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Removing Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior in Thailand, Russia, Ukraine and Honduras

By Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy

In the past week, we removed multiple Pages, Groups and accounts that were involved in coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram. We found four separate, unconnected operations that originated in Thailand, Russia, Ukraine and Honduras. We didn’t find any links between the campaigns we’ve removed, but all created networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing.

We’re constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people. We’re taking down these Pages, Groups and accounts based on their behavior, not the content they posted. In each of these cases, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action. We have shared information about our analysis with law enforcement, policymakers and industry partners.

We are making progress rooting out this abuse, but as we’ve said before, it’s an ongoing challenge. We’re committed to continually improving to stay ahead. That means building better technology, hiring more people and working more closely with law enforcement, security experts and other companies.

What We’ve Found So Far

We removed 12 Facebook accounts and 10 Facebook Pages for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior that originated in Thailand and focused primarily on Thailand and the US. The people behind this small network used fake accounts to create fictitious personas and run Pages, increase engagement, disseminate content, and also to drive people to off-platform blogs posing as news outlets. They also frequently shared divisive narratives and comments on topics including Thai politics, geopolitical issues like US-China relations, protests in Hong Kong, and criticism of democracy activists in Thailand. Although the people behind this activity attempted to conceal their identities, our review found that some of this activity was linked to an individual based in Thailand associated with New Eastern Outlook, a Russian government-funded journal based in Moscow.

  • Presence on Facebook: 12 accounts and 10 Pages.
  • Followers: About 38,000 accounts followed one or more of these Pages.
  • Advertising: Less than $18,000 in spending for ads on Facebook paid for in US dollars.

We identified these accounts through an internal investigation into suspected Thailand-linked coordinated inauthentic behavior. Our investigation benefited from information shared by local civil society organizations.

Below is a sample of the content posted by some of these Pages:

Further, last week, ahead of the election in Ukraine, we removed 18 Facebook accounts, nine Pages, and three Groups for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior that originated primarily in Russia and focused on Ukraine. The people behind this activity created fictitious personas, impersonated deceased Ukrainian journalists, and engaged in fake engagement tactics. They also operated fake accounts to increase the popularity of their content, deceive people about their location, and to drive people to off-platform websites. The Page administrators and account owners posted content about Ukrainian politics and news, including topics like Russia-Ukraine relations and criticism of the Ukrainian government.

  • Presence on Facebook: 18 Facebook accounts, 9 Pages, and 3 Groups.
  • Followers: About 80,000 accounts followed one or more of these Pages, about 10 accounts joined at least one of these Groups.
  • Advertising: Less than $100 spent on Facebook ads paid for in rubles.

We identified these accounts through an internal investigation into suspected Russia-linked coordinated inauthentic behavior, ahead of the elections in Ukraine. Our investigation benefited from public reporting including by a Ukrainian fact-checking organization.

Below is a sample of the content posted by some of these Pages:

Caption: “When it seems that there is no bottom. Ukrainian TV anchor hosted a show dressed up as Hitler“

Caption: “Poroshenko’s advisor is accused of organizing sex business in Europe.”

Caption: “A journalist from the US: there is a complete collapse of people’s hopes in Ukraine after Maidan“

Caption: “The art of being a savage”

Also last week, ahead of the election in Ukraine, we removed 83 Facebook accounts, two Pages, 29 Groups, and five Instagram accounts engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior that originated in Russia and the Luhansk region in Ukraine and focused on Ukraine. The people behind this activity used fake accounts to impersonate military members in Ukraine, manage Groups posing as authentic military communities, and also to drive people to off-platform sites. They also operated Groups — some of which shifted focus from one political side to another over time — disseminating content about Ukraine and the Luhansk region. The Page admins and account owners frequently posted about local and political news including topics like the military conflict in Eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian public figures and politics.

  • Presence on Facebook and Instagram: 83 Facebook accounts, 2 Pages, 29 Groups, and 5 Instagram accounts.
  • Followers: Fewer than 1,000 accounts followed one or more of these Pages, under 35,000 accounts joined at least one of these Groups, and around 1,400 people followed one or more of these Instagram accounts.
  • Advertising: Less than $400 spent on Facebook and Instagram ads paid for in US dollars.

We identified this activity through an internal investigation into suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior in the region, ahead of the elections in Ukraine. Our investigation benefited from information shared with us by local law enforcement in Ukraine.

Below is a sample of the content posted by some of these Pages:

Caption: “Ukrainians destroy their past! For many years now, as we have witnessed a deep crisis of the post-Soviet Ukrainian statehood. The republic, which in the early 1990s had the best chance of successful development among all the new independent states, turned out to be the most unsuccessful. And the reasons here are not economic and, I would even say, not objective. The root of Ukrainian problems lies in the ideology itself, which forms the basis of the entire national-state project, and in the identity that it creates. It is purely negativistic, and any social actions based on it are, in one way or another, directed not at creation, but at destruction. Ukrainian ship led the young state to a crisis, the destruction of the spiritual, cultural, historical and linguistic community of the Russian and Ukrainian peoples, affecting almost all aspects of public life. Do not forget that the West played a special role in this, which since 2014 has openly interfered in the politics of another state and in fact sponsored an armed coup d’état.”

Caption: “Suicide is the only way out for warriors of the Armed Forces of Ukraine To date, a low moral and psychological level in the ranks of the armed forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine has not risen. Since the beginning of the year in the conflict zone in the Donbas a considerable number of suicide cases have been recorded among privates of the Armed Forces of Ukraine. Nobody undertakes to give the exact number because the command does not report on every such state of emergency and tries to hide the fact of its own incompetence. Despite all the assurances of Kiev about the readiness for the offensive, the mood of the warriors is not happy. The Ukrainian army is not morally prepared, as it were, beautifully told Poroshenko about full-scale hostilities. During the four years of the war, there were many promises on his part, but in fact nothing. Initially, warriors come to the place of deployment morally unstable. Inadequate drinking and drug use exacerbates the already deplorable state of the heroes. Many have opened their eyes to the real causes of the war and they do not want to kill their fellow citizens. But no one will listen to them. And in recent time, lack of staff in the Armed Forces of Ukraine is being addressed with recruiting rookies, who undergo 3-day training and seeing a machine gun for the first time only at the frontline. So the warriors of light are losing their temper and they see hanging or shooting themselves as the only way out. Only recently cases of suicide have been made public by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and no one will know what happened before. It is not good to show the glorious heroes of Ukraine from the dark side.”

Caption: “…algorithm and peculiarities of providing medical assistance to Ukrainian military. In the end of the visit representatives of Lithuanian and Ukrainian sides discussed questions of joint interest and expressed opinions on particular aspects of developing the sphere of collaboration even further.”

Headline: “Breaking: In the Bakhmutki area, the Armed Forces of Ukraine destroyed a car with peaceful citizens in it, using an anti-tank guided missile”

Finally, we removed 181 accounts and 1,488 Facebook Pages that were involved in domestic-focused coordinated inauthentic activity in Honduras. The individuals behind this activity operated fake accounts. They also created Pages designed to look like user profiles — using false names and stock images — to comment and amplify positive content about the president. Although the people behind this campaign attempted to conceal their identities, our review found that some of this activity was linked to individuals managing social media for the government of Honduras.

  • Presence on Facebook: 181 Facebook accounts and 1,488 Pages.
  • Followers: About 120,000 accounts followed one or more of these Pages.
  • Advertising: More than $23,000 spent on Facebook ads paid for in US dollars and Honduran lempiras.

We identified these accounts through an internal investigation into suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior in the region.

Below is a sample of the content posted by some of these Pages:

Caption: “Celebration first year of service of the national force and gangs. We are celebrating the first anniversary of service of the national force and gangs; all Hondurans must know what they face and what is the future. We have been beaten by violence, but the state of Honduras must solve it. It is so much the admiration and confidence of the Honduran people, that nowadays, the Fnamp HN receives the highest recognition that an institution in security can have. We recognize its work by the level of commitment to the you lose your life the life for the cause of others. We recognize its work by the level of commitment to the point of loosing the life for the cause of others.”

Caption: “Happy birthday, mother. I thank God because my mother – Elvira -, birthday today one more year of life. I will always be grateful to her for strengthening me and supporting me with her advice, and for being an example of faith and solidarity with the neighbor. God bless you, give you health and allow you to be many more years with us!”

Caption: “Happy Sunday! May the first step you take in the day be to move forward and leave a mark, fill yourself with energy and optimism, shield yourself from negativity with hope, and a desire to change Honduras.”

 





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Understanding Social Media and Conflict

At Facebook, a dedicated, multidisciplinary team is focused on understanding the historical, political and technological contexts of countries in conflict. Today we’re sharing an update on their work to remove hate speech, reduce misinformation and polarization, and inform people through digital literacy programs.

By Samidh Chakrabarti, Director of Product Management, Civic Integrity; and Rosa Birch, Director of Strategic Response

Last week, we were among the thousands who gathered at RightsCon, an international summit on human rights in the digital age, where we listened to and learned from advocates, activists, academics, and civil society. It also gave our teams an opportunity to talk about the work we’re doing to understand and address the way social media is used in countries experiencing conflict. Today, we’re sharing updates on: 1) the dedicated team we’ve set up to proactively prevent the abuse of our platform and protect vulnerable groups in future instances of conflict around the world; 2) fundamental product changes that attempt to limit virality; and 3) the principles that inform our engagement with stakeholders around the world.

We care about these issues deeply and write today’s post not just as representatives of Facebook, but also as concerned citizens who are committed to protecting digital and human rights and promoting vibrant civic discourse. Both of us have dedicated our careers to working at the intersection of civics, policy and tech.

Last year, we set up a dedicated team spanning product, engineering, policy, research and operations to better understand and address the way social media is used in countries experiencing conflict. The people on this team have spent their careers studying issues like misinformation, hate speech, polarization and misinformation. Many have lived or worked in the countries we’re focused on. Here are just a few of them:

Ravi, Research Manager
With a PhD in social psychology, Ravi has spent much of his career looking at how conflicts can drive division and polarization. At Facebook, Ravi analyzes user behavior data and surveys to understand how content that doesn’t violate our Community Standards — such as posts from gossip pages — can still sow division. This analysis informs how we reduce the reach and impact of polarizing posts and comments.

Sarah, Program Manager
Beginning as a student in Cameroon, Sarah has devoted nearly a decade to understanding the role of technology in countries experiencing political and social conflict. In 2014, she moved to Myanmar to research the challenges activists face online and to support community organizations using social media. Sarah helps Facebook respond to complex crises and develop long-term product solutions to prevent abuse — for example, how to render Burmese content in a machine-readable format so our AI tools can better detect hate speech.

Abhishek, Research Scientist
With a masters in computer science and a doctorate in media theory, Abhishek focuses on issues including the technical challenges we face in different countries and how best to categorize different types of violent content. For example, research in Cameroon revealed that some images of violence being shared on Facebook helped people pinpoint — and avoid — conflict areas. Nuances like this help us consider the ethics of different product solutions, like removing or reducing the spread of certain content.

Emilar, Policy Manager
Prior to joining Facebook, Emilar spent more than a decade working on human rights and social justice issues in Africa, including as a member of the team that developed the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms. She joined the company to work on public policy issues in Southern Africa, including the promotion of affordable, widely available internet access and human rights both on and offline.

Ali, Product Manager
Born and raised in Iran in the 1980s and 90s, Ali and his family experienced violence and conflict firsthand as Iran and Iraq were involved in an eight-year conflict. Ali was an early adopter of blogging and wrote about much of what he saw around him in Iran. As an adult, Ali received his PhD in computer science but remained interested in geopolitical issues. His work on Facebook’s product team has allowed him to bridge his interest in technology and social science, effecting change by identifying technical solutions to root out hate speech and misinformation in a way that accounts for local nuances and cultural sensitivities.

In working on these issues, local groups have given us invaluable input on our products and programs. No one knows more about the challenges in a given community than the organizations and experts on the ground. We regularly solicit their input on our products, policies and programs, and last week we published the principles that guide our continued engagement with external stakeholders.

In the last year, we visited countries such as Lebanon, Cameroon, Nigeria, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka to speak with affected communities in these countries, better understand how they use Facebook, and evaluate what types of content might promote depolarization in these environments. These findings have led us to focus on three key areas: removing content and accounts that violate our Community Standards, reducing the spread of borderline content that has the potential to amplify and exacerbate tensions and informing people about our products and the internet at large. To address content that may lead to offline violence, our team is particularly focused on combating hate speech and misinformation.

Removing Bad Actors and Bad Content

Hate speech isn’t allowed under our Community Standards. As we shared last year, removing this content requires supplementing user reports with AI that can proactively flag potentially violating posts. We’re continuing to improve our detection in local languages such as Arabic, Burmese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, Bengali and Sinhalese. In the past few months, we’ve been able to detect and remove considerably more hate speech than before. Globally, we increased our proactive rate — the percent of the hate speech Facebook removed that we found before users reported it to us — from 51.5% in Q3 2018 to 65.4% in Q1 2019.

We’re also using new applications of AI to more effectively combat hate speech online. Memes and graphics that violate our policies, for example, get added to a photo bank so we can automatically delete similar posts. We’re also using AI to identify clusters of words that might be used in hateful and offensive ways, and tracking how those clusters vary over time and geography to stay ahead of local trends in hate speech. This allows us to remove viral text more quickly.

Still, we have a long way to go. Every time we want to use AI to proactively detect potentially violating content in a new country, we have to start from scratch and source a high volume of high quality, locally relevant examples to train the algorithms. Without this context-specific data, we risk losing language nuances that affect accuracy.

Globally, when it comes to misinformation, we reduce the spread of content that’s been deemed false by third-party fact-checkers. But in countries with fragile information ecosystems, false news can have more serious consequences, including violence. That’s why last year we updated our global violence and incitement policy such that we now remove misinformation that has the potential to contribute to imminent violence or physical harm. To enforce this policy, we partner with civil society organizations who can help us confirm whether content is false and has the potential to incite violence or harm.

Reducing Misinformation and Borderline Content

We’re also making fundamental changes to our products to address virality and reduce the spread of content that can amplify and exacerbate violence and conflict. In Sri Lanka, we have explored adding friction to message forwarding so that people can only share a message with a certain number of chat threads on Facebook Messenger. This is similar to a change we made to WhatsApp earlier this year to reduce forwarded messages around the world. It also delivers on user feedback that most people don’t want to receive chain messages.

And, as our CEO Mark Zuckerberg detailed last year, we have started to explore how best to discourage borderline content, or content that toes the permissible line without crossing it. This is especially true in countries experiencing conflict because borderline content, much of which is sensationalist and provocative, has the potential for more serious consequences in these countries. 

We are, for example, taking a more aggressive approach against people and groups who regularly violate our policies. In Myanmar, we have started to reduce the distribution of all content shared by people who have demonstrated a pattern of posting content that violates our Community Standards, an approach that we may roll out in other countries if it proves successful in mitigating harm. In cases where individuals or organizations more directly promote or engage violence, we will ban them under our policy against dangerous individuals and organizations. Reducing distribution of content is, however, another lever we can pull to combat the spread of hateful content and activity.  

We have also extended the use of artificial intelligence to recognize posts that may contain graphic violence and comments that are potentially violent or dehumanizing, so we can reduce their distribution while they undergo review by our Community Operations team. If this content violates our policies, we will remove it. By limiting visibility in this way, we hope to mitigate against the risk of offline harm and violence.

Giving People Additional Tools and Information

Perhaps most importantly, we continue to meet with and learn from civil society who are intimately familiar with trends and tensions on the ground and are often on the front lines of complex crises. To improve communication and better identify potentially harmful posts, we have built a new tool for our partners to flag content to us directly. We appreciate the burden and risk that this places on civil society organizations, which is why we’ve worked hard to streamline the reporting process and make it secure and safe.

Our partnerships have also been instrumental in promoting digital literacy in countries where many people are new to the internet. Last week, we announced a new program with GSMA called Internet One-on-One (1O1). The program, which we first launched in Myanmar with the goal of reaching 500,000 people in three months, offers one-on-one training sessions that includes a short video on the benefits of the internet and how to stay safe online. We plan to partner with other telecom companies and introduce similar programs in other countries. In Nigeria, we introduced a 12-week digital literacy program for secondary school students called Safe Online with Facebook. Developed in partnership with Re:Learn and Junior Achievement Nigeria, the program has worked with students at over 160 schools and covers a mix of online safety, news literacy, wellness tips and more, all facilitated by a team of trainers across Nigeria.

We know there’s more to do to better understand the role of social media in countries of conflict. We want to be part of the solution so that as we mitigate abuse and harmful content, people can continue using our services to communicate. In the wake of the horrific terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka, more than a quarter million people used Facebook’s Safety Check to mark themselves as safe and reassure loved ones. In the same vein, thousands of people in Sri Lanka used our crisis response tools to make offers and requests for help. These use cases — the good, the meaningful, the consequential — are ones that we want to preserve.

This is some of the most important work being done at Facebook and we fully recognize the gravity of these challenges. By tackling hate speech and misinformation, investing in AI and changes to our products, and strengthening our partnerships, we can continue to make progress on these issues around the world.





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Day 1 of F8 2019: Building New Products and Features for a Privacy-Focused Social Platform

Today, more than 5,000 developers, creators and entrepreneurs from around the world came together for F8, our annual conference about the future of technology.  

Mark Zuckerberg opened the two-day event with a keynote on how we’re building a more privacy-focused social platform — giving people spaces where they can express themselves freely and feel connected to the people and communities that matter most. He shared how this is a fundamental shift in how we build products and run our company.

Mark then turned it over to leaders from Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger and AR/VR to share more announcements. Here are the highlights:

Messenger

As we build for a future of more private communications, Messenger announced several new products and features to help create closer ties between people, businesses and developers.

A Faster, Lighter App
People expect their messaging apps to be fast and reliable. We’re excited to announce that we’re re-building the architecture of Messenger from the ground up to be faster and lighter than ever before. This completely re-engineered Messenger will begin to roll out later this year.

A Way to Watch Together
When you’re not together with friends or family in your physical living room, Messenger will now let you discover and watch videos from Facebook together in real time. You’ll be able to seamlessly share a video from the Facebook app on Messenger and invite others to watch together while messaging or on a video chat. This could be your favorite show, a funny clip or even home videos. We are testing this now and will begin to roll it out globally later this year.

A Desktop App for Messenger
People want to seamlessly message from any device, and sometimes they just want a little more space to share and connect with the people they care about most. So today we’re announcing a Messenger Desktop app. You can download the app on your desktop — both Windows and MacOS — and have group video calls, collaborate on projects or multi-task while chatting in Messenger. We are testing this now and will roll it out globally later this year.

Better Ways to Connect with Close Friends
Close connections are built on messaging, which is why we are making it easier for you to find the content from the people you care about the most. In Messenger, we are introducing a dedicated space where you can discover Stories and messages with your closest friends and family. You’ll also be able to share snippets from your own day and can choose exactly who sees what you post. This will roll out later this year.

Helping Businesses Connect with Customers
We’re making it even easier for businesses to connect with potential customers by adding lead generation templates to Ads Manager. There, businesses can easily create an ad that drives people to a simple Q&A in Messenger to learn more about their customers. And to make it easier to book an appointment with businesses like car dealerships, stylists or cleaning services, we’ve created an appointment experience so people can book appointments within a Messenger conversation.

WhatsApp

Business Catalog
People and businesses are finding WhatsApp a great way to connect. In the months ahead people will be able to see a business catalog right within WhatsApp when chatting with a business. With catalogs, businesses can showcase their goods so people can easily discover them.

Facebook

People have always come to Facebook to connect with friends and family, but over time it’s become more than that – it’s also a place to connect with people who share your interests and passions. Today we’re making changes that put Groups at the center of Facebook and sharing new ways Facebook can help bring people together offline.

A Fresh Design
We’re rolling out FB5, a fresh new design for Facebook that’s simpler, faster, more immersive and puts your communities at the center. Overall, we’ve made it easier to find what you’re looking for and get to your most-used features.

People will start seeing some of these updates in the Facebook app right away, and the new desktop site will come in the next few months.

Putting Groups First
This redesign makes it easy for people to go from public spaces to more private ones, like Groups. There are tens of millions of active groups on Facebook. When people find the right one, it often becomes the most meaningful part of how they use Facebook. Today, more than 400 million people on Facebook belong to a group that they find meaningful. That’s why we’re introducing new tools that will make it easier for you to discover and engage with groups of people who share your interests:

  • Redesigned Groups tab to make discovery easier: We’ve completely redesigned the Groups tab and made discovery even better. The tab now shows a personalized feed of activity across all your groups. And the new discovery tool with improved recommendations lets you quickly find groups you might be interested in.
  • Making it easier to participate in Groups: We’re also making it easier to get relevant group recommendations elsewhere in the app like in Marketplace, Today In, the Gaming tab, and Facebook Watch. You may see more content from your groups in News Feed. And, you will be able to share content directly to your groups from News Feed, the same way you do with friends and family.
  • New features to support specific communities: Different communities have different needs, so we’re introducing new features for different types of groups. Through new Health Support groups, members can post questions and share information without their name appearing on a post. Job groups will have a new template for employers to post openings, and easier ways for job seekers to message the employer and apply directly through Facebook. Gaming groups will get a new chat feature so members can create threads for different topics within the group. And because we know people use Facebook Live to sell things in Buy and Sell groups, we’re exploring ways to let buyers easily ask questions and place orders without leaving the live broadcast.

Connecting with Your Secret Crush
On Facebook Dating, you can opt in to discover potential matches within your own Facebook communities: events, groups, friends of friends and more. It’s currently available in Colombia, Thailand, Canada, Argentina, and Mexico — and today, we’re expanding to 14 new countries: Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Laos, Brazil, Peru, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Uruguay, Guyana, and Suriname.

We’re also announcing a new feature called Secret Crush. People have told us that they believe there is an opportunity to explore potential romantic relationships within their own extended circle of friends. So now, if you choose to use Secret Crush, you can select up to nine of your Facebook friends who you want to express interest in. If your crush has opted into Facebook Dating, they will get a notification saying that someone has a crush on them. If your crush adds you to their Secret Crush list, it’s a match! If your crush isn’t on Dating, doesn’t create a Secret Crush list, or doesn’t put you on their list, no one will know that you’ve entered a friend’s name.

A Way to Meet New Friends
We’ve created Meet New Friends to help people start friendships with new people from their shared communities like a school, workplace or city. It’s opt-in, so you will only see other people that are open to meeting new friends, and vice versa. We’ve started testing Meet New Friends in a few places, and we’ll roll it out wider soon. We will also be integrating Facebook Groups, making it possible to meet new friends from your most meaningful communities on Facebook.

Shipping on Marketplace
People will soon be able to ship Marketplace items anywhere in the continental US and pay for their purchases directly on Facebook. For sellers this means reaching more buyers and getting paid securely, and for buyers this means shopping more items — near or far.

A New Events Tab
This summer we’re introducing the new Events tab so you can see what’s happening around you, get recommendations, discover local businesses, and coordinate with friends to make plans to get together.

Instagram

We rolled out new ways to connect people with each other and their interests on Instagram.

The Ability to Shop from Creators
Starting next week, you can shop inspiring looks from the creators you love without leaving Instagram. Instead of taking a screenshot or asking for product details in comments or Direct, you can simply tap to see exactly what your favorite creators are wearing and buy it on the spot. Anyone in our global community will be able to shop from creators. We’ll begin testing this with a small group of creators next week, with plans to expand access over time. For more information on shopping from creators, click here

A Way to Fundraise for Causes
Starting today, you can raise money for a nonprofit you care about directly on Instagram. Through a donation sticker in Stories, you can create a fundraiser and mobilize your community around a cause you care about — with 100% of the money raised on Instagram going to the nonprofit you’re supporting. This will be available in the US now and we’re working to bring it to more countries. To learn more, check out the Instagram Help Center here.

A New and Improved Camera
In the coming weeks, we’re introducing a new camera design including Create Mode, which gives you an easy way to share without a photo or video. This new camera will make it easier to use popular creative tools like effects and interactive stickers, so you can express yourself more freely.

AR/VR

We’re building technology around how we naturally interact with people. We announced a number of new ways we’re helping people connect more deeply in video calls through Portal. We shared more on our work to bring AR experiences to more people and platforms, and we opened pre-orders for Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift S.

Portal Expands Internationally this Fall
Beginning with an initial expansion from the US to Canada, we’ll also offer the Portal and Portal+ in Europe this fall. We’re bringing WhatsApp to Portal — and we’ll be bringing end-to-end encryption to all calls. You’ll be able to call any of your friends who use WhatsApp — or Messenger — on their Portal, or on their phone.

Beyond Video Calling
This summer we are adding new ways to connect on Portal. You’ll be able to say, “Hey Portal, Good Morning” to get updates on birthdays, events and more. We’re also adding the ability to send private video messages from Portal to your loved ones. And, through our collaboration with Amazon, we’re adding more visual features and Alexa skills to Portal, including Flash Briefings, smart home control and the Amazon Prime Video app later this year. You’ll also be able to use Facebook Live on Portal, so you can share special moments, with your closest friends, in real time.

SuperFrame to Display Your Favorite Photos
Portal’s SuperFrame lets you display your favorite photos when you’re not on a call. You can already add photos to SuperFrame from your Facebook feed, and starting today, you’ll be able to add your favorites from Instagram as well. And our new mobile app will let you add photos to Portal’s Superframe directly from your camera roll, later this summer.

Spark AR Expands to More People
Since last F8, we’ve seen over one billion people use AR experiences powered by Spark AR, with hundreds of millions using AR each month across Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and Portal. Starting today, the new Spark AR Studio supports both Windows and Mac and includes new features and functionality for creation and collaboration. We’re also opening Instagram to the entire Spark AR creator and developer ecosystem this summer.

Oculus Quest and Rift S Pre-Orders Open
Our two newest virtual reality headsets — Oculus Quest and Oculus Rift S — ship May 21. Oculus Quest, our first all-in-one VR gaming system, lets you pick up and play almost anywhere without being tethered to a PC. For those with a gaming PC, Rift S gets you into the most immersive content that VR has to offer. Both start at $399 USD and you can pre-order today at oculus.com.

We’re also launching the new Oculus for Business later this year. We’re adding Oculus Quest to the program and will provide a suite of tools designed to help companies reshape the way they do business through VR.

With each feature and product announced today, we want to help people discover their communities, deepen their connections, find new opportunities and simply have fun. We’re excited to see all the ways developers, creators and entrepreneurs use these tools as we continue to build more private ways for people to communicate. For more details on today’s news, see our Developer Blog, Engineering Blog, Oculus Blog, Messenger Blog, and Instagram Press Center. You can also watch all F8 keynotes on the Facebook for Developers Page.

Downloads:

You can find the full press kit here.





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5 Words to Describe My Agency



Rachael Herman

Running a marketing and advertising agency in this digital age is not for the faint of heart.

The competition is extreme, and most clients look at marketing as an expense rather than an investment.  Locally, I’m up against about 15 agencies and countless individual consultants who claim to be able to do it all.  I don’t even consider national and international agencies as competition.  I’m also up against a consistently high level of doubt and confusion from my audience.

Many business owners I talk to say they’re looking for a marketing director, but they end up with an individual consultant without the expertise to successfully implement a strategy.

Marketing directors know the ins and outs of the industry well enough to teach the subject and process, as well as create and manage the campaigns; however, they cannot do everything and will need specialists like graphic designer, web designer, copywriter, etc., etc.  Individual consultants generally specialize in one or two areas of expertise, so small businesses should be cautious when hiring a consultant without a creative team to back them up.

My partner and I are account directors (same as marketing directors, but for an agency), so it’s always difficult to answer the question, “what do you do for a living?”  Usually, I smile and respond with: “That depends on the day of the week.”

I love the spark of curiosity that comes from that statement.  Monday and Wednesday are for client work, Tuesday is for Your Imprint work, and Thursday and Friday are for campaign scheduling, networking, and sales.   Weekends are dedicated to catch-up work if I use one of the weekdays for emergency meetings.

These conversations usually lead to discussions about what my company does, in which case I touch on our 5 cornerstones.

Marketing & Advertising Agency Cornerstones

Dynamic

We’re positive, competitive, and we adapt quickly to changes in the industry.  It’s why our agency has doubled in size over two years.  It’s also why our two biggest clients from two separate industries and states are currently opening another location.  The work we’ve done for them has brought new clients to our doorstep, three of whom are already starting to see growth (the are 3-6 months with us).

Collaborative

To attract loyal advocates to your brand, we strive for transparency and strong collaboration with clear, friendly, and candid communication about what’s working, what’s not, and what to do about it.

Results-Driven

Everyone says that, but we define it as actively listening to the client and learning about their passions.  We create SMART goals, develop a plan, implement a strategy, and track those results.  Sometimes, the results are directly linked to a goal they had no idea how to put into words until we came along.

Effective & Efficient

To be effective in driving results, we put enormous effort into creating efficient processes that help us get the job done promptly.  To be efficient, we work smarter by using effective management skills.

Expansive Expertise

Websites, reviews, printing, SEO, social media, brand awareness, advertising & placement, e-commerce, email marketing, direct vs indirect marketing – who can keep up with it I all on their own?  The real value of an agency is to be able to span multiple areas of marketing to help streamline the process and improve brand awareness and return on investment.

The Sixth Element – Creative Genius

marketing-agency-advertising-agencyWe can’t forget about the genius.  After all, this is a creative industry that thrives on innovative art across multiple mediums.  The creative genius is not a cornerstone, but a job requirement.  As professional artists who deal in results, we have to have some otherworldly intellectual support, and for most artists, that’s a Genius.

In ancient Rome, a Genius was the guiding spirit of a person, place, or family.  It means “to bring into being, create, or produce.”

For us, creative genius is the ability to see the potential in a big-picture idea.  It’s the skill of intuitively understanding passions and defining unique goals after a friendly conversation with a client.  Genius means innovative originality.   While it’s not necessary to reinvent the wheel for every little thing, it is necessary to have a Genius in your corner as a marketing and advertising artist.

 

It’s hard to figure out how much and what to invest in your company. You can save 60-70% in costs by outsourcing your marketing. If you’re looking to accelerate your growth by investing in marketing and advertising, talk to me. It’s a free consultation, and you’ll walk away with several ideas or “homework” to move forward.

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Remove, Reduce, Inform: New Steps to Manage Problematic Content

By Guy Rosen, VP of Integrity, and Tessa Lyons, Head of News Feed Integrity

Since 2016, we have used a strategy called “remove, reduce, and inform” to manage problematic content across the Facebook family of apps. This involves removing content that violates our policies, reducing the spread of problematic content that does not violate our policies and informing people with additional information so they can choose what to click, read or share. This strategy applies not only during critical times like elections, but year-round.

Today in Menlo Park, we met with a small group of journalists to discuss our latest remove, reduce and inform updates to keep people safe and maintain the integrity of information that flows through the Facebook family of apps:

REMOVE  (read more)

  • Rolling out a new section on the Facebook Community Standards site where people can track the updates we make each month.
  • Updating the enforcement policy for Facebook groups and launching a new Group Quality feature.

REDUCE (read more)

  • Kicking off a collaborative process with outside experts to find new ways to fight more false news on Facebook, more quickly.
  • Expanding the content the Associated Press will review as a third-party fact-checker.
  • Reducing the reach of Facebook Groups that repeatedly share misinformation.
  • Incorporating a “Click-Gap” signal into News Feed ranking to ensure people see less low-quality content in their News Feed.

INFORM (read more)

  • Expanding the News Feed Context Button to images. (Updated on April 10, 2019 at 11AM PT to include this news.)
  • Adding Trust Indicators to the News Feed Context Button on English and Spanish content.
  • Adding more information to the Facebook Page Quality tab.
  • Allowing people to remove their posts and comments from a Facebook Group after they leave the group.
  • Combatting impersonations by bringing the Verified Badge from Facebook into Messenger.
  • Launching Messaging Settings and an Updated Block feature on Messenger for greater control.
  • Launched Forward Indicator and Context Button on Messenger to help prevent the spread of misinformation.

Remove

Facebook

We have Community Standards that outline what is and isn’t allowed on Facebook. They cover things like bullying, harassment and hate speech, and we remove content that goes against our standards as soon as we become aware of it. Last year, we made it easier for people to understand what we take down by publishing our internal enforcement guidelines and giving people the right to appeal our decisions on individual posts.

The Community Standards apply to all parts of Facebook, but different areas pose different challenges when it comes to enforcement. For the past two years, for example, we’ve been working on something called the Safe Communities Initiative, with the mission of protecting people from harmful groups and harm in groups. By using a combination of the latest technology, human review and user reports, we identify and remove harmful groups, whether they are public, closed or secret. We can now proactively detect many types of violating content posted in groups before anyone reports them and sometimes before few people, if any, even see them.

Similarly, Stories presents its own set of enforcement challenges when it comes to both removing and reducing the spread of problematic content. The format’s ephemerality means we need to work even faster to remove violating content. The creative tools that give people the ability to add text, stickers and drawings to photos and videos can be abused to mask violating content. And because people enjoy stringing together multiple Story cards, we have to view Stories as holistic — if we evaluate individual story cards in a vacuum, we might miss standards violations.

In addition to describing this context and history, today we discussed how we will be:

  • Rolling out a new section on the Community Standards site where people can track the updates we make each month. We revisit existing policies and draft new ones for several reasons, including to improve our enforcement accuracy or to get ahead of new trends raised by content reviewers, internal discussion, expert critique or external engagement. We’ll track all policy changes in this new section and share specifics on why we made the more substantive ones. Starting today, in English.
  • Updating the enforcement policy for groups and launching a new Group Quality feature. As part of the Safe Communities Initiative, we will be holding the admins of Facebook Groups more accountable for Community Standards violations. Starting in the coming weeks, when reviewing a group to decide whether or not to take it down, we will look at admin and moderator content violations in that group, including member posts they have approved, as a stronger signal that the group violates our standards. We’re also introducing a new feature called Group Quality, which offers an overview of content removed and flagged for most violations, as well as a section for false news found in the group. The goal is to give admins a clearer view into how and when we enforce our Community Standards. Starting in the coming weeks, globally.

For more information on Facebook’s “remove” work, see these videos on the people and process behind our Community Standards development.

Reduce

Facebook

There are types of content that are problematic but don’t meet the standards for removal under our Community Standards, such as misinformation and clickbait. People often tell us that they don’t like seeing this kind of content and while we allow it to be posted on Facebook, we want to make sure it’s not broadly distributed.

Over the last two years, we’ve focused heavily on reducing misinformation on Facebook. We’re getting better at enforcing against fake accounts and coordinated inauthentic behavior; we’re using both technology and people to fight the rise in photo and video-based misinformation; we’ve deployed new measures to help people spot false news and get more context about the stories they see in News Feed; and we’ve grown our third-party fact-checking program to include 45 certified fact-checking partners who review content in 24 languages.

Today, members of the Facebook News Feed team discussed how we will be:

  • Kicking off a collaborative process with outside experts to find new ways to fight more false news, more quickly. Our professional fact-checking partners are an important piece of our strategy against misinformation, but they face challenges of scale: There simply aren’t enough professional fact-checkers worldwide and, like all good journalism, fact-checking takes time. One promising idea to bolster their work, which we’ve been exploring since 2017, involves groups of Facebook users pointing to journalistic sources to corroborate or contradict claims made in potentially false content. Over the next few months, we’re going to build on those explorations, continuing to consult a wide range of academics, fact-checking experts, journalists, survey researchers and civil society organizations to understand the benefits and risks of ideas like this. We need to find solutions that support original reporting, promote trusted information, complement our existing fact-checking programs and allow for people to express themselves freely — without having Facebook be the judge of what is true. Any system we implement must have safeguards from gaming or manipulation, avoid introducing personal biases and protect minority voices. We’ll share updates with the public throughout this exploratory process and solicit feedback from broader groups of people around the world. Starting today, globally.
  • Expanding the role of The Associated Press as part of the third-party fact-checking program. As part of our third-party fact-checking program, AP will be expanding its efforts by debunking false and misleading video misinformation and Spanish-language content appearing on Facebook in the US. Starting today, in the US.
  • Reducing the reach of Groups that repeatedly share misinformation. When people in a group repeatedly share content that has been rated false by independent fact-checkers, we will reduce that group’s overall News Feed distribution. Starting today, globally.
  • Incorporating a “Click-Gap” signal into News Feed ranking. Ranking uses many signals to ensure people see less low-quality content in their News Feed. This new signal, Click-Gap, relies on the web graph, a conceptual “map” of the internet in which domains with a lot of inbound and outbound links are at the center of the graph and domains with fewer inbound and outbound links are at the edges. Click-Gap looks for domains with a disproportionate number of outbound Facebook clicks compared to their place in the web graph. This can be a sign that the domain is succeeding on News Feed in a way that doesn’t reflect the authority they’ve built outside it and is producing low-quality content. Starting today, globally.

For more information about how we set goals for our “reduce” initiatives on Facebook, read this blog post.

Instagram

Today we discussed how Instagram is working to ensure that the content we recommend to people is both safe and appropriate for the community. We have begun reducing the spread of posts that are inappropriate but do not go against Instagram’s Community Guidelines, limiting those types of posts from being recommended on our Explore and hashtag pages. For example, a sexually suggestive post will still appear in Feed if you follow the account that posts it, but this type of content may not appear for the broader community in Explore or hashtag pages.

Facebook

We’re investing in features and products that give people more information to help them decide what to read, trust and share. In the past year, we began offering more information on articles in News Feed with the Context Button, which shows the publisher’s Wikipedia entry, the website’s age, and where and how often the content has been shared. We helped Page owners improve their content with the Page Quality tab, which shows them which posts of theirs were removed for violating our Community Standards or were rated “False,” “Mixture” or “False Headline” by third-party fact-checkers. We also discussed how we will be:

  • Expanding the Context Button to images. Originally launched in April 2018, the Context Button feature provides people more background information about the publishers and articles they see in News Feed so they can better decide what to read, trust and share. We’re testing enabling this feature for images that have been reviewed by third-party fact-checkers. Testing now in the US. (Updated on April 10, 2019 at 11AM PT to include this news.)
  • Adding Trust Indicators to the Context Button. The Trust Indicators are standardized disclosures, created by a consortium of news organizations known as the Trust Project, that provide clarity on a news organization’s ethics and other standards for fairness and accuracy. The indicators we display in the context button cover the publication’s fact-checking practices, ethics statements, corrections, ownership and funding and editorial team. Started March 2019, on English and Spanish content.
  • Adding more information to the Page Quality tab. We’ll be providing more information in the tab over time, starting with more information in the coming months on a Page’s status with respect to clickbait. Starting soon, globally.
  • Allowing people to remove their posts and comments from a group after they leave the group. People will have this ability even if they are no longer a member of the group. With this update, we aim to bring greater transparency and personal control to groups. Starting soon, globally.

Messenger

At today’s event, Messenger highlighted new and updated privacy and safety features that give people greater control of their experience and help people stay informed.

  • Combatting impersonations by bringing the Verified Badge from Facebook into Messenger. This tool will help people avoid scammers that pretend to be high-profile people by providing a visible indicator of a verified account. Messenger continues to encourage use of the Report Impersonations tool, introduced last year, if someone believes they are interacting with a someone pretending to be a friend. Starting this week, globally.
  • Launching Messaging Settings and an Updated Block feature for greater control. Messaging Settings allow you to control whether people you’re not connected to, such as friends of your friends, people with your phone number or people who follow you on Instagram can reach your Chats list. The Updated Block feature makes it easier to block and avoid unwanted contact. Starting this week, globally.
  • Launched Forward Indicator and Context Button to help prevent the spread of misinformation. The Forward Indicator lets someone know if a message they received was forwarded by the sender, while the Context Button provides more background on shared articles. Started earlier this year, globally

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The Hunt for False News: EU Edition


By Antonia Woodford, Product Manager

Reducing the amount of false news on Facebook is always important, critically so during times of heightened civic discourse, such as the lead-up to major elections. That’s why limiting the spread of misinformation has been a key pillar in our investments around election integrity.

As a company, when it comes to misinformation, we prioritize reducing the harm it causes and often look at its impacts in the aggregate. However, we can learn a lot about trends and nuances by examining specific cases and how they spread. In this second edition of “The Hunt for False News,” we travel to the EU, ahead of May’s parliamentary elections, to take a deeper look at some examples of misinformation that circulated there recently.

What we saw
In January, a photo of a letter supposedly written by the headmistress of a Dresden primary school was posted to Facebook. The letter announces that in the following week, four imams would be visiting the school to introduce the children to the Koran and Islam. This “theme week” would include a compulsory visit to a mosque, and parents were encouraged to buy a Koran and avoid giving their children pork for breakfast on the day of the imams’ visit. The letter closed by saying that the school was pleased to be bringing parents and children closer to Islam, as it is an important topic in Germany.

Was it true?
No. German fact-checker Correctiv used image editing software to take a closer look at the letterhead, which had been blacked out in the photo. By increasing the contrast and brightness, they show that the blacked-out section was not, in fact, a school address, but a nonsense string of letters. Correctiv also notes that the letter circulated on various social networks, and when a Twitter user asked various German officials for comment on the photo, the Saxon Ministry of Education tweeted back that the letter was a fake.

What to know
False news often gains traction when it feeds off of hot-button political and social issues — in this case, the growing population of Muslims in Germany. As we noted in an example about migrants and refugees in the last edition of “The Hunt for False News,” content that disparages or stirs up distrust of distinct groups of people, as this letter does, is another key trend in misinformation.

A few months ago, we expanded our fact-checking efforts to include photos, like this one, and videos. This fake letter falls into the “manipulated or fabricated” category of photo and video misinformation. (The other two major categories are out-of-context media or media with false audio or text claims.) In general, we see that photos and videos make up a greater share of fact-checked posts than article links do. In fact, in the lead-up to the US midterm elections, photos and videos made up two thirds of fact-checker ratings in the U.S.

How we caught it
There are two primary ways we find stories that are likely to be false: either we use machine learning to detect potentially false stories on Facebook, or else they’re identified by our third-party fact-checkers themselves. Once a potentially false story has been found — regardless of how it was identified — fact-checkers review the claims in the story, rate their accuracy and provide an explanation as to how they arrived at their rating. This photo was identified via machine learning.

What we saw
A video shared on Facebook in February shows a man in a suit walking through what looks like a government assembly hall, shaking hands and dropping small cards at a number of empty seats. The caption claims that the man is using Spanish national ID cards to register absent congresspeople as “present” to collect their per diem payments.
Was it true?
No. First off, as fact-checker Maldito Bulo notes, the assembly hall shown in the video isn’t that of the Spanish Parliament — it’s the Ukrainian Parliament. In the Ukrainian Parliament, members must use identification cards to vote, but that is not true in the Spanish Parliament.

What to know
This is a classic example of an “out of context” video, another major category of misinformation. In the past, this video has circulated with claims that it shows the French or Brazilian parliaments, according to Maldito Bulo.

How we found it
The video was identified by Maldito Bulo, who rated it false, leading us to downrank it in News Feed and show Maldito Bulo’s debunking article alongside the video in Related Articles. Our machine learning models picked up additional videos making the same claim and surfaced them to our fact-checkers. Maldito Bulo and another fact-checker, Newtral, rated them false, leading us to take action on them, as well.

These videos were posted in February, before we had expanded our fact-checking partnership to Spain. They were rated soon after the expansion and quickly taken action on, but in the intervening time had been shared tens of thousands of times. This is a strong sign of why it’s important for us to keep developing new methods for fighting misinformation faster and at a larger scale.

What we saw
An article from a now defunct Dutch site citing 11 reasons to avoid getting a flu shot — including a claim that the flu shot can cause Alzheimer’s — was shared to Facebook in December 2018. The article cited research by Dr. Hugh Fudenburg supposedly showing that people who regularly have a flu shot are 10 times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. The article link was caught early; it had only been shared about 23 times before it was fact-checked.

Was it true?
Our fact-checking partner Nu.nl declared that one of the claims in the story — that the flu shot increases the risk of Alzheimer’s — was very unlikely and gave the overall article a “mixture” rating on this basis. Nu.nl noted that there is no published research showing the flu vaccine impacts your chance of getting Alzheimer’s; Fudenberg is reported to have spoken about research linking flu shots and the disease at a 1997 conference, but those findings have never been published and there are no supporting scientific theories that make it plausible the flu shot would affect one’s chance of getting Alzheimer’s. Further, while it has been claimed that aluminum and mercury in flu vaccines lead to the disease, Nu.nl reports that neither substance is found in Dutch flu shots.

What to know
While we’ve been working with fact-checkers to rate articles across a range of topics, we also recently announced that we’re taking additional actions to reduce the spread of vaccine hoaxes verified as false by global health organizations, because the spread of health misinformation online can have dangerous consequences offline. We will also be informing people with authoritative information on the topic. (Learn more about our “remove, reduce, inform” framework for cleaning up your News Feed.)

How we caught it
This one was identified via machine learning. Nu.nl matched the claim about the flu vaccine and Alzheimer’s to an article they’d written on the topic in late October, which led to our downranking this Dutch article in News Feed and showing Nu.nl’s debunking article alongside it in Related Articles.

What we saw
In February 2019, a French website published an article claiming that the UN was seeking to legalize pedophilia. The text of the article was copy-and-pasted from an earlier article that has been floating around the internet for several years. The article, which was shared to Facebook the same month, suggests that the UN is demanding sexual rights for children as young as 10 years old, which would protect pedophiles from criminal prosecution and imprisonment.

Was it true?
No. The much-copied article seems to refer to a 2008 declaration by the International Planned Parenthood Federation, an advocate of sexual and reproductive health and rights that has participated in several UN commissions. The declaration, which has no legal value, according to a 2017 article written by our fact-checking partner 20 Minutes, asserts that “sexual rights are human rights” and proposes a framework of general principles about sexuality as well as 10 “sexual rights.”

The declaration does contain material related to the sexuality of children, such as the principle that “the rights and protections guaranteed to people under age eighteen differ from those of adults, and must take into account the evolving capacities of the individual child to exercise rights on his or her own behalf.” However, as 20 Minutes notes, it contains nothing in favor of the legalization of pedophilia. In fact, it asserts that “all children and adolescents are entitled to enjoy the right to special protection from all forms of exploitation.”

What to know
Digging a bit further, it seems that the claims in this copy-and-pasted meme stem from multiple sources, including an interview with the writer Marion Sigaut and a 2012 article from the Center for Family and Human Rights titled “UN May Recognize Sex Rights for Ten-Year Old Children.” As with rumors offline, misinformation can get distorted as it travels across the internet, which is one of the reasons truth can be hard to ascertain online.

How we caught it
This article was found via our machine learning model, which detected it based on the similarity of its central claim to a claim that had been previously debunked by 20 Minutes. When we find possible matches like these, we surface them to fact-checkers to confirm that they are in fact the same claim. 20 Minutes reviewed this new French article and connected it to a fact-checking article they’d written in 2017, which led to our downranking the article in News Feed and showing the 20 Minutes debunk in Related Articles.

What we saw
In January 2018, a Twitter account purporting to belong to Ebba Busch Thor, leader of the Swedish Christian Democrats or Kristdemokraterna (KD), tweeted disapprovingly of those who criticize the Swedish pension system. The post alluded to people’s concern for poor pensioners, saying that in Sweden people get the pension they deserve and that the undesirable alternative would be socialism. The account, @EbbaBuschThorKD, was revealed to be a fake and shut down, but screenshots of the tweet continued to circulate. The screenshot was shared to Facebook in January 2018 by a Page called Nej till EU-Skatt (“No to EU Tax”) and the post began recirculating in January 2019.

Was it true?
No — as our fact-checking partner Viralgranskaren (Viral Examiner) noted in their article debunking the screenshot, @EbbaBuschThorKD was a fake Twitter account that has since been shut down.

What to know
False news can have a long shelf life when its subjects remain in the spotlight. Even though this screenshot first surfaced in 2018, it saw another spike a full year later, during a months-long government deadlock following parliamentary elections in September 2018. As we noted above, another major trend in misinformation is content that disparages distinct groups of people — in this case, low-income people.

Though this particular ruse started on Twitter, fake accounts are a major vector of misinformation on Facebook, too. Blocking fake accounts is one of the most impactful steps in our fight to curb false news. In the third quarter of 2018 — the time period covered by our most recent Community Standards Enforcement Report — we disabled 754 million fake accounts, having found 99.6% of them before users reported them.

How we caught it
This image was detected via machine learning. Viralgranskaren investigated it and submitted a “false” rating and an explainer article, which led us to reduce its distribution in News Feed and show the Viralgranskaren debunk in Related Articles.





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Business Branding for Beginners | Colorado Marketing Agency



Rachael Herman

logos-business-branding

 

What makes these images recognizable?

It’s not just the logo.

You know the name, the colors, the tone, the shapes.  You know the weird clown, the simple swoosh, and the flaming red sticker on the curvy Coca-Cola bottle.  I’ll bet you can even describe what kind of experience to expect when you encounter the products.

That’s the Business Brand.

But, there’s more to it than the look and feel.

A brand has a soul.  It has a sound, a voice, and a personality.  Think of it as a child. You want your child to grow into a grateful, helpful, and appreciated member of society, but you know there’s only so much you can do. Other influences make a brand who and what it is.  While building on your business branding, you’ll need to make impossible decisions, but you’ll experience great joy in the process. The brand, like people, has a life of its own. It’s up to you to nurture it, but your customers and employees will have peer-level influence.

Business Branding Basics

Good business branding needs a good marketing strategy, and that all starts with your brand. Your business branding is the foundation of your entire marketing plan, and it’s in both traditional and digital marketing strategies.  It’s in everything, including your:

  • Web design
  • Social media posts
  • Blog
  • Print materials
  • Advertisements
  • Uniforms or name tags
  • Sales funnel
  • Responses to reviews
  • Networking plan
  • Elevator pitch
  • And much, much more…

Before you begin, dedicate a few hours to sit with the below questions.  Grab a pen and a piece of paper (to avoid device distraction) and find a comfortable spot.

I know it sounds corny, but you must be the brand when you answer the following questions:

  • Are you formal, professional, or conversational?
  • Do you use slang?
  • Are you witty or serious?
  • Are you informative or persuasive?
  • Do you use emoticons?
  • Do you use grammar and punctuation casually or formally?
  • How do you use or react to humor about your product or service?
  • How active are you on social media?
  • What do you really care about?
  • Use 3-5 single words to describe your business branding.
  • What’s your vision?
  • What’s your mission?

Does the audience currently engage with your brand?  In other words, are they buying from you?  If not, find out what posts, products, services, blogs, ads, etc. have the most engagement, leads, or sales, and use them to help you build on your business branding.  If you’re just beginning, look at your competitors and see what’s working for them.

Three Ways (with some notes) to Help Your Brand Grow (and keep growing)

  1. Use your colors, fonts, elements, and shapes throughout all Everything from your e-mail signature to your website font should match your brand’s style.
    • Don’t use more than three fonts, but three is pushing it. Choose one serif and one sans-serif from Google Fonts.  The third font can be a fancy one used for call-outs or quotes.
      • Remember, just because you think it looks good that doesn’t mean your readers will like it. Research shows that people prefer serif and sans-serif fonts (especially serif).
  2. Make sure everyone in your company knows how to talk to customers and potential customers.
    • Write an elevator pitch. I know it sounds old-fashioned, but it’s necessary. You don’t have a lot of time. We’re an easily distracted and often inattentive culture. Have the best elevator pitch that makes them want to know more.
    • Teach your team what not to say and do. For example, if you want to be good-natured, professional, and intelligent, you don’t want your team cursing and wearing clothes that don’t fit in with your brand’s personality.
    • Revisit the “who we are” topics regularly with all members of your team.
    • Throw events and do team-building activities that emphasize your brand.
  3. Create 3-6 guiding principles and post them everywhere, teach them everywhere, live them everywhere. Our six guiding principles are:
    1. Be helpful
    2. Bring joy
    3. Keep learning
    4. Have integrity
    5. Nurture partnerships
    6. Honor and respect everyone

Don’t underestimate the power of the collective.  Your audience’s voice is vital to your growth, and it changes as frequently as new ones develop.

Listen and adapt. Learn when to say no, but almost always say yes. 

Help Your Brand Stay Ahead of the Competition

  • Dedicate 30 minutes a day to researching your niche. You may be able to cover this in your workday. Be mindful of ways to learn more about your industry.
    • Check out Google Trends, Google Keyword Planner, or enter common keywords in the search engine. Put yourself in the shoes of your customer.  What problem do you need to solve?
    • Follow your favorite blogs, social pages, and websites.
  • Check out your competition and see if they’re doing anything new. SpyFu and SEOptimer have some free information.
  • Research indicates that social audiences love current events, so keep an eye on the news, especially as it relates to your industry.
  • Find opportunities to teach about your industry, product, or service.
  • Fear of failure will stunt your growth. Failure happens. It must. It’s the only way to be successful.  Instead of caving into the fear, plan ahead.  Plan out a policy, process, or action plan for things like negative reviews, bad press, theft, natural disasters, spam, hacking, and employee misbehavior.

The most important message to take from this article is to make sure everything you and your employees do falls within your guiding principles.  Those values should be reflected in your business branding efforts.  It takes a village to raise a brand, so be sure to pay close attention to how those outside influences are affecting your business brand.

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