Quest VR Owners Have New Meta Logins To Use Instead of Facebook

Meta will now allow users of its Quest VR headsets to log in with a new Meta account instead of a Facebook account, the company announced on Tuesday. The Verge reports: The company had said in July that this change would be rolling out in August, and it marks a shift from an unpopular policy announced in 2020 that required users to log in to their headsets with a Facebook account instead of a separate Oculus account. Users can create Meta accounts through the Meta mobile app using an email address, Facebook account, or Instagram account. Once you create a Meta account, you’ll need to set up a linked Meta Horizon social profile that will be used in VR. As with Facebook accounts before, you’ll need one of these accounts to use a Quest headset.

“Our new Meta account structure gives you more flexibility and control, letting you choose how you do and don’t show up — and whether Facebook and / or Instagram is part of your experience in VR and other surfaces where you use your Meta Horizon profile,” Meta says in its blog post. If you want to set up a Meta account, the company has instructions in the blog post and in a video. If you are still using an Oculus account, you’ll be able to do so until January 1st, 2023. After that date, you’ll need to make a Meta account. The company says the option to make a Meta account and a Meta Horizon profile is rolling out now, so if you aren’t able to just yet, you should be given the option soon.

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After Mockery, Mark Zuckerberg Promises Better Metaverse Graphics, Post New Avatar

What do you when people hate your $10 billion selfie? “Mark Zuckerberg, in response to a torrent of critical memes mocking the graphics of Meta’s newest project, has heard his critics — and changed his selfie,” reports CNN:

Zuckerberg debuted Horizon Worlds, a virtual reality social app, in France and Spain earlier this week, sharing a somewhat flat, goofy digital avatar in front of an animated Eiffel Tower and la Sagrada Família.

The internet immediately jumped in, mocking what many users viewed as (hopefully) preliminary graphics for a venture that Meta has spent at least $10 billion in the last year.

New York Times tech columnist Kevin Roose compared the graphics to “worse than a 2008 Wii game” on Twitter. Slate used the term “buttcheeks.” Twitter was less kind: “eye-gougingly ugly” and “an international laughing stock” popping up. Many compared it to early 90’s graphics and pointed out how lifeless and childish the Zuckerberg selfie looked. It quickly won the designation “dead eyes.”
Well, Zuckerberg has apparently seen the memes, because on Friday he announced there are major updates coming — along with new avatar graphics.

In a CNBC report on how Zuckerberg “is getting dragged on the internet for how ugly the graphics of this game are,” they’d actually quoted a Forbes headline that asked, “Does Mark Zuckerberg not understand how bad his metaverse is?”

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What 21 Billion Facebook Friendships Say About the Economic Ladder In the US

Meta publicly released information on 21 billion Facebook friendships as part of a research project looking at economic inequality in the United States, the company announced today. Along with new insights into the intersection of money and friendships in America, the partnership between Meta and the researchers gives us another look at who Facebook is willing to share data with — and why. The Verge reports: The research team wanted to understand why people in some places in the US were more likely to move between economic brackets than in others. Using the information from Meta, along with other data, a research team built a dataset for a pair of studies on economic mobility, published Monday in the journal Nature. One study found that people who grow up in areas where there are more friendships between high- and low-income people are more likely to move out of poverty and up the economic ladder. “Growing up in a community connected across class lines improves kids’ outcomes and gives them a better shot at rising out of poverty,” Raj Chetty, a Harvard economist and lead researcher on the study, told The New York Times.

Many places, though, don’t allow for much interaction between high- and low-income people, the second of the two studies found. And even when a neighborhood does allow for that kind of interaction, people are still more likely to befriend people in similar economic brackets. […] [T]he full dataset, which covers 21 billion Facebook friendships, is available through Facebook’s Data for Good program. People can search the public-facing website and see the economic connectedness of various communities, including their own. Researchers can download the data for additional studies. […] The new studies offer valuable insight into economic mobility in the US, and the data could help researchers understand how people in the US build relationships.

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‘Stop Trying To Be TikTok’: User Backlash Over Instagram Changes

Instagram’s head defended the app against a user backlash, after the social network launched a series of changes intended to make it more like its arch-rival TikTok. The Guardian reports: The changes, which include an extremely algorithmic main feed, a push for the service’s TikTok-style “reels” videos, and heavy promotion of the TikTok-style “remix” feature, have resulted in users struggling to find content from friends and family, once the bread and butter of the social network. “We’re hearing a lot of concerns from all of you,” Adam Mosseri said in a video posted to Twitter. “I’m hearing a lot of concerns about photos, and how we’re shifting to video. We’re going to continue to support photos, but I need to be honest: more and more of Instagram is going to become video over time. We’re going to have to lean in to that shift while continuing to support photos.”

The Instagram boss also defended the platform’s new “recommendations” feature, which puts content from people users do not follow on to their feed. “The idea is to help you discover new and interesting things on Instagram that you might not even know exist,” he said. “You can snooze all recommendations for up to a month, but we’re going to try and get better at recommendations because we think it’s one of the best ways to help creators reach a new audience and grow their following. He added: “We’re going to need to evolve, because the world is changing quickly and we’re going to need to change with it.”

Instagram’s makeover is widely seen as a response to TikTok’s continued growth, in particular among younger American users. […] By boosting algorithmic recommendations, allowing users to “remix” posts (akin to TikTok’s “Duet” feature), and promoting full-screen vertical video above photos, Instagram is attempting to turn its main app experience into something similar to that of the Chinese-owned upstart. In a widely shared story, Kardashian clan member and social media star, Kylie Jenner, called on the service to “make Instagram Instagram again.” She added: “Stop trying to be TikTok, I just want to see cute photos of my friends.”

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A Newly Discovered Malware Hijacks Facebook Business Accounts

An ongoing cybercriminal operation is targeting digital marketing and human resources professionals in an effort to hijack Facebook Business accounts using a newly discovered data-stealing malware. TechCrunch reports: Researchers at WithSecure, the enterprise spin-off of security giant F-Secure, discovered the ongoing campaign they dubbed Ducktail and found evidence to suggest that a Vietnamese threat actor has been developing and distributing the malware since the latter half of 2021. The firm added that the operations’ motives appear to be purely financially driven. The threat actor first scouts targets via LinkedIn where it selects employees likely to have high-level access to Facebook Business accounts, particularly those with the highest level of access. The threat actor then uses social engineering to convince the target to download a file hosted on a legitimate cloud host, like Dropbox or iCloud. While the file features keywords related to brands, products, and project planning in an attempt to appear legitimate, it contains data-stealing malware that WithSecure says is the first malware that they have seen specifically designed to hijack Facebook Business accounts.

Once installed on a victim’s system, the Ducktail malware steals browser cookies and hijacks authenticated Facebook sessions to steal information from the victim’s Facebook account, including account information, location data, and two-factor authentication codes. The malware also allows the threat actor to hijack any Facebook Business account that the victim has sufficient access to simply by adding their email address to the compromised account, which prompts Facebook to to send a link, via email, to the same email address. The recipient — in this case, the threat actor — then interacts with the emailed link to gain access to that Facebook Business. The threat actors then leverage their new privileges to replace the account’s set financial details in order to direct payments to their accounts or to run Facebook Ad campaigns using money from the victimized firms.

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Facebook Opens Political Ad Data Vaults To Researchers

Meta’s ad transparency tools will soon reveal another treasure trove of data: advertiser targeting choices for political, election-related, and social issue spots. The Register reports: Meta said it plans to add the targeting data into its Facebook Open Research and Transparency (FORT) environment for academic researchers at the end of May. The move comes a day after Meta’s reputation as a bad data custodian resurfaced with news of a lawsuit filed in Washington DC against CEO Mark Zuckerberg. Yesterday’s filing alleges Zuckerberg built a company culture of mishandling data, leading directly to the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The suit seeks to hold Zuckerberg responsible for the incident, which saw millions of users’ data harvested and used to influence the 2020 US presidential election.

Jeff King, Meta’s VP of business integrity, said that FORT would allow researchers to look at detailed targeting information for social issue, electoral and political ads. “This data will be provided for each individual ad and will include information like the interest categories chosen by advertisers,” King said. Prior to this announcement, data for social, electoral, and political ads in the run-up to the 2020 election was available as part of a pilot program. This new release will expand the pilot and add data from all ads in those categories run globally since 2020, King said.

The non-academic public has to wait until July to get their hands on that data in Facebook’s Ad Library, and when released it will be in a summarized form. Included in the update will be data on total number of social, electoral, and political ads ran on a page using particular targeting data, percentage spent on the different issues, and whether the page uses a custom or lookalike audience. King said that Meta hopes the release will “help people better understand the practices used to reach potential voters on our technologies,” and emphasized yet again that Meta is “committed to providing meaningful transparency, while also protecting people’s privacy.”

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Russia Shuts Down Instagram at Midnight. Users Say Farewell

Slashdot reader quonset shares this report from Reuters:

Instagram users in Russia have been notified that the service will cease as of midnight on Sunday after its owner Meta Platforms said last week it would allow social media users in Ukraine to post messages such as “Death to the Russian invaders”. An email message from the state communications regulator told users to move their photos and videos from Instagram before it was shut down, and encouraged them to switch to Russia’s own “competitive internet platforms”.

Meta, which also owns Facebook, said Friday that the temporary change in its hate speech policy applied only to Ukraine, in the wake of Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion. The company said it would be wrong to prevent Ukrainians from “expressing their resistance and fury at the invading military forces”….
The message to Instagram users from the state media regulator, Roskomnadzor, described the decision to allow calls for violence against Russians as a breach of international law. “We need to ensure the psychological health of citizens, especially children and adolescents, to protect them from harassment and insults online,” it said, explaining the decision to close down the platform.

“The tears were flowing Sunday among Russia’s airbrushed Instagram influencers, who begged their followers in farewell posts to join them on alternative social media platforms…” reports the Washington Post:
On the platform, emotions ran high Sunday among Russians who were about to lose thousands of dollars they received to promote various products, as well as access to millions of followers amassed over the years. “I’m writing this post now and crying,” Olga Buzova, a Russian reality television star, wrote, saying she hoped “it’s all not true and we will remain here….”

The ban on Instagram is the latest example of how Russia’s citizens are being isolated from the rest of the world as a result of Moscow’s war against Ukraine. Since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion on Feb. 24, his government has also pulled the plug on Russia’s opposition-oriented radio and television networks, part of a broader effort to squelch domestic dissent in response to the war. Thousands of Russians have been arrested for attempting to protest the invasion…. But perhaps no move is more isolating than removing Russians from social media platforms that connect them directly to other users around the world. Instagram counted nearly 60 million users in Russia in 2021, according to the market data firm Statista, about 40 percent of the country’s population. The platform is also a huge revenue source for its users, who rake in cash from sponsors by posting promotional content.

“We know that over 80 percent of people in Russia on Instagram follow an account from outside of Russia,” Instagram head Adam Mosseri said in a video, according to the Post’s article.

It adds that “It is unclear how many Russians will continue to be able to access Instagram using Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs.”

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Facebook and YouTube Block RT, Other Russian Channels From Earning Ad Dollars

Reuters reports:

YouTube on Saturday barred Russian state-owned media outlet RT and other Russian channels from receiving money for advertisements that run with their videos, similar to a move by Facebook, after the invasion of Ukraine.

Citing “extraordinary circumstances,” YouTube said in a statement that it was “pausing a number of channels’ ability to monetize on YouTube, including several Russian channels affiliated with recent sanctions.” Ad placement is largely controlled by YouTube. Videos from the affected channels also will come up less often in recommendations, YouTube spokesperson Farshad Shadloo said.

He added that RT and several other channels would no longer be accessible in Ukraine due to “a government request….” YouTube previously has said that it does not treat state-funded media channels that comply with its rules any differently than other channels when it comes to sharing ad revenue.

Meta Platforms Inc, owner of Facebook, on Friday barred Russian state media from running ads or generating revenue from ads on its services anywhere in the world.

CNN’s Ukraine-Russia updates point out that YouTube’s actions follow a warning letter to YouTube’s parent company Alphabet on Friday by Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner. “Warner said his staff was able to find instances of RT’s monetization on YouTube, and that he had alerted the Departments of Justice and Treasury to a report about YouTube allowing sanctioned entities to monetize on YouTube as well. “

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