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Facebook bets on small-scale connections and ‘secret crush’ romance in latest revamp

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Got a crush on another Facebook user? The social network will help you connect, as part of a revamp unveiled Tuesday that aims to foster real-world relationships and make the platform a more intimate place for small groups of friends.

Changes coming to the mobile application and eventually the website are part of the vision of co-founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg to have Facebook be a place for cozy online gatherings as well as more open public forums.

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“As the world gets bigger and more connected, we need that sense of intimacy more than ever,” Zuckerberg said as he opened the F8 developer conference for the social networking giant.

“That’s why I believe the future is private.”

The new design is in line with Facebook’s aim to shift its focus to small-scale communication in response to criticism over failing to curb misinformation and manipulation of the platform used by 2.3 billion people.

Changes announced Tuesday put groups at the center of the experience and add dating, friend-making and events features intended to promote people getting together in real life, Facebook’s new app head Fidji Simo told AFP.

The redesign is meant to make it easier for users to take part in communities, whether based on friendships, family ties or common interests, according to Simo.

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“It’s definitely part of Mark’s bigger vision,” she said.

The new design, released as Facebook opened its annual developers conference, will give users more options for private and group connections.

– Dogs and politics –

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While counterintuitive, Facebook sees the change as potentially bringing people with opposing political viewpoints together rather than separating them in “filter bubbles.”

“We are seeing that groups can bridge people across dividing lines,” Simo said.

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“If you are a dog lover, you will find people who are dog lovers across all divides; political or otherwise,” she added as an example.

Facebook is adding tools intended to make engaging with groups easier, including improved recommendations of online communities that might be of interest.

A “Meet New Friends” feature being gradually rolled out will let users opt in to getting acquainted with others interested in fresh connections in shared communities.

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An “Events” tab will expedite making real world, local plans with online friends.

The changes are in line with Zuckerberg’s vision outlined earlier this year to make Facebook more like “a digital equivalent of the living room” than a digital “town square.”

This shift, according to Zuckerberg, will mean simple, intimate spaces online where “you have complete confidence that what you say is private.”

– Hidden crushes –

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Facebook also announced it is expanding its dating feature to 14 more countries including the Philippines, Singapore, Brazil and Chile.

A new feature called “Secret Crush” will let people signal which friends they are interested in romantically, but only letting the object of their fancy know it if that person makes similar interest known on a private crush list.

“We think there is a lot of potential in developing these relationships,” Simo said.

“It’s all built with privacy in mind, and with the goal of building meaningfully long-term relationships and not just hookups.”

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The ability for people in small groups to be able to communicate securely and privately is seen as essential to making the social network more intimate.

There are tens of millions of active groups on Facebook, and more than 400 million people belong to groups at the social network.

– Leaner, faster Messenger –

Separately, Facebook unveiled a Messenger app overhaul that makes the mobile software leaner, faster and more of an energy miser.

“We rewrote practically all of the code from scratch,” Facebook head of messaging product Stan Chudnovsky told AFP.

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“We made Messenger the fastest private communication hub on the planet.”

Features built into the new Messenger app build on the social network’s broader vision of small-group-sharing in “virtual living rooms,” according to Chudnovsky.

New features included friends being able to text one another on smartphones while using them to take part in group video chats.

Some 1.3 billion people use Messenger monthly, according to Facebook.

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Canadian vaping study details danger from ‘popcorn lung’ chemical

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A 17-year-old Canadian nearly lost his lungs after five months of intensive vaping, but the ingredient suspected of doing the damage, diacetyl, is different from the substance US authorities blame for dozens of deaths.

The case, described Thursday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), deepens the mysteries surrounding e-cigarettes, which have grown so popular US President Donald Trump earlier this week backed away from a proposed ban on certain vaping flavors, fearing such a move could cost him votes.

Vaping has been blamed for 42 deaths in the United States since the past summer. Canada has been relatively spared, with only eight identified patients, and no deaths.

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Democrat calls out Republican’s ‘epic mansplaining’ to Fiona Hill

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Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) apologized to diplomat Dr. Fiona Hill after Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) used his time on the Intelligence Committee to "mansplain" his own political theories.

"Good afternoon, thank you for being here," Maloney began. "Dr. Hill, first of all I thought that was some epic mansplaining that you were forced to endure from my colleague Mr. Turner.

Turner spent his five minutes to speak filibustering and attacking Hill and then refused to allow her to respond. Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) then spoke with his own five-minute speech, not asking any questions. He then left the room.

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Furious GOP congressman erupts after Adam Schiff lets David Holmes answer questions

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Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) on Thursday grew furious with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) after the House Intelligence Committee chairman insisted that he allow witness David Holmes to answer his question.

During a testy exchange with Holmes, Conaway got upset at the State Department official for reporting a call that he overheard between Trump and European Union ambassador Gordon Sondland while the two of them were at a restuarant in Kiev.

"Sir, I think it was Gordon Sondland who showed indiscretion by having that conversation over a public phone line," Holmes replied.

At this point, Conaway interjected and started talking over Holmes, and Schiff told him to let the witness finish his answer.

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