investigators who are looking into what role the advertisements which began running in 2015 and continued through this year may have played in the 2016 presidential election.

The $100,000 worth of ads represent a very small fraction of the total $2.3 billion spent by, and on behalf of, President Donald Trump and losing-candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaigns during the election.

Multiple congressional investigations have been launched, seeking to determine what effect alleged Russian meddling may have played in the election.

In addition, Robert Mueller, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, is conducting a criminal probe, including whether President Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian operatives during the election season. Trump has denied working with the Russians.

Facebook had previously agreed to disclose the thousands of Facebook ads to congress. Sandberg said Thursday she thinks “it’s important that [the investigators] get the whole picture and explain that to the American people.”

In response to the Russian ad buys, Facebook Chief Operating Officer said that company is hiring 4,000 new employees to oversee ads and content. She said the company is also using “machine learning and automation” to target fake accounts that spread fake news.

She defined fake news as “things that are false hoaxes” and said Facebook is working to stamp out the bad information by teaming up with third-party fact checkers and warning users before they share news deemed fake by Facebook.

She said it is important to be cautious when going after fake news because “a lot of what we allow on Facebook is people expressing themselves” and “when you cut off speech for one person, you cut off speech for all people.”

“We don’t check the information posted on Facebook before people post it, and I don’t think people should want us to,” she said.

Hundreds of fake accounts were used to distribute the Russia-linked advertisements, Sandberg said. But had those ads been posted by legitimate users, “we would have let them run,” she said.(VOA)

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Social Networking Giant Facebook Testing ‘LOL’ App to Woo Kids

Facebook has over 2.2 billion users globally, including 300 million in India

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Facebook testing 'LOL' app to woo kids, experts wary. Pixabay

In a fresh attempt to woo children into joining its network and boost user growth, Facebook is testing a new hub called “LOL” that will let kids share and post humorous meme content.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to TechCrunch late Friday that it was experimenting with the “LOL” hub for kids. “We are running a small scale test and the concept is in the early stages right now,” the spokesperson said in a statement.

Divided into categories like “For You”, “Animals”, “Fails” and “Pranks”, “LoL” will be a special feed of funny videos and GIF-like clips.

The company is yet to decide if “LOL” will become a stand-alone app or be available in the main Facebook app.

“‘LOL’ is currently in private beta with around 100 high school students who signed non-disclosure agreements with parental consent to do focus groups and one-on-one testing with Facebook staff,” said the report.

According to social media experts, this is yet another attempt by Facebook — embroiled in several data breach and privacy violation cases — to get into a yet-to-be-tapped market to boost its stalled user growth.

“It may not be a good idea to again start some specific social media platform for tender minds especially when the content is not guided. There has been a call globally to limit the screen time for kids and Facebook is somehow trying to hook them onto screens,” Anoop Mishra, one of the nation’s leading social media experts, told IANS on Saturday.

Despite call for withdrawal by experts, Facebook has decided to expand the reach of its Messenger Kids by introducing the video calling and messaging app designed for children under 13. The Messenger Kids app was launched in the US in 2017.

In 2018, more than 100 child health experts wrote an open letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, urging him to discontinue the app.

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This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

“At a time when there is mounting concern about how social media use affects adolescents’ well being, it is particularly irresponsible to encourage children as young as pre-schoolers to start using a Facebook product,” the authors wrote.

British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt also warned the social media giant to stay away from his children.

“Facebook told me they would come back with ideas to PREVENT underage use of their product, but instead they are actively targeting younger children. Stay away from my kids please Facebook and act responsibly!” Hunt had posted on Twitter.

Responding to the backlash that Facebook’s Messenger Kids is facing, a top executive of the social network said that families would be better off because the video calling and messaging app designed for the under 13s exists. “I firmly believe that it is a good product,” said David Marcus, Facebook’s Vice President of Messaging Products.

But experts feel that the app’s overall impact on families and society is likely to be negative, and it could normalise social media use among young children by creating peer pressure.

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“With the growing incidences of child trafficking, wrong marketing messaging amid absence of proper guidelines, such new apps meant for kids can be another cause of concerns for parents,” stressed Mishra.

With over a billion users, Facebook-owned photo-sharing platform Instagram is currently very popular among teenagers.

Facebook has over 2.2 billion users globally, including 300 million in India.

The company last year launched a short-form video app called “Lasso” but the app did not gained much popularity. (IANS)