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Everything you wanted to know about Facebook’s F8

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Zuckerberg made a few big announcements at Facebook’s F8 conference.

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What you missed at Facebook F8

On Tuesday, Facebook kicked off its annual F8 Developer Conference. San Jose’s McEnery Convention Center was abuzz with innovation and I was abuzz with excitement — and perhaps a few too many complimentary espresso shots — as I learned what the social media giant has been working on recently.

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Here’s a brief breakdown of what Facebook’s unleashed:

Camera Effects Platform

Get ready to look through your camera with a whole new lens: founder Mark Zuckerberg describes this feature as “the first mainstream augmented reality platform.” Using the built-in cameras on mobile devices, the Camera Effects Platform allows developers to create interactive experiences by layering art and technology over the real world.

Right now, these effects range from fun, flowery frames and silly faces to more advanced animated masks and borders.

Eventually, however, the goal is for the platform to be able to recognize objects and layer relevant information or animations over the physical scenery. Zuckerberg’s example was children sitting at breakfast watching sharks swimming in the milk of their cereal bowls. While that idea actually sounds a bit frightening to me, I’m kind of into the idea of Cap’n Crunch himself sailing jovially through my late-night snack.

Facebook Spaces

Because “VR is better with friends”. The company’s new social virtual reality platform lets you hang out with your friends even when you’re far away, but here’s the twist: you’re all cartoons.

Think The Matrix meets The Sims.

You can call your friends with Messenger and video chat with them when they’re in VR, and you can even take selfies of your cartoon selves during a VR chill sesh. And you thought BitMojis were cool.

Messenger 2.0

This one’s maybe the most relevant, considering Messenger is already used by 1.2 billion people every month. The popular platform now has a few new features:

  • Discover helps users browse through bots to find the best ones, find nearby places they can message, and businesses offering support
  • Chat extensions let people bring bots right into their conversations to handle mundane tasks like splitting payments, create shopping lists, ordering food or sharing music
  • Parametric Messenger Codes let businesses see which bots are being scanned the most

Then for all you nerds, here are some technical enhancements to Messenger:

  • Hand-over Protocol lets businesses work with multiple developers to make different experiences in one bot
  • ID Matching API lets businesses personalize communication with customers by pairing ASISs and PSIDs between an app and a bot that belong to the same business
  • Open Graph Template allows bots to send open graph content to threads directly
  • The Platform Design Kit is a new library of components for designing bots
  • Bots have access to referral information when users enter through Messenger Ads
  • Business owners can make primary CTAs other than “Message Us” on Facebook pages with bots, like “Shop Now” or “Get Support”

Overall, the theme of Facebook’s new features is, not surprisingly, building connections. Who would have thought that posting on a friend’s wall would one day evolve into hanging out with them in your own private animated world? And this is just the beginning.

#F8

Helen Irias is a Staff Writer at The American Genius with a degree in English Literature from University of California, Santa Barbara. She works in marketing in Silicon Valley and hopes to one day publish a comically self-deprecating memoir that people bring up at dinner parties to make themselves sound interesting.

Social Media

Instagram announces 3 home feed options, including chronological order

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Instagram is allowing users to choose how their home feed appears so they can tailor their own experience… and chronological is back!

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Instagram home feed options

Break out the bottle of champagne, because they are bringing back the chronological order in Instagram!

About time, right? Well, that’s not all. Per Protocol, Instagram has announced that they are rolling out three feed options in the first half of 2022. What?! Yes, you read that right.

3 New Feed View Options

  1. Home: This feed view should feel familiar because it’s the algorithm you already use. No changes to this view.
  1. Favorites: This feed view option presents a nice and tidy way to view creators, friends, and family of your choosing.
  1. Following: Last, but not least, is my favorite re-boot, the chronological view of every account that you follow.

Per Protocol, recent legal allegations have been made that Instagram and Facebook have been prioritizing content viewed as harmful in the algorithm and specifically in Instagram. Instagram is widely believed to be harmful to teens. Per the American Psychological Association, “Studies have linked Instagram to depression, body image concerns, self-esteem issues, social anxiety, and other problems”.  They have been under scrutiny by lawmakers and in response are posing the chronological feed as a solution.

However, this won’t fix everything. Even if the algorithm isn’t prioritizing harmful posts, those posts will still exist and if that account is followed it can still be seen. The other issue with this solution is the knowledge that unless Instagram lets you choose your default feed view, they could still cause the algorithm view to be the automatic view. Facebook doesn’t allow you to make the chronological feed your default view. This means you would need to choose that view every time. This bit of friction means there will be times it is overlooked and some may not even know the functionality exists. Knowing this information about Facebook, prepares us for what’s to come with Instagram. After all, Facebook, or Meta, owns both.

While as an entrepreneur, the chronological view excites me, I know the reality of it being used is questionable. I would love to know others can see the products and services I offer instead of hoping that Instagram finds my content worthy to share in the algorithm.

As a human being with a moral conscience, I have to scream, “C’mon Instagram, you CAN do better!” We all deserve better than having a computer pick what’s shown to us. Hopefully, lawmakers will recognize this band-aid quick fix for what it truly is and continue with making real changes to benefit us all.

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Facebook’s targeting options for advertising are changing this month

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Do you market your business on Facebook? You need to know that their targeting options for ads are changing and what to do about it.

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Laptop on lap open to Facebook page representing ad targeting.

Meta is transforming Facebook’s ad campaigns beginning January 19th. Facebook, which has been infamously battling criticism regarding election ads on their platform, is revising its limited targeting ad campaigns. Per this Facebook blog post, these changes eliminate the ability to target users based on interactions with content related to health (e.g., “Lung cancer awareness”, “World Diabetes Day”), race and ethnicity, political affiliation, religious practices (e.g., “Catholic Church” and “Jewish holidays”) and sexual orientation (e.g., “same-sex marriage” and “LGBT culture”).

These changes go into effect on January 19, 2022. Facebook will no longer allow new ads to use these targeting tools after that date. By March 17, 2022, any existing ads using those targeting tools will no longer be allowed.

The VP of Ads and Business Product Marketing at Facebook, Graham Mudd, expressed the belief that personalized ad experiences are the best, but followed up by stating:

“[W]e want to better match people’s evolving expectations of how advertisers may reach them on our platform and address feedback from civil rights experts, policymakers, and other stakeholders on the importance of preventing advertisers from abusing the targeting options we make available.”

To help soften the blow, Facebook is offering tips and examples for small businesses, non-profits, and advocacy groups to continue to reach their audiences that go beyond the broad targeting of gender and age.

These tips include creating different types of targeting such as Engagement Custom Audiences, Lookalike Audiences, Website Custom Audiences, Location Targeting, and Customer Lists from a Custom Audience.

Here’s the lowdown on how it will happen.

Per the Search Engine Journal, changes can be made to budget amounts or campaign names without impacting the targeting until March 17th. However, if you go to change the ad set level that will then cause changes at the audience level.

If you need to keep that particular ad to reuse, it may be best to edit the detailed targeting settings before March 17th in order to ensure you can make changes to it in the future.

I believe it was Heraclitus that declared change is constant. Knowing this, we can conclude other social platforms may follow suit and possibly adjust their targeting in the future as well.

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Hate speech seemingly spewing on your Facebook? You’re not wrong

(SOCIAL MEDIA) Facebook (now Meta) employees estimate its AI tools only clean up 3%-5% of hate speech on the platform. Surprise, Surprise *eye roll*

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Facebook being crossed out by a stylus on a mobile device for hate speech.

As Facebook moves further toward Zuckerberg’s Metaverse, concerns about the efficiency with which the company addresses hate speech still remain, with employees recently estimating that only around 2% of offending materials are removed by Facebook’s AI screening tools.

According to Wall Street Journal, internal documents from Facebook show an alarming inability to detect hate speech, violent threats, depictions of graphic content, and other “sensitive” issues via their AI screening. This directly contradicts predictions made by the company in the past.

A “senior engineer” also admitted that, in addition to removing only around 2% of inappropriate material, the odds of that number reaching even a numerical majority is extremely unlikely: “Recent estimates suggest that unless there is a major change in strategy, it will be very difficult to improve this beyond 10-20% in the short-medium term.”

The reported efficacy of the AI in question would be laughable were the situation less dire. Reports ranging from AI confusing cockfights and car crashes to inaccurately identifying a car wash video as a first-person shooting are referenced in the internal documents, while far more sobering imagery–live-streamed shootings, viscerally graphic car wrecks, and open threats of violence against transgender children–went entirely unflagged.

Even the system in which the AI works is a source of doubt for employees. “When Facebook’s algorithms aren’t certain enough that content violates the rules to delete it, the platform shows that material to users less often—but the accounts that posted the material go unpunished,” reports Wall Street Journal.

AI has repeatedly been shown to struggle with bias as well. Large Language Models (LLMs)–machine-learning algorithms that inform things like search engine results and predictive text–have defaulted to racist or xenophobic rhetoric when subjected to search terms like “Muslim”, leading to ethical concerns about whether or not these tools are actually capable of resolving things like hate speech.

As a whole, Facebook employees’ doubts about the actual usefulness of AI in removing inappropriate material (and keeping underage users off of the platform) paint a grim portrait of the future of social media, especially as the Metaverse marches steadily forward in mainstream consumption.

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