The purpose of the office will be to encourage businesses across the continent to advertise on Facebook. The company is enlisting the help of governments, telecom operators, agencies and other stakeholders to help drive the effort.
Given that more than 80pc of Facebook users in Africa access the social network from a mobile phone, it is important that ads are optimised for this format, and the type of network connection being used, if they are to be effective.
Facebook claims that the new African sales team, led by Nunu Ntshingila-Njeke, who previously helped build Ogilvy’s network in Sub Saharan Africa, will help advertisers create and deliver ads that will appeal to customers across the continent.
The sales team in Africa will focus initially on countries in Sub Saharan Africa, including Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.
“We are committed to creating solutions tailored to people, businesses and specifically for African markets,” said Ari Kesisoglu, regional director for Facebook in the Middle East and Africa.
“Our priority for the next few months is to continue the work we are already doing with some clients in this region. We will work more closely with businesses and agencies to understand the challenges, so that we can build solutions that help grow their business.”
With more than a billion people, Africa holds vast potential for Facebook. The number of active users in Africa has grown 20pc between September 2014 and June 2015, from 100m to 120m.
The company expects this growth to continue as the cost of data services decreases and more people upgrade from basic feature phones to smartphones that are capable of running its full mobile app.
Facebook described the opening of its new office as “the first step in furthering our investment in Africa and its people”. However, the company has been investing in technology products for the region for some time.
In 2013, Facebook launched Internet.org, a global partnership with Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung, that aims to make internet access available to the two-thirds of the world that are not yet connected.
The first product to come out of the Internet.org partnership last year was amobile app that allows people in developing countries to access basic web services for free over their mobile network.
The app launched first in Zambia and has since rolled out in Tanzania, Kenya, Ghana, Colombia and parts of India. It allows users to browse a set of health, employment and local information services without data charges.
These include AccuWeather, BBC News, Facebook, Messenger, Google Search, Wikipedia, Facts for Life and UNICEF, as well as a number of locally-specific apps such as Go Zambia Jobs and India Today.
By providing free basic services via the app, Facebook says it hopes to bring more people online and help them discover valuable services they might not have otherwise.
As well as the app, the Internet.org partnership is also looking at providing internet access from the sky in places that are currently unconnected, using drones, satellites and lasers.
In March, it emerged that Facebook was testing solar-powered drones, developed by Somerset-based company Ascenta, to beam down laser-guided internet signals to those below.
The drones have a wingspan greater than a Boeing 737 but weigh less than a car, and solar panels attached to the wings mean that they will be able to keep going at altitudes of 60,000 ft for months at a time.
Facebook says this will bring online connectivity to remote locations, previously inaccessible, for the first time.
The ultimate aim of all of these efforts to improve internet access in Africa is, of course, to bring Facebook more advertising revenue.
Over half of Facebook’s total ad revenue came from outside the US and Canada in the first quarter of 2015, and mobile advertising revenue represented approximately 73pc of Facebook’s ad revenue.
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said in February that advertising to Internet.org users was not an immediate priority, claiming that the ad market was still small in many developing countries.
However, Nicola Mendelsohn, Facebook’s vice president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, told The Telegraph in March that the company was already working with some businesses to help them deliver ads to people in South Africa and Kenya via the company’s Creative Accelerator programme.
Facebook also offers tools for advertisers to target these users. For example, ‘Missed Call’ allows a person to place a ‘missed call’ in return for unique content such as music or cricket scores, alongside a brand message from the advertiser.
Bandwidth Targeting also enables advertisers to reach people based on the type of network connection they usually use when accessing the Internet, so that video ads are not sent to users with 2G connections, for example.
“One of the things that we do is work with agencies and marketers to show what best practice looks like and how they can target people in the right way that can deliver return on their business for them,” Mendelsohn said at the time.
“That’s the thing that we care about – we care about what is the return we can give to marketers and business by using the platform.”
INSTAGRAM IS USING AI TO DETECT BULLYING IN PHOTOS AND CAPTIONS
Last year, Instagram introduced an enhanced comment filter that uses machine learning to spot offensive words and phrases in challenging contexts. Now, the company is expanding similar coverage to photos and captions. Today, it announced that it will use AI to “proactively detect bullying” before sending content to human moderators for review.
The new feature will roll out to users in the coming weeks, launching in time for October’s National Bullying Prevention Month in the US and just before Anti-Bullying Week in the UK. The same technology is also being added to live videos to filter comments there as well.
This is the first product announcement under new Instagram chief Adam Mosseri who took over following the hasty departure of co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger last month. The split was reportedly due to simmering tensions between the pair and parent company Facebook, which has frequently meddled with Instagram’s product.
With public trust in Facebook continuing to fall, Instagram remains the bright spot in the company’s product lineup. It’s popular, profitable, and it has yet to be tainted by the scandals that have undermined Facebook. In this context, using AI to help weed out offensive content and keep Instagram a home for good vibes is extremely important.
A story published in Wired last year explained some of the details of Instagram’s machine learning comment filters, but it’s well-established that this sort of technology is no silver bulletfor content moderation. AI is cheap to deploy at scale, yes, but it still has trouble dealing with human context and nuance. That’s why it’s good that these new bullying filters also send content to human moderators to perform the final check. Automation without oversight is a recipe for disaster.
Interestingly, Instagram says it’s not just analyzing photos captions to identify bullying, but also the photo itself. Speaking to The Verge, a spokesperson gave the example of the AI looking for split-screen images as an example of potential bullying, as one person might be negatively compared to another. What other factors the AI will look for though isn’t clear. That might be a good idea considering that when Facebook announced it would scan memes using AI, people immediately started thinking of ways to get around such filters.
Along with the new filters, Instagram is also launching a “kindness camera effect,” which sounds like it’s a way to spread a positive message as a method to boost user engagement. While using the rear camera, the effects fill the screen with an overlay of “kind comments in many languages.” Switch to your front-facing camera, and you get a shimmer of hearts and a polite encouragement to “tag a friend you want to support.”
FACEBOOK IS TESTING ITS VERY OWN DATING APP
Yes, Facebook Dating is a real thing. And we may have just received a sneak peek.
Jane Manchun Wong — an app researcher who’s spotted Facebook features in the past, like Talent Show — posted photos from what she claims is an internal test of Facebook Dating.
The company wouldn’t say whether these pics are the real deal, although it did confirm it’s testing Facebook Dating internally.
Two months ago, at its F8 developer conference, Facebook shared that it was developing a dating app. Aspiring yenta Mark Zuckerberg explained it was “going to be for building real, long-term relationships, not hookups.”
Later, on its blog, Facebook dished out a few more details: “People will be able to create a dating profile that is separate from their Facebook profile — and potential matches will be recommended based on dating preferences, things in common, and mutual friends. They’ll have the option to discover others with similar interests through their Groups or Events.”
From Wong’s photos, it looks like the app will let you prevent your current Facebook friends from seeing your dating profile, thus avoiding potential embarrassment. It’ll also offer a variety of gender options, including trans man, trans woman, and non-binary.
No word on when, exactly, Facebook Dating will become available to the public. Guess you’ll just have to make do with Tinder, Bumble, OKCupid, Happn, Grindr, Hinge, and the thousands of other dating apps out there in the meantime.
WHATSAPP MESSAGES AND SENDERS CAN BE ALTERED AFTER YOU RECEIVED THEM, SAY RESEARCHERS
Security researchers have discovered that it’s possible for hackers to change both the content and the sender of a WhatsApp message after you’ve received it …
This includes the ability to change quoted messages, to make it appear you said something you didn’t.
CNET reports that the possibility was discovered by Check Point Software Technologies.
The firm] found that hackers can create a hacked version of the app and alter a quoted message (a past one that someone is replying directly one) to change the content or sender.
The hacker would, however, need to be part of the chat, so the vulnerability mostly applies to group chats.
WhatsApp told the NYT that it was not aware of the technique being used in the wild, and a cure would be worse than the problem.
One solution would be to create transcripts of every message exchange to verify the accuracy of every quote. Creating such a transcript is a significant privacy risk because those accounts of what people wrote to each other must be stored somewhere, the company said.
All WhatsApp messages are protected by end-to-end encryption, which means that only those within a chat would be able to exploit the loophole. Storing a transcript would effectively mean removing that end-to-end encryption.