Facebook sets up new team to work on the ‘metaverse’

Facebook has invested heavily in virtual reality and augmented reality such as its Oculus VR headsets, AR glasses and wristband technologies. (File/AFP)
Facebook has invested heavily in virtual reality and augmented reality such as its Oculus VR headsets, AR glasses and wristband technologies. (File/AFP)
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Updated 27 July 2021

Facebook sets up new team to work on the ‘metaverse’

Facebook has invested heavily in virtual reality and augmented reality such as its Oculus VR headsets, AR glasses and wristband technologies. (File/AFP)
  • Facebook establishes new team to work on metaverse, a digital world where people can move between different devices and virtual environments

LONDON: Facebook is creating a product team to work on the “metaverse,” a digital world where people can move between different devices and communicate in a virtual environment, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said on Monday.
The team will be part of the company’s virtual reality organization, the group’s executive Andrew Bosworth said in a Facebook post.
“You can think about the metaverse as an embodied Internet, where instead of just viewing content — you are in it,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg told The Verge in an interview last week.
Facebook, the world’s largest social network, has invested heavily in virtual reality and augmented reality, developing hardware such as its Oculus VR headsets and working on AR glasses and wristband technologies.
It has also bought a bevy of VR gaming studios, including BigBox VR. It has about 10,000 employees working on virtual reality, The Information reported in March.
Zuckerberg has said he thinks it makes sense to invest deeply to shape what he bets will be the next big computing platform.
“I believe the metaverse will be the successor to the mobile Internet, and creating this product group is the next step in our journey to help build it,” he said on his Monday Facebook post.
He told The Verge: “If we do this well, I think over the next five years or so ... we will effectively transition from people seeing us as primarily being a social media company to being a metaverse company.”


Facebook wraps up deals with Australian media firms, TV broadcaster SBS excluded

Facebook wraps up deals with Australian media firms, TV broadcaster SBS excluded
Updated 18 sec ago

Facebook wraps up deals with Australian media firms, TV broadcaster SBS excluded

Facebook wraps up deals with Australian media firms, TV broadcaster SBS excluded
  • Facebook announces deals with most of the Australia's s largest news outlets, excluding TV broadcaster SBS and smaller publishers
SYDNEY: Facebook Inc. has told Australian publishers it has stopped negotiating licensing deals, an email to the industry seen by Reuters showed, a move which came just six months after the passing of a law designed to make tech giants pay for news content.
While Facebook has announced deals with most of the country’s largest news outlets, some companies including TV broadcaster SBS and smaller publishers have been left out in the cold, raising questions about the scope and effectiveness of the ground-breaking law.
Australia is the only country with a law where the government may set the fees if negotiations between tech giants and news providers fail, but the rejected companies are left with little recourse for the time being and are waiting for the government to review the law in 2022 as planned.
Facebook’s regional head of news partnerships, Andrew Hunter, said in an August email to publishers it had “now concluded” deals where it would pay Australian companies for content on its just-launched “Facebook News” channel.
Nick Shelton, founder of Broadsheet Media, a website which publishes entertainment news, reviews and listings and was rebuffed by Facebook, said the decision to close off on new deals was “clearly an attempt from Facebook to cap their exposure to independent publishers.”
The Special Broadcasting Service, or SBS, one of Australia’s five national free-to-air broadcasters and the country’s main source of foreign language news, said Facebook declined to enter negotiations despite months of attempts and that it was surprised and disappointed. It noted it had successfully concluded a deal with Google.
“This outcome is at odds with the Government’s intention of supporting public interest journalism, and in particular including the public service broadcasters in the Code framework with respect to remuneration,” an SBS spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday.
Hunter said in the email to publishers, which has not been made public, that rejected publishers would continue to benefit from clicks directed from Facebook and recommended they tap a new series of industry grants.
In a separate statement to Reuters, Hunter said content deals were “just one of the ways that Facebook provides support to publishers, and we’ve been having ongoing discussions with publishers about the types of news content that can best deliver value for publishers and for Facebook.”
Facebook did not respond directly to questions about the statements from Broadsheet Media and SBS.
The US social media giant has inked deals with a range of large Australian big media companies including News Corp. and the Australian Broadcasting Corp. and has a collective bargaining arrangement with rural publishers. But only a handful of independent and smaller publishers have reached deals.
Other rejected publishers include the Conversation, which publishes public affairs commentary by academics, Reuters has previously reported. That prompted a rebuke from the regulator which drafted the law. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission declined to comment on Wednesday.
Under the law, which drove Facebook to block third-party content on newsfeeds briefly in the country in February, Facebook and Google must negotiate with news outlets for content that drives traffic to their websites or face possible government intervention.
But before there can be any government intervention, the federal treasurer must determine that either Facebook or Google failed to negotiate in good faith, a step known as “designation.” A representative for Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was not immediately available for comment.
Facebook’s rejection of SBS and the Conversation flies in the face of law’s core proposition that it “should be required to compensate public interest journalism,” said Peter Lewis, director of the Center for Responsible Technology, a think tank.
“The treasurer has no alternative but to revisit designating Facebook to ensure that it meets its commitments to public interest journalism in Australia.”

Big Tech targeted by US and EU in draft memo ahead of tech and trade meeting

Big Tech targeted by US and EU in draft memo ahead of tech and trade meeting
Updated 3 min 34 sec ago

Big Tech targeted by US and EU in draft memo ahead of tech and trade meeting

Big Tech targeted by US and EU in draft memo ahead of tech and trade meeting
  • The US and the EU plan to take a more unified approach to limit the growing market power of Big Tech companies
WASHINGTON: The United States and European Union plan to take a more unified approach to limit the growing market power of Big Tech companies, according to a draft memo seen by Reuters.
The move will be among announcements on tech, climate, trade and supply chains likely to be made at a US-EU Trade & Technology Council meeting on Sept. 29 in Pittsburgh.
With the US and Europe trying to restrain the growing power of American tech giants such as Alphabet’s Google , Facebook, Apple and Amazonom Inc. , such cooperation has become critically important for regulators on both sides of the Atlantic — and would make it harder for the US tech industry to fight new rules.
This month, the White House announced that the council would meet for the first time on Sept. 29 in Pittsburgh. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, US Trade Representative Katherine Tai and the European Union’s trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis are scheduled to attend along with European Commissioner for Competition Margrethe Vestager.
The White House, which is coordinating with different agencies on the meeting, declined to comment on the memo. Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The council has 10 working groups for areas such as strengthening trade, economic relations and shared democratic values, according to the draft memo.
The group focused on tech company regulation will “exchange information on our respective approaches to technology platform governance, seeking convergence where feasible,” the memo says.
There are many examples where the two continents could cooperate more. Google, which faces several antitrust lawsuits in the US related to its advertising business, also faces a wide-ranging investigation related to ad technology in the EU.
“We have identified common issues of concern around gatekeeper power by major platforms and the responsibility of online intermediaries,” the memo says, adding that more can be done to combat misinformation.
“This includes in particular the responsibility of online intermediaries to safeguard democratic processes from the impact of their business activities. Areas of common ground... include content moderation and fair competition,” the memo said.
The group will tackle areas such as hate speech, algorithmic amplification and data access for researchers, the memo says.
The council’s climate and clean tech group will work to identify trade and investment opportunities in low- and zero-carbon technologies and products, according to the memo. The supply chain working group will focus on securing supplies of pharmaceuticals, critical minerals and clean energy.
The council will also work to address the shortage of semiconductor chips in a way that is “balanced and of equal interest for both parties” and will avoid a “subsidy race.”
On Wednesday, Reuters reported that European Union ambassadors have postponed discussions to prepare for the meeting in protest of Washington’s submarine agreement with Australia at France’s expense.
A spokesperson for the White House’s National Security Council said preparations for the meeting were continuing.
Several tech trade groups in Washington said the industry does not want the European approach to digital regulation to be adopted in the United States.
“The risk is that the European side will press the United States to harmonize its regulations with the EU by taking a precautionary approach... which would skewer America’s leading tech companies,” said Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, a tech think tank based in Washington.
“We shouldn’t do that, nor do we need to. Our interests are broadly aligned and compatible, particularly when it comes to China,” Atkinson said.

Snapchat launches first-of-kind activation for Saudi National Day

Snapchat launches first-of-kind activation for Saudi National Day
Updated 23 September 2021

Snapchat launches first-of-kind activation for Saudi National Day

Snapchat launches first-of-kind activation for Saudi National Day
  • Messaging app celebrates Saudi heritage with world-first national Snap Map, other augmented reality activations

DUBAI: To mark this year’s Saudi National Day, Snap is launching a first-of-its-kind activation in the region using augmented reality.

In Saudi Arabia, nearly 90 percent of Snapchat daily users already interact with AR Lenses experiences, on average at least 30 times each day.

Now, the messaging app’s 19.5 million monthly active users in the Kingdom, as well as its global audiences, will have the opportunity to celebrate National Day on the platform through AR.

Launched on Sept. 22, the activation sees the Snap Map of Saudi Arabia appearing in a bright green to represent the national flag and the Kingdom highlighted from other countries, the first time Snap has ever recolored a Middle East territory on the map.

Along with the distinctive color change, Snap will also mark cultural and heritage sites — such as AlUla, Tabuk Castle, Alkhobar Water Tower, Rijal Almaa, Masmak Fort, and Nassif House — on the map allowing users to explore the Kingdom.

The markers for the sites include a Face Lens experience, whereby Snapchatters in Saudi Arabia will find themselves on a virtual balcony with all of the national landmarks behind them.

A celebratory atmosphere filled with fireworks and accompanied by the national anthem of Saudi Arabia will be recreated in AR, with users able to put themselves in the thick of the action and flip the camera to see the monuments in front of them.

Additionally, a series of customized Actionmojis, exclusive to Snapchatters in the Kingdom, are also being unveiled for a limited time on National Day only.

Abdulla Alhammadi, regional business lead at Snap Inc., said: “Snapchatters in Saudi Arabia are one of the most active communities on the platform anywhere in the world.

“We wanted to bring even larger, more engaging experiences to this community on Saudi National Day as a sign of gratitude for their contribution to Snap’s creative ecosystem, while together celebrating the rich legacy of visual storytelling that exists in the Kingdom.”


Twitter sends out gift boxes to celebrate Saudi National Day

Twitter sends out gift boxes to celebrate Saudi National Day
Updated 23 September 2021

Twitter sends out gift boxes to celebrate Saudi National Day

Twitter sends out gift boxes to celebrate Saudi National Day
  • Platform also launches dedicated emoji, event page for #SaudiNationalDay

DUBAI: In a bid to help brands better connect with online users, Twitter recently held a virtual event to reveal audience insights from a dedicated survey.

The results showed that 46 percent of Saudis felt National Day celebrations were more special on Twitter with many of them taking to the platform to express their love for the country and engage with patriotic content.

This year has seen a 10 percent year-on-year increase in the number of times the Saudi flag emoji has been used on the social networking platform, raising the volume to 29.7 million.

To amplify the conversations around Saudi National Day, Twitter Middle East and North Africa asked its audiences to share their plans for celebrating #SaudiNationalDay.

 

 

People throughout the Kingdom, including lifestyle creators Az bin Fahad and Areej Abdullah, music producer Abdulaziz Al-Yami, actress Wed Osama, TV host Tariq Aljaser, singer Dania Al-Sabban, beauty and lifestyle creator Shahad Alzahrani, and gamer Meshael, jumped into the conversation, sharing their own plans for celebrating the occasion.

In response, Twitter brought the celebration directly to a select few with custom National Day inspired gift boxes. Those who received the gifts took to the platform to share pictures and tweet their appreciation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Additionally, Twitter also created an emoji of the Saudi flag triggered whenever the hashtags #SaudiNationalDay, #SaudiNationalDay2021, and #SaudiNationalDay91 are tweeted throughout September.

A dedicated event page in Arabic and English has also been launched, providing platform users with real-time updates on activities.

The event page will be accessible through either the Twitter Explore section or on top of individual timelines, for those who already engage with the #SaudiNationalDay content on Twitter. Alternatively, the page can be found by searching for Saudi National Day on Twitter.


US court orders Facebook to release records of anti-Rohingya content for genocide case

US court orders Facebook to release records of anti-Rohingya content for genocide case
Updated 23 September 2021

US court orders Facebook to release records of anti-Rohingya content for genocide case

US court orders Facebook to release records of anti-Rohingya content for genocide case
  • Social media giant had refused to release the data, saying it would violate a US law
  • ‘Facebook taking up the mantle of privacy rights is rich with irony’

A US federal judge has ordered Facebook to release records of accounts connected to anti-Rohingya violence in Myanmar that the social media giant had shut down, rejecting its argument about protecting privacy as “rich with irony.”
The judge in Washington, D.C, on Wednesday criticized Facebook for failing to hand over information to investigators seeking to prosecute the country for international crimes against the Muslim minority Rohingya, according to a copy of the ruling.
Facebook had refused to release the data, saying it would violate a US law barring electronic communication services from disclosing users’ communications.
But the judge said the posts, which were deleted, would not be covered under the law and not sharing the content would “compound the tragedy that has befallen the Rohingya.”
“Facebook taking up the mantle of privacy rights is rich with irony. News sites have entire sections dedicated to Facebook’s sordid history of privacy scandals,” he wrote.
A spokesperson for Facebook said the company was reviewing the decision and that it had already made “voluntary, lawful disclosures” to another UN body, the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar.
More than 730,000 Rohingya Muslims fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state in August 2017 after a military crackdown that refugees said including mass killings and rape. Rights groups documented killings of civilians and burning of villages.
Myanmar authorities say they were battling an insurgency and deny carrying out systematic atrocities.
The crackdown by the army, during the rule of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government, did not generate much outcry in the Buddhist-majority nation, where the Rohingya are widely derided as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Gambia wants the data for a case against Myanmar it is pursuing at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague, accusing Myanmar of violating the 1948 UN Convention on Genocide.
In 2018, UN human rights investigators said Facebook had played a key role in spreading hate speech that fueled the violence.
A Reuters investigation that year found more than 1,000 examples of hate speech on Facebook, including calling Rohingya and other Muslims dogs, maggots and rapists, suggesting they be fed to pigs, and urging they be shot or exterminated.
Facebook said at the time it had been “too slow to prevent misinformation and hate” in Myanmar.
In Wednesday’s ruling, US magistrate judge Zia M. Faruqui said Facebook had taken a first step by deleting “the content that fueled a genocide” but had “stumbled” by not sharing it.
“A surgeon that excises a tumor does not merely throw it in the trash. She seeks a pathology report to identify the disease,” he said.
“Locking away the requested content would be throwing away the opportunity to understand how disinformation begat genocide of the Rohingya and would foreclose a reckoning at the ICJ.”
Shannon Raj Singh, human rights counsel at Twitter, called the decision “momentous” and “one of the foremost examples of the relevance of social media to modern atrocity prevention & response.”