Facebook’s Community Help lets you aid your neighbors in a crisis

Facebook is taking its Safety Check feature beyond the ability to just mark yourself and others as safe with a new addition called Community Help, which started rolling out Wednesday.

facebook logo largeFacebook first announced Community Help in November at the company’s Social Good Forum.s during a crisis. This can be food, a place to sleep, baby supplies, and other essential goods or services.

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When Community Help is active users in the affected area will see a “Find Help” link on the Safety Check page for their particular crisis. Underneath that will also be a “Give Help” option for those who want to assist their neighbors.

Community Help will initially be available to users in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, India, and Saudi Arabia.

Community Help was inspired in part by Facebook users who were already banding together to offer each other help in times of need. The company says it also consulted experts and humanitarian relief organizations to develop the new feature.

As Community Help is part of Safety Check it will only be available in times of crisis, but the feature won’t show up for every emergency. Facebook says that it will only show up for accidental and natural disasters such as a flood or tornado. That may only be the beginning, however. The company says that as it learns from people using Community Help, Facebook will look to expand it to “additional types of incidents.”

Facebook extends lead as news gateway

According to the Pew Research Center 66 percent of Facebook users get news on the siteFacebook has become an important news source for close to half of American adults, a study showed Thursday amid increased scrutiny over the social network’s gateway role.

The Pew Research Center survey showed 62 percent of US adults get news on social media, and 18 percent do so often.

That shows a growing role for Facebook and other social networks as a news source. In 2012, based on a slightly different question, 49 percent of American adults reported seeing news on social media, Pew said.

According to the survey, 66 percent of Facebook users get news on the site, as did 59 percent of Twitter users and seven of 10 users of Reddit.

Because Facebook reaches some two-thirds of US adults, the survey indicates that 44 percent of the overall population gets at least some news through the leading social network.

The survey comes with Facebook defending itself against allegations that it suppressed some conservative news content in its “trending” topics.

Last week, Facebook said was unable to substantiate any specific accusations of bias, but announced it was updating guidelines to be clearer that content decisions may not be based on politics or ideology.

The news team will be subject to more oversight and controls, and Facebook will no longer rely on lists of external websites and news outlets to assess the importance of topics in stories.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg met with a group of conservative political leaders and told them the network was “a platform for all ideas.”

Still, the row over the Facebook allegations has highlighted concerns that social media is increasingly becoming a gateway to news for many readers.

According to the new Pew study, users of Facebook YouTube and Instagram are more likely to get their news by chance, when they are online doing other things.

However, those who use Reddit, Twitter and LinkedIn often seek out news online as often as they stumble upon it.

In coordination with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Pew surveyed 4,654 American adults by mail and online from January 12 to February 8. The margin of error for the full group was estimated at 2.4 percentage points.

No Facebook, no WhatsApp was the mantra

No or limited access to social media seems to be the secret to scoring high marks for city kids.

The class X and XII results declared on Friday revealed that toppers kept away from social media so as to not lose focus while appearing for examinations. Besides, most of them relied on self study.

Shikha Tiwari, a student of CMS Kanpur Road, said, “I had a lot of peer pressure to join social media but I knew that there are a lot of distractions so I decided not to listen to any of my friends.”

“I stopped using WhatsApp in class XI and deactivated my Facebook profile a few months before the boards and I feel it really helped,” said Prakhar Lohumi, who scored 98.75% in class XII.
Many others, meanwhile, deactivated their Facebook and WhatsApp accounts and uninstalled other apps during exams. There are even some who are yet to get introduced to the web. The majority of toppers also felt that going to coaching classes was a waste of time, and that preparing on their own was the key to success.
“I guess coaching classes just add to the burden. I made it a point to learn everything that was taught in school on that very day even if it required sitting at the study desk for 10-12 hours,” said Manan Agarwal, who achieved rank 1 all over state by scoring 99% in class XII.
Toppers Ankur Verma and Himani Rathore had a different way of preparing. “We read the lesson twice and then wrote down what we learnt. There was no scope of losing out,” said the two.

Facebook censoring news, claims report

Facebook workers have often omitted conservative political stories from the website’s “trending” list, the technology news site Gizmodo said on Monday in a report that sparked widespread comment on social media.

An unnamed former Facebook employee told Gizmodo that workers “routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers,” according to Gizmodo, while “artificially” adding other stories into the trending list.

Facebook told Reuters on Monday that there are “rigorous guidelines in place” to maintain neutrality and said that these guidelines do not prohibit any news outlet from appearing in trending topics.

Facebook did not respond directly though to questions about whether employees had suppressed conservative-leaning news.

“These guidelines do not permit the suppression of political perspectives. Nor do they permit the prioritization of one viewpoint over another or one news outlet over another,” a spokesperson for Facebook said.

The report alarmed some social media users, with several journalists and commentators criticising Facebook for alleged bias.

“Aside from fueling right-wing persecution, this is a key reminder of dangers of Silicon Valley controlling content,” tweeted journalist Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald).

“Well, you go to Hell, Facebook,” tweeted Kyle Feldscher (@Kyle_Feldscher), a reporter at the Washington Examiner, a conservative-leaning publication.

“For anyone who cares about press freedom, this is frightening stuff,” tweeted Bloomberg Editor Bill Grueskin (@BGrueskin), with a link to Gizmodo’s story.

“Former Facebook Workers” quickly became one of the top-ten trending topics on Twitter in the U.S. after the Gizmodo story broke.

The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), one of the groups reportedly blocked from Facebook’s trending list, said it would closely monitor how the claims against Facebook unfold.

“If we can confirm that the allegations are true and accurate, that would be disappointing,” said CPAC Communications Director Ian Walters, who added that he was sensitive to the fact that the claims are as of yet unconfirmed.
A post on Facebook’s help center said that the “trending” section of the site “shows you topics that have recently become popular on Facebook.” It lists “engagement, timeliness, Pages you’ve liked and your location” as some of the factors that determine what trends show up for each Facebook user.

Facebook users can also manually remove certain topics from their trending list.

Court says no to ‘Facebook drink’ in China

Chinese people won’t be able to quench their thirst with a refreshing “face book” beverage, after the US social networking company won a rare trademark victory against a local firm in China.

By contrast, Apple Inc last month lost its battle to prevent a domestic company from using the “iPhone” trademark on leather goods in China.

China’s intellectual property protections are often perceived as quite lax but they are steadily improving, lawyers say. The victory may offer a glimmer of hope for Facebook in China, where its social network is not accessible and its business is mainly selling overseas advertising for Chinese companies.

The Beijing Municipal High People’s Court said the Zhongshan Pearl River Drinks application, filed in 2011, to label certain foods and beverages “face book” was an obvious act of copying and harmed fair market competition.

A Facebook spokeswoman declined to comment. An employee at Pearl River Drinks said the case was not widely known at the company and that the staff member in charge of it was not available for comment.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other executives have made concerted efforts to woo Chinese officials. In March, Zuckerberg had a rare meeting with the country’s propaganda tsar, a suggestion of warming relations between Facebook and the government.
Zuckerberg frequently makes headlines in China, where he has achieved celebrity status by making speeches in Mandarin and sharing pictures of runs through noxious smog in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.
Facebook had previously objected to China’s Trademark Review and Adjudication Board twice but was unsuccessful, prompting its decision to take the case to court.

Facebook employees get new guidelines

Facebook on Thursday emphasized that it does not permit its employees to block news stories from its “Trending Topics” list based on political bias, amid a controversy over how the social mediasuperpower selects what news it displays.

Technology news website Gizmodo on Monday reported that a formerFacebook employee said workers “routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers” while “artificially” adding other stories to the trending list.

The Gizmodo story triggered a reaction on social media, with several journalists and commentators raising concerns about alleged bias, and prompted a US senate inquiry.

The social media company, whose reach is global, had over a billion daily active users on average in March, according to statistics the company posted to its newsroom.

In a post published to Facebook’s media relations section on Thursday, a senior company official outlined its “Trending Topics” guidelines at length.

“Facebook does not allow or advise our reviewers to discriminate against sources of any political origin, period,” wrote Justin Osofsky, vice president for global operations. “We have a series of checks and balances in place to help surface the most important popular stories, regardless of where they fall on the ideological spectrum.”

The post went on to explain how certain topics emerge in Facebook users’ trending feeds. Potential trending topics are identified by an algorithm, or formula, Facebook said, then reviewed by a “Trending Topics” team.

Gizmodo Editor-in-Chief Katie Drummond responded to the post with an email saying, “I don’t see anything that contradicts our reporting–do you?”

Gizmodo’s story sparked a Senate committee inquiry.
Republican US Senator John Thune, chairman of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, said in a statement on Tuesday that Facebook needed to respond to “these serious allegations.”
“Any attempt by a neutral and inclusive social media platform to censor or manipulate political discussion is an abuse of trust and inconsistent with the values of an open Internet,” said Thune.

Facebook gets “At Work” in India

Corporate workplaces may ban the use of social networking sites like Facebook in their offices, but the internet giant has found a way to enter this space. Startups and older businesses in India such as Zomato, PayTM, BookMyShow, Delhivery, Yes Bank, L&T Infotech, Godrej, and others have begun using Facebook At Work — a twin of the network as we know it but strictly for on-the-job use. Think spreadsheets instead of wedding pictures on the news feed.

“Here (in India), there was a need for people without email or (official) mobile numbers to get on to the platform,” Julien Codorniou, director of Facebook at Work told TOI on Tuesday while talking about how the Indian market compares with the others. “The scale and momentum here is much bigger than other countries,” says Codorniou, who also serves on the board of French media group Le Monde.

Still in the beta stage, Facebook At Work, falls into the category of what are called “enterprise networks”. These are for use within offices for collaborative projects and sharing messages among other things.

Facebook first launched a beta platform for the work variant in 2015, piloting the project with Royal Bank of Scotland. In India, L&T Infotech was the first company to come on board in April this year.

Visually, Facebook has retained most of its features from the regular website for its “At Work” variant. Otherwise, it comes with its own network and messaging app, is stripped off of Candy Crush, Farmville, and other such apps; comes in a slate grey colour that is distinct from the regular Facebook’s deep blue; and requires a different login (so no toggling between Facebook for personal use and Facebook for work within the same account). More importantly, it does not have anyads. Revenue comes from a subscription model. Facebook declined to reveal the fee and the available subscription plans.

Facebook claims that over 60,000 companies had signed up for a trial in the beta version when they first piloted this project in the US and the UK in July last year. Even so, it is in for heavy competition.

Slack, a popular enterprise messaging app, hit two million daily active users at the end of 2015. It was recently valued at $3.8 billion. Microsoft’s Yammer claimed to have acquired eight million users back in 2013. earlier this year, Microsoft made Yammer part of the bundle of services with Office365. Slack is available as both a paid version and a free one. It charges between $6.67 and $12.50 per user depending on the subscription plan. Its Indian counterpart Flock, charges $3 per user per month for added features.

Could this move into the enterprise market have been better-timed to tackle competition? Codorniou claims that Facebook At Work is not running the same race. “We think of ourselves as a productivity app. Our competition is internal emails, VOIPs, and company intranets,” he says.

Facebook’s trending topic controversy: All you need to know

What’s behind the accusations that Facebook is manipulating its”trending topics” feature to promote or suppress certain political perspectives?

According to the technology blog Gizmodo , which is owned by Gawker Media, a former Facebook contractor with self-described conservative leanings said Facebook downplayed news that conservatives are interested in and artificially promoted liberal issues such as the “BlackLivesMatter” hashtag. Gizmodo did not name this person.

Facebook denied the claims, but the GOP-led US Senate Commerce Committee has sent a letter to Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg requesting answers about the matter.

Here’s a look at what the fuss is about:

What are ‘trending topics?

Facebook shows some of the most popular topics being discussed at any given moment. On browsers, the topics appear on the top right corner, separate from the news feed containing updates from your friends and family.

Besides “top trends,” users on traditional personal computers can click on specific topics such as “sports” and “entertainment.” On Wednesday, top politics trends for one U.S. user included comments from “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson on the transgender bathroom issue as well as the Facebook trending controversy itself. Topics for another U.S. Facebook user were slightly different and also had Donald Trump and “Full Frontal” comedy host Samantha Bee giving a goodbye tribute to Ted Cruz.

On mobile devices, users can tap on the search bar to see the top trends, but they can’t see separate categories, regardless of whether it’s on an app or Web browser.

As with a similar feature on Twitter, Facebook doesn’t purport to show all the most popular topics. They wouldn’t be interesting anyway and would probably include the weather, cute puppy videos, and years-old listicles about the best ways to stay thin. Facebook says software formulas identify trending topics, and humans review them “to confirm that the topics are in fact trending news in the real world and not, for example, similar-sounding topics or misnomers.”

What is the proof that Facebook actually does this:

There isn’t much proof beyond one anonymous former contractor.

The Associated Press could not independently verify the claims. Facebook’s vice president of search, Tom Stocky, said Monday that the company found “no evidence” that the allegations are true.
“We do not insert stories artificially into trending topics, and do not instruct our reviewers to do so. Our guidelines do permit reviewers to take steps to make topics more coherent, such as combining related topics into a single event (such as

It might not even be in Facebook’s interest to promote or suppress certain perspectives. The service is used by 1.65 billion people each month, most of them outside the U.S. Facebook has an interest in keeping these people happy, regardless of their political leanings, so that they keep using the service and advertisers keep courting them. Zuckerberg typically sets his sights on the next decade – and decades – into Facebook’s future. As such, an election year such as this one is but a blip.

Backlash for Facebook?

Facebook’s sheers size and ubiquity means any controversy can attract the attention of the news media, politicians and political activists. Other recent examples include the company’s frequent changes to its privacy policies and its requirement that drag queens and other transgender users use their real names on the site.

The latest firestorm has led to plenty of media coverage, as well as a letter from U.S. Sen. John Thune, the South Dakota Republican who heads the Commerce Committee. He requested information on who at the company made the decisions on stories that appear in the trending feature. He asked for answers by May 24.

Is this a big deal?

If evidence emerges that Facebook favors certain political perspectives, it would be a big deal, as it could cause people to lose trust in the company as a neutral platform.

Thirty percent of US adults get news on Facebook, according to the Pew Research Center. The firestorm suggests a certain degree of anxiety about the influence Facebook is having in shaping the worldview of its users by becoming their main news source, even as newspapers across the U.S. are shutting down amid low readership and declining advertising dollars.

Police indifference reflects on Facebook

While some gangsters lodged in jails of Punjab face no problem in updating their Facebook page about the latest crime, Ludhiana police refuse to acknowledge complaints and suggestions made by city residents on its Facebook page.

According to the Facebook page of Ludhiana police, the last time it was updated was on April 28. That is almost two weeks ago. Similarly, another Facebook page run by Ludhiana police, “Traffic Police Ludhiana”, has not been updated for the same time period. The last post on the page was related to cross-verification check posts to arrest vehicle thieves.

Many residents who keep a watch on the Facebook pages said Ludhiana police’s lack of activity was a reflection of its general indifference towards the public. “Earlier, Ludhiana police would share important information on traffic jams, rules and other crime-related advisories. It helped us in various ways. But, for about two weeks, they have not been doing it,” said Amandeep Singh, a businessman of Model Town.

He added that police in major cities of India had been using social-networking sites to connect better with people. Police authorities, meanwhile, said that the matter would be looked into. “I did not know about it. I will ask the officer concerned to update pages frequently as we need to use social-networking sites for better communication with residents,” said police commissioner Jatinder Singh Aulakh.

Indifference writ large

Ludhiana police did not respond to any one of these posts by city residents on its Facebook page:

Sumrit Khurana | March 21

Absolutely poor work. Whenever there is a traffic jam, your officers are busy on their phone and people themselves have to clear it . And whenever your organisation needs money your policemen start issuing Challans. (Remark was in reference to a traffic jam due to crack in an overbridge, which commuters themselves had to clear.)

Rupesh Monga | April 8

Please control speeding by private buses in Ludhiana. The speed check post at Ferozpur Road, near octroi, is meant for only cars. I have never seen them checking buses and autos, even when the stop in the middle of road to pick passengers. Please regulate traffic. There should be a page where we can post videos showing traffic violations.

Pawaninder Singh | April 25
This is my thrid message to the police. There is school near our house. In the afternoon, vans of the school are driven recklessly and at break-neck speeds. We have children playing in the parks and crossing roads. Please take steps, like putting up barriers, to enure that there is no speeding. What are our cops waiting for?

Facebook opens office in Malaysia

Social media giant, Facebook has opened a local office in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, a media report said on Thursday.

“The office launch marks a milestone for Facebook in Malaysia and we are committed to helping Malaysians and businesses connect in more meaningful ways,” said Facebook South-East Asia managing director Kenneth Bishop.

“Our local team in Malaysia will be focused on helping businesses tap into this unprecedented opportunity to connect with mobile-first consumers,” The Malaysian Star quoted Bishop as saying.

According to a recent survey by research firm TNS, 94% of Malaysians discovered products and brands on Facebook, and 62% make a purchase after discovery.

There are currently more than 18 million Malaysians on the social media platform, and 6.5 million people on photo-sharing platform Instagram, which the company also owns.

Malaysian also ranks 10th globally for the number of friends, which is 60% more than the global average.

The local office will be headed by Nicole Tan, who was previously the managing director of J Walter Thompson Malaysia, an advertising company.

“Malaysians on Facebook are an active and mobile first community. They spend more time watching video on their smartphones than consumers in any other country in South-East Asia,” Tan said.

The company also said that South-East Asia is its fastest growing region and Malaysia, being a mobile first country with 144% mobile penetration rate, is one of the key growth drivers.
Out of the 1.65 billion users on the platform globally, more than 241 million comes from South-East Asia, mostly (94%) accessing through mobile devices.

The opening of the local office is part of its expansion in the region following the launch of the Philippines office last month.