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Facebook: Removing Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior From Ethiopia

We removed a network of accounts, Pages and Groups in Ethiopia for coordinated inauthentic behavior (CIB). It targeted domestic audiences in its own country. The people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts as a central part of their operations to mislead people about who they are and what they are…

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We removed a network of accounts, Pages and Groups in Ethiopia for coordinated inauthentic behavior (CIB). It targeted domestic audiences in its own country.

The people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts as a central part of their operations to mislead people about who they are and what they are doing, and that was the basis for our action. When we investigate and remove CIB operations, we focus on behavior rather than content, no matter who’s behind them, what they post, or whether they’re foreign or domestic.

Over the past four years, we’ve shared our findings about coordinated inauthentic behavior we detect and remove from our platforms. Each month, we publish CIB reports where we share information about the networks we take down over the course of each month to make it easier for people to see the progress we’re making in one place. In some cases, like today, we also share our findings at the time of enforcement. The takedown we are announcing today will also be included in our June 2021 report. You can find more information about our previous CIB enforcement actions here.

We are making progress rooting out this abuse, but as we’ve said before, it’s an ongoing effort. We’re committed to continually improving to stay ahead.

WHAT WE FOUND
(We will update the numbers as soon as the latest data becomes available)

We removed 65 Facebook accounts, 52 Pages, 27 Groups, and 32 accounts on Instagram for violating our policy against coordinated inauthentic behavior. This network originated in and focused on domestic audiences in Ethiopia.

The operation used duplicate and fake accounts — some of which were already detected and disabled by our automated systems — to post and comment on their own content, and manage Groups and Pages, including those posing as media entities. The campaign appeared to accelerate their posting activity in 2020 and into 2021, and some of its recent content was rated false by independent fact-checkers and labeled as misleading. Some of the accounts went through significant name changes over time. They also used spam-like inauthentic distribution tactics to post the same content across multiple Pages and Groups simultaneously, including other people’s Groups.

This network posted primarily in Amharic about news and current events in Ethiopia, including the Prosperity party, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and criticism of Egypt and Sudan related to Ethiopia’s mega dam project. They also posted critical commentary about various opposition politicians and groups in Ethiopia, including Oromo Liberation Front, Ethiopian Democratic Party, and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front among others. Most recently, they commented about protests against the US sanctions on Ethiopia. We assess that this activity was not directly focused on the Tigray region or the ongoing conflict in Tigray.

We found this network as part of our internal investigation into suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior in the region. Although the people behind it attempted to conceal their identities and coordination, our investigation found links to individuals associated with INSA, the Information Network Security Agency in Ethiopia.

  • Presence on Facebook and Instagram: 65Facebook accounts, 52 Pages, 27 Groups and 32 Instagram accounts.
  • Followers: About 1.1 million accounts followed one or more of these Pages, about 766,000 accounts joined one or more of these Groups, and around 1,700 people followed one or more of these Instagram accounts.
  • Advertising: About $6,200 in spending for ads paid for in US dollars.

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

Translation:
Caption: Debretseion’s death is being talked about on social media. It seems all that threat has gone to grave. It is usually the case that an empty threat of a “shiro” is until a spoon finds it.
Image overlay: Debretsion, the warthog, has been making threats wearing his gloves but he has gone to the grave. Ego takes one to
the grave. Translation:
Image overlay: Those who know him, know him well. Those who don’t know him are getting to know him now. he knows how to persuade his enemies with his bright path.
Stay strong our leader. Millions of us have decided to stand with you. Post and comments by this network’s Page and account. Translation:
Caption: The supporters of the junta which has been blown to ashes in two weeks by our military and amhara special forces are now using hashtag campaigns to get international intervention and support. this is a nightmare. Does one think the group which has been defeated while having tanks and missiles can come back to life through a false campaign? Never. This is like trying to hug a cloud.
Image overlay: The Tigray genocide is only happening on social media, particularly on Twitter.

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Facebook: Recognizing Global Accessibility Awareness Day

As an avid outdoor enthusiast and firefighter, Carly P. has always loved being active. After a life-changing injury paralyzed her from the waist down, she felt lost. Carly recaptured her passion for being outside and found a community of people like her through the nonprofit organization Catalyst Sports. Now, she uses Catalyst Sports’ Facebook page…

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As an avid outdoor enthusiast and firefighter, Carly P. has always loved being active. After a life-changing injury paralyzed her from the waist down, she felt lost. Carly recaptured her passion for being outside and found a community of people like her through the nonprofit organization Catalyst Sports. Now, she uses Catalyst Sports’ Facebook page to spread awareness and share local recreational opportunities for people with physical disabilities.

In addition to providing community to people with disabilities, we’re also working to make the digital world more accessible. 

We will demonstrate our latest accessibility features today at our annual Accessibility Summit. Join us at 10:00AM PT for this livestream on the Meta Accessibility Facebook Page. In addition to product demos and updates, we will host an interview with Molly Burke, a digital creator and blind advocate.

Through a video series on the Meta Accessibility Facebook Page, we’re highlighting how people with disabilities connect and build communities through our technologies, much like Carly. We’ve created both the captioned and audio described versions of these stories.

Today, we’re recapping advances we’ve made over the past year to make our technologies more inclusive. 

Meta Quest

  • Audio Accessibility
    • Audio balance: This option enables you to adjust the balance of the left and right audio channels for comfort, and to better match your ability to hear in each ear. 
    • Mono Audio enables you to hear the same audio from both the left and right speakers on your headset. 
    • You’ll find both features under the Accessibility tab in your headset’s Settings menu.

Product mock of audio accessibility on Meta Quest

  • Adjust Height  
    • This feature allows you to experience VR from a “standing” vantage point even while reclining or seated. This can improve the VR experience for people who use wheelchairs, have limited mobility or are unable to use the Quest headset while standing. 
    • We first introduced this as an experimental feature (called Raise View) last June and have now made it permanent after receiving positive feedback from the disability community. 
    • You can find this feature in the Accessibility tab in Quest’s Settings menu.

Portal

  • Video relay service (VRS)
    • In December, we began supporting video relay service (VRS) applications on Portal  for people who use American Sign Language (ASL), through a collaboration with ZP Better Together.
    • Through the ZP apps on Portal and human interpreters, people who use American Sign Language can now easily communicate in both English and Spanish. 
    • Portal’s unique AI-powered camera always keeps you in frame and in focus, even when you’re moving, so your face and hands can always be seen.
  • Captions
    • We’ve also added customizable closed captions for streamed content on TV and Touch, as well as added support for live captions into integrated work productivity apps Zoom and Workplace Live.

Instagram

  • Auto-generated captions for Feed videos
    • In March, we introduced auto-generated captions for Feed videos on iOS and Android in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Arabic, Vietnamese, Italian, German, Turkish, Russian, Thai, Tagalog, Urdu, Malay, Hindi and Japanese to start. 
    • More importantly, captions are automatically turned on by default when a creator uploads a video to their Feed. Over 140 million videos were created with auto-generated captions in the last 30 days.
    • Creators retain the ability to turn captions off when they choose and viewers can turn captions on or off using on-screen controls.

Product mock of Instagram auto-generated captions

Stickers on Facebook and Messenger

  • We added alt text descriptions to the more than 10,000 stickers available on Facebook and Messenger, making it possible for people who are blind and visually impaired to understand and use them. 

Avatars

  • Earlier this year, we introduced the ability to have your same avatar across Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Quest. 
  • There are also new avatar options, including over-the-ear hearing aids and cochlear implants in addition to more face shapes, skin tones, expressions, and stickers. 
  • Wheelchairs are now available as stickers on Facebook, Instagram and Messenger so your avatar can better represent who you are or who you want to be.

Product mock of accessibility features of Avatars

Open Source

  • Lexical is a JavaScript framework built to improve text editing on Facebook, WhatsApp, Messenger and Workplace, with accessibility as a priority. 
  • In April, Lexical was released into open source to allow the rest of the world to benefit from these improvements. 
  • With this new framework, people can express their ideas in text via dictation, and readers can experience character-by-character navigation — a feature previously unavailable in similar editors.

Reality Labs Research

  • We’re exploring how improvements in audio quality can enable more realistic presence and perceptual superpowers in augmented and virtual reality— technological advancements that can also help us hear better in noisy environments. 
  • Our team of hearing scientists is also exploring how to reencode sound and present it through closed captioning.
  • While this is still early research, we are excited to learn more about how emerging audio technologies can improve the lives of people with hearing loss. 

Image showing audio research

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Facebook: Announcing New Products to Make Business Messaging Easier

The way people and businesses communicate is changing. One billion people message with a business each week on WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram Direct — whether it’s DMing brands, browsing product catalogs, asking for support, or interacting with stories. This consumer behavior is accelerating and it’s changing how business gets done. Today at Conversations, our inaugural…

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The way people and businesses communicate is changing. One billion people message with a business each week on WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram Direct — whether it’s DMing brands, browsing product catalogs, asking for support, or interacting with stories. This consumer behavior is accelerating and it’s changing how business gets done. Today at Conversations, our inaugural business messaging event, we discussed how messaging is transforming interactions between people and businesses, and announced new products to make conversations easier.

Introducing Cloud-based API on the WhatsApp Business Platform

Today, Mark Zuckerberg announced we’re opening up the new, cloud-based version of the WhatsApp Business Platform, hosted by Meta, to any business across the world. With this new API, we’re offering free, secure cloud hosting services so businesses and developers can easily access our service within minutes, build directly on top of WhatsApp to customize their experience and increase their response time for their customers. So now, whether a business wants to work with one of our 100+ partners or access our service directly, it will be much faster to get up and running on WhatsApp.

When growing a business, you need smart, robust and easy-to-use conversation tools. For smaller businesses using the WhatsApp Business app, we’re building tools so it’s easier to handle an influx of chats as they grow their customer base. 

Launching Recurring Notifications on Messenger

Today we’re announcing a new way for businesses to keep the conversation going with Recurring Notifications. As businesses acquire new customers and begin to scale operations, there’s incredible opportunity to build loyalty and trust — and we believe this is where the value of messaging really shines. This new capability makes it easy to re-engage people right in the messaging thread and deliver tailored messaging at the best time for customers, whether to hear about special promotions, new product drops or tips and tricks.

You can choose the topics you’d like to let people opt-in to, how often customers can hear from you and shape your content, so your messages are always on-brand and relevant. Recurring notifications will also be available for businesses on Instagram this fall.

We also highlighted our click-to-message ads to help customers immediately start conversations with businesses, our CRM platform Kustomer and Meta Business Suite for higher volumes of messages across Facebook, Messenger and Instagram. Read more about our product investments in business messaging on our Meta for Developers blog.

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Facebook: Introducing New Members of the Oversight Board

Today, Meta welcomes the newest members of the Oversight Board who have just been appointed — Paolo Carozza, Khaled Mansour, and Pamela San Martin. Per the Oversight Board Bylaws, we worked together with the board to identify and select these members over the last few months. Over the next few months we will continue to…

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Today, Meta welcomes the newest members of the Oversight Board who have just been appointed — Paolo Carozza, Khaled Mansour, and Pamela San Martin.

Per the Oversight Board Bylaws, we worked together with the board to identify and select these members over the last few months. Over the next few months we will continue to support and work with the board to select additional members. The new members reflect a wide range of views and experiences, and will bring a variety of perspectives to the board’s existing expertise.

The Oversight Board represents a unique model for social media governance. From its inception, we knew its impact would come not just from its decisions on individual cases, but also from broader recommendations on how we can improve our policies and processes. In the time since they began hearing cases and issuing decisions and recommendations, they’ve been playing a bigger role in setting precedent and direction for our content policies and how we enforce them.  We look forward to welcoming the new board members into this process.

We will update this Newsroom Post as additional members are appointed. We are grateful to all board members for lending their expertise to our content moderation efforts.

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