Facebook is overhauling its News Feed so users feel better again

Facebook is re-tweaking its News Feed again. 

This time it wants to bring it back to friends and family instead of viral videos and media posts, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in a post Thursday. 

“I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions,” he wrote.

He said the change should make everyone feel better: “The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health.”

With fewer posts from businesses, brands, and media, expect to see more of what your “friends” are sharing and liking. 

Zuckerberg didn’t mention Facebook’s role in the 2016 election or Russian meddling through the platform as motivation to change what shows up on the social network.

A breakdown of the “closer together” initiative (also outlined in a video above) indicates news stories will get de-prioritized, while conversations that Facebook thinks will spark a lot of engagement will get a boost. 

To achieve a happier Facebook user base, it looks like Facebook will focus on comment-heavy posts — and not just quick comments like, “Oh no!” or “Thanks!” but lengthy (meaningful!) comments.

All those “likes” won’t mean as much as full-on engagement, which under the new rules seems to mean back-and-forth conversations. Sounds like posting links back and forth won’t count as much in the meaningfulness meter.

In other words, publishers will almost certainly see traffic drop and video views decrease.

Zuckerberg rationalized that the changes will ultimately make for a better Facebook experience, naturally, but might actually cause people to spend less time on the social network.

“I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable,” he wrote.

UPDATE: Jan. 11, 2018, 5:07 p.m. PST This post has been updated with more information about the News Feed changes.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2018/01/11/facebook-news-feed-algorithm-changes-family-friends/

Facebook for 6-Year-Olds? Welcome to Messenger Kids

Facebook says it built Messenger Kids, a new version of its popular communications app with parental controls, to help safeguard pre-teens who may be using unauthorized and unsupervised social-media accounts. Critics think Facebook is targeting children as young as 6 to hook them on its services.

Facebook’s goal is to “push down the age” of when it’s acceptable for kids to be on social media, says Josh Golin, executive director of Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood. Golin says 11-to-12-year-olds who already have a Facebook account, probably because they lied about their age, might find the animated emojis and GIFs of Messenger Kids “too babyish,” and are unlikely to convert to the new app.

Facebook launched Messenger Kids for 6-to-12-year olds in the US Monday, saying it took extraordinary care and precautions. The company said its 100-person team building apps for teens and kids consulted with parent groups, advocates, and childhood-development experts during the 18-month development process and the app reflects their concerns. Parents download Messenger Kids on their child’s account, after verifying their identity by logging into Facebook. Since kids cannot be found in search, parents must initiate and respond to friend requests.

Facebook says Messenger Kids will not display ads, nor collect data on kids for advertising purposes. Kids’ accounts will not automatically be rolled into Facebook accounts once they turn 13.

Nonetheless, advocates focused on marketing to children expressed concerns. The company will collect the content of children’s messages, photos they send, what features they use on the app, and information about the device they use. Facebook says it will use this information to improve the app and will share the information “within the family of companies that are part of Facebook,” and outside companies that provide customer support, analysis, and technical infrastructure.

“It’s all that squishy language that we normally see in privacy policies,” says Golin. “It seems to give Facebook a lot of wiggle room to share this information.” He says Facebook should be clearer about the outsiders with which it may share data.

In response to questions from WIRED, a spokesperson for Facebook said: “It’s important to remember that Messenger Kids does not have ads and we don’t use the data for advertising. This provision about sharing information with vendors from the privacy policy is for things like providing infrastructure to deliver messages.”

Kristen Strader, campaign coordinator for the nonprofit group Public Citizen, says Facebook has proven it cannot be trusted with youth data in the past, pointing to a leaked Facebook report from May that promised advertisers the ability to track teen emotions, such as insecurity, in real-time. "Their response was just that they will not do similar experiments in the future," says Strader. At the time, advocacy groups asked for a copy of the report, but Facebook declined.

On Thursday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal and Sen. Ed Markey sent a long list of questions about the app's privacy controls to Mark Zuckerberg. "We remain concerned about where sensitive information collected through this app could end up and for what purpose it could be used," they wrote in a letter to the Facebook CEO.

Tech companies have made a much more aggressive push into targeting younger users, a strategy that began in earnest in 2015 when Google launched YouTube Kids, which includes advertising. Parents create an account for their child through Google’s Family Link, a product to help parents monitor screentime. FamilyLink is also used for parents who want to start an account for their kid on Google Home, which gets matched to their child’s voice.

“There is no way a company can really close its doors to kids anymore,” says Jeffrey Chester, executive director for the Center of Digital Democracy. “By openly commercializing young children’s digital media use, Google has lowered the bar,” he says, pointing to what toy company Mattel described as “an eight-figure deal” that it signed with YouTube in August.

Chester says services such as YouTube Kids and Messenger Kids are designed to capture the attention, and affinity, of the youngest users. “If they are weaned on Google and Facebook, you have socialized them to use your service when they become an adult,” he says. “On the one hand it’s diabolical and on the other hand it’s how corporations work.”

In past years, tech companies avoided targeting younger users because of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection ACT (COPPA), a law that requires parental permission in order to collect data on children under 13. But, “the weakness of COPPA is that you can do a lot of things if you get parental permission,” says Golin. In the past six months, new apps have launched marketed as parent helpers. “What they’re saying is this is great way for parents to have control, what they are getting is parental permission,” says Golin.

Several children-focused nonprofit groups endorsed Facebook’s approach, including ConnectSafely and Family Online Safety Institute (FOSI). Both groups have received funding from Facebook and each has at least one representative on Facebook’s 13-person advisory board for Messenger Kids. The board also includes two representatives from MediaSmarts, which is sponsored by Facebook.

A Facebook spokesperson says, “We have long-standing relationships with some of these groups and we’ve been transparent about those relationships.” The spokesperson says many backers of Facebook’s approach, including Kristelle Lavallee of the Center on Media and Child Health, and Dr. Kevin Clark of George Mason University’s Center for Digital Media Innovation and Diversity, do not receive support from Facebook.

UPDATE 3:25 PM: This story has been updated with information about the advisory board for Messenger Kids.

UPDATE 4:25 PM 12/7/2017: This story has been updated with information about Sen. Blumenthal's and Sen. Markey's letter to Mark Zuckerberg.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/facebook-for-6-year-olds-welcome-to-messenger-kids/

Facebook rolls out AI to detect suicidal posts before theyre reported

This is software to save lives. Facebook’s new “proactive detection” artificial intelligence technology will scan all posts for patterns of suicidal thoughts, and when necessary send mental health resources to the user at risk or their friends, or contact local first-responders. By using AI to flag worrisome posts to human moderators instead of waiting for user reports, Facebook can decrease how long it takes to send help.

Facebook previously tested using AI to detect troubling posts and more prominently surface suicide reporting options to friends in the U.S. Now Facebook is will scour all types of content around the world with this AI, except in the European Union, where General Data Protection Regulation privacy laws on profiling users based on sensitive information complicate the use of this tech.

Facebook also will use AI to prioritize particularly risky or urgent user reports so they’re more quickly addressed by moderators, and tools to instantly surface local language resources and first-responder contact info. It’s also dedicating more moderators to suicide prevention, training them to deal with the cases 24/7, and now has 80 local partners like Save.org, National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and Forefront from which to provide resources to at-risk users and their networks.

“This is about shaving off minutes at every single step of the process, especially in Facebook Live,” says VP of product management Guy Rosen. Over the past month of testing, Facebook has initiated more than 100 “wellness checks” with first-responders visiting affected users. “There have been cases where the first-responder has arrived and the person is still broadcasting.”

The idea of Facebook proactively scanning the content of people’s posts could trigger some dystopian fears about how else the technology could be applied. Facebook didn’t have answers about how it would avoid scanning for political dissent or petty crime, with Rosen merely saying “we have an opportunity to help here so we’re going to invest in that.” There are certainly massive beneficial aspects about the technology, but it’s another space where we have little choice but to hope Facebook doesn’t go too far.

[Update: Facebook’s chief security officer Alex Stamos responded to these concerns with a heartening tweet signaling that Facebook does take seriously responsible use of AI.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg praised the product update in a post today, writing that “In the future, AI will be able to understand more of the subtle nuances of language, and will be able to identify different issues beyond suicide as well, including quickly spotting more kinds of bullying and hate.”

Unfortunately, after TechCrunch asked if there was a way for users to opt out, of having their posts a Facebook spokesperson responded that users cannot opt out. They noted that the feature is designed to enhance user safety, and that support resources offered by Facebook can be quickly dismissed if a user doesn’t want to see them.]

Facebook trained the AI by finding patterns in the words and imagery used in posts that have been manually reported for suicide risk in the past. It also looks for comments like “are you OK?” and “Do you need help?”

“We’ve talked to mental health experts, and one of the best ways to help prevent suicide is for people in need to hear from friends or family that care about them,” Rosen says. “This puts Facebook in a really unique position. We can help connect people who are in distress connect to friends and to organizations that can help them.”

How suicide reporting works on Facebook now

Through the combination of AI, human moderators and crowdsourced reports, Facebook could try to prevent tragedies like when a father killed himself on Facebook Live last month. Live broadcasts in particular have the power to wrongly glorify suicide, hence the necessary new precautions, and also to affect a large audience, as everyone sees the content simultaneously unlike recorded Facebook videos that can be flagged and brought down before they’re viewed by many people.

Now, if someone is expressing thoughts of suicide in any type of Facebook post, Facebook’s AI will both proactively detect it and flag it to prevention-trained human moderators, and make reporting options for viewers more accessible.

When a report comes in, Facebook’s tech can highlight the part of the post or video that matches suicide-risk patterns or that’s receiving concerned comments. That avoids moderators having to skim through a whole video themselves. AI prioritizes users reports as more urgent than other types of content-policy violations, like depicting violence or nudity. Facebook says that these accelerated reports get escalated to local authorities twice as fast as unaccelerated reports.

Mark Zuckerberg gets teary-eyed discussing inequality during his Harvard commencement speech in May

Facebook’s tools then bring up local language resources from its partners, including telephone hotlines for suicide prevention and nearby authorities. The moderator can then contact the responders and try to send them to the at-risk user’s location, surface the mental health resources to the at-risk user themselves or send them to friends who can talk to the user. “One of our goals is to ensure that our team can respond worldwide in any language we support,” says Rosen.

Back in February, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote that “There have been terribly tragic events — like suicides, some live streamed — that perhaps could have been prevented if someone had realized what was happening and reported them sooner . . .  Artificial intelligence can help provide a better approach.”

With more than 2 billion users, it’s good to see Facebook stepping up here. Not only has Facebook created a way for users to get in touch with and care for each other. It’s also unfortunately created an unmediated real-time distribution channel in Facebook Live that can appeal to people who want an audience for violence they inflict on themselves or others.

Creating a ubiquitous global communication utility comes with responsibilities beyond those of most tech companies, which Facebook seems to be coming to terms with.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/11/27/facebook-ai-suicide-prevention/

Zuckerbergs CZI donates to struggling towns near Facebook

Facebook’s success has led to gentrification and hardship in some towns close to its Menlo Park headquarters. So while the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has committed more than $45 billion to solving health and education problems worldwide, today it’s strengthening its hyper-local philanthropy.

The new CZI Community Fund will provide $25,000 to $100,000 grants to nonprofits and nonprofit or municipality-backed organizations working to improve education, housing, homelessness, immigration, transportation and workforce development in Belle Haven, East Palo Alto, North Fair Oaks and Redwood City, California. For reference, the average rent in East Palo Alto just two miles from Facebook HQ went up 24 percent in the past year alone.

“The Bay Area is our home. We love our community and are so proud to be raising our two daughters here,” writes CZI co-founder Priscilla Chan, Mark Zuckerberg’s wife. “But listening to the stories from our local leaders and neighbors, there is still a lot of work to do.”

The CZI has already backed some local projects, including criminal justice reform in California, and put $5 million toward Y Combinator startup Landed that helps school teachers pay for home down payments in districts close to Facebook HQ. It also donated $3.1 million to Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto that helps families impacted by the local housing shortage who need legal protection, in some cases from wrongful evictions. Plus CZI put $500,000 into the Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley to develop long-term answers to the regional housing crisis.

Organizations seeking funding from the CZI Community Fund can apply before December 1. They’ll be evaluated on the basis of alignment with the fund’s mission, impact potential, leadership, collaboration with other organizations, community engagement and fiscal responsibility to ensure funds aren’t wasted on overhead.

Map showing Facebook’s headquarters circled in blue, and the four nearby towns supported by the CZI Community Fund

Back in 2014, TechCrunch advocated for more of this hyper-local philanthropy by tech companies. At the time, Google was helping to pay for free bus passes for kids trying to get to school, after-school programs and work.

While tech giants can have global impact with scalable apps, the high salaries they pay can lead to rising housing and living prices in nearby areas. That’s fine for their employees, but can cause trouble for lower-income residents as well as the contractors these corporations employ to run their cafeterias or sweep their floors.

There are certainly worthy causes everywhere, and some in the developing world, like anti-malaria mosquito nets, can do a lot of good for a low price. But if tech companies want to be seen as good neighbors and offset the damage they do to nearby communities, they need to give back locally, not just globally.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/10/25/hyper-local-giving/

Facebook drops no-vote stock plan, Zuck will sell shares to fund philanthropy

Mark Zuckerberg has gotten so rich that he can fund his philanthropic foundation and retain voting control without Facebook having to issue a proposed non-voting class of stock that faced shareholder resistance. Today Facebook announced that it’s withdrawn its plan to issue Class C no-vote stock and has resolved the shareholder lawsuit seeking to block the corporate governance overhaul.

Instead, Zuckerberg says that because Facebook has become so valuable, he can sell a smaller allotment of his stake in the company to deliver plenty of capital to his Chan Zuckerberg Initiative foundation that aims to help eradicate disease and deliver personalized education to all children.

“Over the past year and a half, Facebook’s business has performed well and the value of our stock has grown to the point that I can fully fund our philanthropy and retain voting control of Facebook for 20 years or more,” Zuckerberg writes. Facebook’s share price has increased roughly 45 percent, from $117 to $170, since the Class C stock plan was announced, with Facebook now valued at $495 billion.

Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan and their daughters Max and August

“We are gratified that Facebook and Mr. Zuckerberg have agreed not to proceed with the reclassification we were challenging,” writes Lee Rudy, the partner at Kessler Topaz Meltzer & Check LLP that was representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit seeking to block the no-vote share creation. Zuckerberg was slated to testify in the suit later this month, but now won’t have to. “This result is a full victory for Facebook’s stockholders, and achieved everything we could have hoped to obtain by winning a permanent injunction at trial.”

“I want to be clear: this doesn’t change Priscilla and my plans to give away 99% of our Facebook shares during our lives. In fact, we now plan to accelerate our work and sell more of those shares sooner,” Zuckerberg wrote. “I anticipate selling 35-75 million Facebook shares in the next 18 months to fund our work in education, science, and advocacy.” That equates to $5.95 billion to $12.75 billion worth of Facebook shares Zuckerberg will liquidate.

When Zuckerberg announced the plan in April 2016, he wrote that being a founder-led company where he controls enough votes to always steer Facebook’s direction rather than cowing to public shareholders lets Facebook “resist the short term pressures that often hurt companies.” By issuing the non-voting shares, “I’ll be able to keep founder control of Facebook so we can continue to build for the long term, and Priscilla and I will be able to give our money to fund important work sooner.”

A spokesperson for the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative told TechCrunch that this outcome is very good for the foundation, because it provides more predictability to its funding. The plan will also allow Zuckerberg to deliver cash to the CZI sooner, which its new CFO Peggy Alford will be able to allocate between its health, education and advocacy projects.

With the new plan to sell shares, it’s unclear what might happen to Zuckerberg’s iron grip on Facebook’s future in “20 years or more.”

Dropping the Class C shares plan may be seen as a blow to Facebook board member Marc Andreessen, who Bloomberg revealed had coached Zuckerberg through pushing the proposed plan through the rest of the board. But given Zuckerberg’s power, Andreessen is unlikely to be ousted unless the Facebook CEO wants him gone.

Zuckerberg strolls through the developer conference of Oculus, the VR company he pushed Facebook to acquire

For the foreseeable future, though, Zuckerberg will have the power to shape Facebook’s decisions. His business instincts have proven wise over the years. Acquisitions he orchestrated that seemed pricey at first — like Instagram and WhatsApp — have been validated as their apps grow to multiples of their pre-buy size. And Zuckerberg’s relentless prioritization of the user experience over that of advertisers and outside developers has kept the Facebook community deeply engaged instead of pushed away with spam.

Zuckerberg’s ability to maintain power could allow him to continue to make bold or counter-intuitive decisions without shareholder interference. But the concentration of power also puts Facebook in a precarious position if Zuckerberg were to be tarnished by scandal or suddenly unable to continue his duties as CEO.

Zuckerberg warned investors when Facebook went public that “Facebook was not originally created to be a company. It was built to accomplish a social mission.” And yet Facebook has flourished into one of the world’s most successful businesses in part because shareholders weren’t allowed to sell its ambitions short.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/09/22/facebook-sharing/

Facebook’s original video is something publishers are actually excited for

Virtually Dating" is a five-episode series produced by Cond Nast Entertainment.
Image: conde nast entertainment

For all of Facebook’s big talk about video, it was still just part of the almighty News Feed.

Publishers hoping to capture a moment of a user’s attention looked for thumb-stopping moments, which gave rise to a new and not-terribly compelling format of video that remains endemic to Facebook.

Watch is something different. Facebook’s new original video program features TV-like shows made by media companies. Perhaps most importantly, the shows are showcased in a brand new section of the social network.

That’s enough to convince publishers, who have spent years contorting to fit into Facebook’s plans, that Watch could be big.

“We are really excited,” said Dawn Ostroff, president of Cond Nast Entertainment, which is producing a dating show with a virtual reality twist for Watch. “This is a new opportunity, a new type of content. [Facebook’s] trying to open up a whole new area for content makers.”

Oren Katzeff, Tastemade‘s head of programming, offered similar excitement. The food-focused media company has created six shows for Facebook Watch.

“Were able to be a part of appointment viewing, and thats huge,” Katzeff said

That enthusiasm is quite unlike how publishers have previously behaved when asked about their work with and on Facebook. Typically, there’s a roll of the eyes, a sigh, and a list of grievances.

“The problem with Facebook’s entire ‘news team’ is that they’re glorified client services people,” the head of digital operations at a major news outlet told Mashable at F8, the company’s annual developer conference in April.

Now, there’s a new sense of hope among the media industry. Facebook’s massive scale has always tempted publishers, but revenue has been elusive. Facebook’s new program, with its emphasis on quality content and less on thumb-bait, seems ready-made for high-end ads. These original shows, in concept, also compete with what’s available live on TV and bingeable on Netflix and Huluplatforms that most publishers haven’t cracked.

“I think it is where people will go to watch on-demand programming and live news, and I intend Cheddar to be the leading live news player on Watch,” Jon Steinberg, CEO of business news show Cheddar, wrote in a private Twitter message.

Facebook’s Watch platform

Image: facebook

Simultaneously, there’s little stress for publishers about potential revenuefor now. Facebook has guaranteed minimum earnings for each episode, according to an executive at a participating publisher who could not be named since financial discussions are private. Facebook not only pays a licensing fee to publishers but also will split revenue from mid-roll ads.

It’s not the first time Facebook has cut checks for publishers to support video efforts. Last year, Facebook paid publishers, including Mashable, to produce live videos, requiring a minimum number of minutes streamed per month. (Mashable is also a Watch partner.)

But Facebook’s live video effort was slow to start, and publishers didn’t reap in rewardsespecially when it came to the return of their investments, several participants told Mashable.

It wasn’t all their fault or Facebook’s. For one, Facebook users weren’t really used to going to the site or the app for live video. Since then, Facebook has released several products, including a redesigned version of the current video tab and a TV app, both of which better support the new ecosystem. Publishers’ series will be spotlighted on the Facebook’s new tab for shows, for example. The experience is slowly being rolled out to users over the next month.

Participating publishers are going all in.

Tastemade produced six shows over the last few months and is still wrapping up a couple. Three are food focused: Kitchen Little, Struggle Meals, and Food To Die For. Two are more home and lifestyle: Move-In Day and Safe Deposit. The sixth is a late-night comedy show with celebrity interviews, hosted by an animated taco, called Let’s Taco Bout It.

“Tomas grew up as a Taco, and he had adopted parents, and his life goal has been to discover who his true parents are. He tries to relate with his guests,” Katzeff said.

Tomas Taco

Image: tastemade

What’s exciting here is not just an animated taco, but the fact that these publishers are well positioned to scale these tacos… err video series.

Maybe an animated taco won’t appeal to all 2 billion of Facebook’s users, but it doesn’t necessarily need to. Unlike TV, these shows aren’t locked into specific networks with a specific time-slot. Rather, they can be directed to actual people, based on their interests (Facebook likes) and demographic information.

“With Facebook Watch, the era of audience parting has truly arrived,” wrote Nick Cicero of Delmondo, a Facebook media solutions partner for video analytics.

Unlike TV, Facebook has a built-in platform for conversation. Ostroff of Cond Nast Entertainment said she believed Facebook greenlighted Virtually Dating, a show where blind dates take place in a virtual reality world, for the Watch platform because of the potential for online conversation.

“If it works, it was something that could go viral or a show that everyone could weigh in on,” Ostroff said. “Were excited about learning, learning how the viewer and the consumer is going to use [Watch]. Whats going to succeed and whats not.”

No one is saying it’s been easy. Several publishers told Mashable they have been careful to make sure they are staying in budget. They also noted that it is still a testone that they will be closely monitoring. Now that the shows are near launch, publishers said they will need to focus on promotion.

Watch “is really great for those who were actually able to get into the program,” said Jarrett Moreno, cofounder of ATTN, which has created Health Hacks starring Jessica Alba and We Need to Talk with Nev Schulman and Laura Perlongo.”It’s a priority for Facebook. They’ve emphasized that.”

A priority, for now.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/08/12/facebook-watch-original-video-publishers-pitchfork/

Why Facebook’s most ‘meaningful’ Groups show us where the social network is headed

Image: Paul Sakuma/AP/REX/Shutterstock

Facebook’s newest priority isn’t a shiny new technology or a funky new predictive algorithm. It’s Groups, one of the earliest features on TheFacebook.com.

These aren’t your sophomore year of college Groups though. Facebook is pointing to a series of highly-engaged collectives that highlight why they believe that Groups will play an important part in the future of Facebookand fulfill CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s goal to “bring the world closer together.”

It comes down to a particular word: “meaningful.”

Facebook’s representatives keep coming back to this word when discussing Groups. Maybe that’s because the feature initially lent it self to jokes like “Bring Back The Jello Bears,” which I championed back in 2007.

This all happened somewhat off of Facebook’s radar. Groups like Pantsuit Nation amassed hundreds of thousands of engaged members. Many Groups have developed important use cases which even top Facebook executives were unaware of until they began traveling the world and interviewing users about why they use the site.

“A lot of Groups came and went,”said Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox earlier this year in an interview. “If you just looked at the average Facebook Group you maybe wouldn’t find it something that’s deeply meaningful. But if you go and study, just asking people all around the world what the most meaningful experience you have with Facebook, you started discovering these Groups.”

But just what Groups are “meaningful” on Facebook? We can gleam some insight from the list of peopleall administrators of Facebook Groupthe company invited to its first-ever Facebook Communities Summit in June.

A Facebook representative shared with Mashable a list of seven different Groups:

  • FIN (Female IN): a private, women-only group described as a no-judgment support group for women” and includes personal stories from women of African culture around marriage, sex, health issues, beauty tips, parenting, domestic violence, mental health, work challenges, and loss

  • Black Fathers: a private men-only group described as dads doing our thing” and includes men asking each other questions about raising teen girls and custody disputes

  • Keep Austin Fishing!: an open group described as a “fishing family” where people in the area are invited to chat about fishing

  • Lady Bikers of California: an open group for women who ride motorcycles, with meet-ups in real life and planning of group rides

  • Affected by Addiction Support Group: a private group for people recovering from addiction and their friends and family to offer support and share stories

  • Moms of Beverly: an open group for moms in Beverly, Illinois to meet up and ask for advice

  • Bethel Original Free Will Baptist Church: an open group for members of the Bethel Church in Decatur, Georgia, includes announcements about events, meetings time and also uses Facebook Live to share sermons

These Facebook Groups are all over America and include people of all different demographics. What they have in common is being deeply personal but not necessarily inclusive of people already within a Facebook’ user’s social network. They bring real world interests and activities online, connecting users to people who they may have never met in real life.

It’s a goal that has drawn comparisons to Reddit, which has subgroups that serve a similar use case by connecting people over topics of discussion. But unlike Reddit, Facebook is not anonymized. The social network prides itself on a real name policy, where even drag queens and sexual assault survivors who wish to use different names are forced to oblige with the rules.

Facebook’s Groups are meant to be safe spaces, where trolling is more difficult in an online environment that does not allow users to hide behind a made-up username like on Reddit, Tumblr, or Twitter.

Facebook also has a bit of overlap between Groups and Pages. While the former is focused on interest-based communities, the latter can be dedicated to a person or an organization. For example, Mashable has a Facebook Page where we share our stories. But now, as part of this new Groups push, Page owners can promote Groups. For example, The New Yorker has a Facebook Group for its Movie Club.

This new emphasis on meaningful communities can be a good service for people, as Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg emphasized in his 6,000-word manifesto titled “Building Global Community” earlier this year.

It’s also a smart business strategy. Facebook is trying to address its other big problemdeclining engagement among its users. Facebook makes money when people spend time on its platform, so it needs people putting up stuff and liking/commenting on that stuff.

Groups, it seems, is key to creating a better world through Facebook, which inevitably means spending more time on Facebook. More people spending more time means more money for Facebook.

Facebook follows the money, just like any successful business. How does a social network make money? Advertising.

To capture ad budgets, you need engagement. Facebook has 2 billion monthly active users, and yet, advertisers still say “Snapchat” when you ask where to find a younger audience. There’s the fear that Facebook is becoming “old news” combined with the bad public image of being a distributor of “fake news.”

But people will always have passions and if Facebook can provide the best place to dive deep into those passions, they have your attention, and therefore, they have money.

Whether Groups are good or bad isn’t really the question. They’re engaging, or “meaningful,” in Facebook parlance.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/07/20/facebook-groups-meaningful/

Watch Mark Zuckerbergs Harvard commencement speech here

College dropout-turned-Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg finally got his degree today, and now hes about to give Harvards 366th commencement speech.

You can watch him speak here now, where well embed the Facebook Live broadcast on TechCrunch, and provide frequent updates on any news or insights he mentions.

For a deeper look at the substance of his talk, read our follow-up: Zuckerberg tells Harvard we need a new social contract of equal opportunity

Ill share what Ive learned about our generation and the world were all building together Zuckerberg writes. This is personally important to me and Ive been writing it for a while.

Live Updates From Zuckerbergs Speech

Zuckerberg began his speech by calling Harvard The greatest university in the world, and cracking a couple corny jokes like telling students You accomplished something I never could.

He described how he met Priscilla Chan at the going away party friends through Zuckerberg when the university threatened to kick him out for creating Facebook-predecessor FaceMash. In a touching moment, he says because it led him to meet his future wife, FaceMash is actually the most important thing he built at Harvard.

Then Zuckerberg got into the focus of his speech: Purpose. He described how through his travels around the country, people have told him theyre trying to fill a void in their lives as jobs and community become less important in modern society. And that Zuckerberg foreshadowed how these problems could worsen as technology replaces jobs.

His first strategy for the world to find purpose is for people to make the hard choice to get started on big projects. For example, it might be tough to start fighting climate change, but we can put people to work installing solar panels, or we can start ending disease by getting people to contribute their health data and genomes.

His second strategy revolves around equal opportunity. He believes its time for our generation to define a new social contract where we measure progress by everyone having a role and a purpose. Zuckerberg suggested universal basic income, affordable childcare, flexible healthcare, prison reform, and continuous education as the ways to provide this equal opportunity.

Finally, he believes that we need to build community, both locally with our neighbors, and between nations to unite the globe.

To learn how Zuckerberg plans to fix the worlds problems without just saying Facebook is the solution, read our follow-up:Zuckerberg tells Harvard we need a new social contract of equal opportunity.

Read more: https://techcrunch.com/2017/05/25/watch-mark-zuckerberg-speech/

Popular social media sites ‘harm young people’s mental health’

Poll of 14- to 24-year-olds shows Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter increased feelings of inadequacy and anxiety

Four of the five most popular forms of social media harm young peoples mental health, with Instagram the most damaging, according to research by two health organisations.

Instagram has the most negative impact on young peoples mental wellbeing, a survey of almost 1,500 14- to 24-year-olds found, and the health groups accused it of deepening young peoples feelings of inadequacy and anxiety.

The survey, published on Friday, concluded that Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are also harmful. Among the five only YouTube was judged to have a positive impact.

The four platforms have a negative effect because they can exacerbate childrens and young peoples body image worries, and worsen bullying, sleep problems and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness, the participants said.

The findings follow growing concern among politicians, health bodies, doctors, charities and parents about young people suffering harm as a result of sexting, cyberbullying and social media reinforcing feelings of self-loathing and even the risk of them committing suicide.

Its interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing. Both platforms are very image-focused and it appears that they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people, said Shirley Cramer, chief executive of the Royal Society for Public Health, which undertook the survey with the Young Health Movement.

She demanded tough measures to make social media less of a wild west when it comes to young peoples mental health and wellbeing. Social media firms should bring in a pop-up image to warn young people that they have been using it a lot, while Instagram and similar platforms should alert users when photographs of people have been digitally manipulated, Cramer said.

The 1,479 young people surveyed were asked to rate the impact of the five forms of social media on 14 different criteria of health and wellbeing, including their effect on sleep, anxiety, depression, loneliness, self-identity, bullying, body image and the fear of missing out.

Instagram emerged with the most negative score. It rated badly for seven of the 14 measures, particularly its impact on sleep, body image and fear of missing out and also for bullying and feelings of anxiety, depression and loneliness. However, young people cited its upsides too, including self-expression, self-identity and emotional support.

YouTube scored very badly for its impact on sleep but positively in nine of the 14 categories, notably awareness and understanding of other peoples health experience, self-expression, loneliness, depression and emotional support.

However, the leader of the UKs psychiatrists said the findings were too simplistic and unfairly blamed social media for the complex reasons why the mental health of so many young people is suffering.

Prof Sir Simon Wessely, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: I am sure that social media plays a role in unhappiness, but it has as many benefits as it does negatives.. We need to teach children how to cope with all aspects of social media good and bad to prepare them for an increasingly digitised world. There is real danger in blaming the medium for the message.

Young Minds, the charity which Theresa May visited last week on a campaign stop, backed the call for Instagram and other platforms to take further steps to protect young users.

Tom Madders, its director of campaigns and communications, said: Prompting young people about heavy usage and signposting to support they may need, on a platform that they identify with, could help many young people.

However, he also urged caution in how content accessed by young people on social media is perceived. Its also important to recognise that simply protecting young people from particular content types can never be the whole solution. We need to support young people so they understand the risks of how they behave online, and are empowered to make sense of and know how to respond to harmful content that slips through filters.

Parents and mental health experts fear that platforms such as Instagram can make young users feel worried and inadequate by facilitating hostile comments about their appearance or reminding them that they have not been invited to, for example, a party many of their peers are attending.

May, who has made childrens mental health one of her priorities, highlighted social medias damaging effects in her shared society speech in January, saying: We know that the use of social media brings additional concerns and challenges. In 2014, just over one in 10 young people said that they had experienced cyberbullying by phone or over the internet.

In February, Jeremy Hunt, the health secretary, warned social media and technology firms that they could face sanctions, including through legislation, unless they did more to tackle sexting, cyberbullying and the trolling of young users.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/may/19/popular-social-media-sites-harm-young-peoples-mental-health

Facebook and The Trevor Project hope to help prevent LGBTQ youth suicides

Facebook has been working to make users feel safer on the platform for years, and in its latest effort to enhance the online community, the social media platform partnered with The Trevor Project, an organization dedicated to suicide prevention for LGBTQ youth.

On Tuesday in the middle of Mental Health Awareness month Facebook announced that users will be able to connect with mental health resourcesfromThe Trevor Project right from their direct messages. The project rolls out over the next few months.

According to The Trevor Project’s website, the rate of suicide attempts is “four times greater for LGB youth and two times greater for questioning youth than that of straight youth,” so it’s clear how helpful access to a supportive chat bot could be. And though The Trevor Project is aimed at helping suicide prevention in young people, the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey found that 40 percent of transgender adult respondents reportedly made a suicide attempt during their lives, so Facebook users of all ages could certainly benefit from the helpful resource.

The messenger crisis support will also expand awareness to other areas of the mental heath community with the help of participating organizations likeCrisis Text Line, the National Eating Disorder Association, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

The social media site recently received a great deal of backlash surrounding the spread of live-streamed suicide videos and earlier this month after a violent video of a Cleveland man shooting and killing a 74-year-old man was posted to the site founder Mark Zuckerberg admitted more human intervention is necessary on the site to ensure the safety of users.

The site also collaborated with mental health organizations back in 2016 to launch tools and resources aimed at supporting the mental health community. Users now have easily accessible support groups along with the ability to report concerning posts related to self-injury or suicide directly to Facebook.

Back in March the site was even testing a pattern recognition system that would use AI to identify posts that include certain keywords pertaining to suicidal thoughts.

Studies have shown that excessive social media us could increase levels of depression, so the more resources the better.

If you want to talk to someone or are experiencing suicidal thoughts, text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For international resources, this list is a good place to start.

Read more: http://mashable.com/2017/05/17/facebook-lgbtq-trevor-project/