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Facebook: An Update on Our Longstanding Work to Protect People in Ethiopia

Ethiopia has been one of our highest priorities for country-specific interventions to keep people safe given the risk of conflict.  For more than two years, we’ve invested in safety and security measures in Ethiopia, including building our capacity to catch hateful and inflammatory content in the languages that are spoken most widely in the country,…

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  • Ethiopia has been one of our highest priorities for country-specific interventions to keep people safe given the risk of conflict. 
  • For more than two years, we’ve invested in safety and security measures in Ethiopia, including building our capacity to catch hateful and inflammatory content in the languages that are spoken most widely in the country, despite the fact that the country’s lower internet adoption means that less than 10% of the population uses Facebook.
  • Since the situation began to deteriorate, we have taken a number of additional steps to address violating content across our platforms and to help keep people safe.

Recent events have focused the world’s attention on the conflict in Ethiopia. Our thoughts are with the people of Ethiopia, both in the country and in the diaspora, during this difficult time. But while the international attention that these events are getting may be new, our work to prevent our platform from being abused in Ethiopia is not. 

For more than two years, we’ve been implementing a comprehensive strategy to keep people in the country safe on our platform given the severe, longstanding risks of conflict.

Longstanding Safety Measures in Ethiopia

Two years ago we moved Ethiopia to the category of countries that we believe are at the highest risk for conflict and violence, enabling the development of both proactive solutions that we can implement when crises arise, and a long-term strategy to keep people safe. We’ve been doing this despite the fact that the country’s lower internet adoption means that less than 10% of the population uses Facebook. For the millions of Ethiopians who rely on our services as a source of information and communication, our focus is threefold: 

  • Removing content that violates our policies, 
  • Respecting people’s right to free expression, and 
  • Helping to keep people safe both online and offline.

Ethiopia is an especially challenging environment to address these issues, in part because there are multiple languages spoken in the country.  Over the past two years, we’ve significantly improved our reporting and enforcement tools. We can now review content in the top four languages spoken and those central to the conflict (Amharic, Oromo, Somali, Tigrinya). We’ve also made it easier for Ethiopians as well as specialized international and local human rights and civil society organizations to tell us when they see potentially violating content, so we can investigate it for possible violations.  We also have technology to identify hate speech in Amharic and Oromo before anyone reports it to us. These efforts are industry-leading.   

As a result of these efforts, between May and October 2021, we took action on more than 92,000 pieces of content in Ethiopia on Facebook and Instagram for violations of our Community Standards prohibiting hate speech, about 98% of which was detected before it was reported by people to us. 

In June 2021, we also removed a network of fake accounts posting critical commentary of opposition politicians/groups in Amharic.  The people behind these posts used coordinated, inauthentic accounts as a central part of their efforts to mislead people about who they were and what they were up to. In March 2021, we removed accounts in Egypt that targeted Ethiopia, Sudan, and Turkey. 

Additional Safety Efforts In Response to Recent Events 

As the local situation deteriorated, and as we approached elections in June and again in September, we took a number of additional steps:

  • Reducing potential violating content: To address possible viral content, we’re continuing to reduce content that has been shared by a chain of two or more people. We’re also continuing to reduce the distribution of content that our proactive detection technology identifies as likely to violate our policies against hate speech as well as from accounts that have recently and repeatedly posted violating content.
  • New Classification: In line with our violence and incitement policy, we classified all of Ethiopia as a ‘Temporary High Risk Location’, and will remove content calling for people to bring/carry weapons to specified locations, or to take up arms. We will also remove content containing veiled threats of violence, such as general statements calling for revenge, action, or statements that a target group will, for example, “pay the price.”
  • New Designations: In recent weeks, in line with our policy of banning Violent Non-State Actors, we’ve taken enforcement action against several groups and individuals that were inciting violence in Ethiopia, including most recently the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) and Abba Torbee. We’re also continuing to remove content that provides material support towards these groups or praises the violence they commit. 
  • Improving Hate Speech enforcement: While we’ve had a robust hate speech policy in place for a long time, which we use to remove content that attacks people based on protected characteristics like ethnicity and race, over the past year, we have expanded this enforcement. It now encompasses a more extensive list of slurs across the four main Ethiopian languages. We’re also continuing to observe and address emerging patterns of hateful speech and trending content.
  • Removing harmful misinformation: We’ve removed misinformation when there is a risk it may contribute to physical harm for a long time. But in Ethiopia, we have identified and are removing a number of persistent harmful false claims and out of context imagery that make false allegations about the perpetrators, severity or targets of violence in Ethiopia. This decision was based on guidance from over 50 local partners and independent experts.
  • Violence & Incitement: We’ve temporarily expanded our policies on coordinating harm and will remove content that contains claims about individuals being spies, traitors, or informants, or which encourages other people to make such claims

Then as now, our teams are working around the clock and we’ve activated our Integrity Operation Center — bringing together subject matter experts from across the company to respond in real time to problems and abuses.

Given the rapidly evolving situation, and informed by conversations we’ve had with human rights activists, journalists and civil society groups in Ethiopia and the diaspora about security concerns, we’ve taken additional steps in recent days. We recently launched a new safety feature in Ethiopia called Lock Profile that allows people to restrict anyone who isn’t their friend from downloading, enlarging, or sharing their profile photo. It also prevents non-friends from seeing posts or other photos on their timeline, regardless of when they may have posted it. We’ve also put temporary measures in place to restrict views of peoples’ Friends List on their profile pages and remove results from “Search this profile.” 

While safety work in Ethiopia has been going on for a long time, we know that the risks on the ground right now are higher. And since we recognize that local context and language-specific expertise is essential for this work, we will remain in close communication with people on the ground, along with partner institutions and non-governmental organizations as the days and weeks progress. This will help us take the right actions and make the right calls. We remain vigilant to emerging trends and stand ready to take additional action to meet the demands of this ongoing human rights situation. 

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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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