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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 –

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

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

“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.

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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.

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

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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 –

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.

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“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.”

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.

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– 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.

“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.

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


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US planning to slash troops in Germany: report

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US President Donald Trump has ordered the Pentagon to slash the number of troops it maintains in Germany by more than a quarter in the coming months, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

The newspaper said the Defense Department would cut the number of military personnel by 9,500 from the current 34,500 permanently assigned to Germany postings.

The Journal also said a cap of 25,000 would be set on how many US troops could be inside German at any one time, whether in permanent postings or temporary rotations, half of the current allowance.

The move would significantly reduce the US commitment to European defense under the NATO umbrella, though it could also impact Pentagon operations related to Africa and the Middle East.

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Manhattan DA announces protesters arrested by NYPD will not be charged: ‘Our office has a moral imperative’

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The Manhattan District Attorney announced on Friday that his office would not be prosecuting protesters arrested for low-level crimes.

Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr. announced that Unlawful Assembly and Disorderly Conduct would not be prosecuted during the demonstrations over police violence.

"“The prosecution of protestors charged with these low-level offenses undermines critical bonds between law enforcement and the communities we serve. Days after the killing of George Floyd, our nation and our city are at a crossroads in our continuing endeavor to confront racism and systemic injustice wherever it exists. Our office has a moral imperative to enact public policies which assure all New Yorkers that in our justice system and our society, black lives matter and police violence is a crime. We commend the thousands of our fellow New Yorkers who have peacefully assembled to demand these achievable aims, and our door is open to any New Yorker who wishes to be heard," Vance said in a statement.

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Chicago Police Board president files complaint alleging he was struck 5 times by cops at George Floyd protest

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On Friday, WTTW reported that Ghian Foreman, the president of the Chicago Police Board, has filed a complaint alleging he was beaten in the legs five times by police officers at a protest against the killing of George Floyd last Sunday.

The Chicago Police Board is an independent civilian commission that has power over police disciplinary cases.

"Foreman filed a complaint with the Citizens Office of Police Accountability alleging that he was struck by at least one officer during a protest sparked by the death of George Floyd in the custody of Minneapolis police, said Ephraim Eaddy, a spokesperson for the agency," said the report. "Foreman’s complaint, which identifies the officer Foreman said struck him, is one of 344 complaints of police misconduct filed with COPA between midnight May 29 and 7 a.m. Friday, Eaddy said. The complaint itself is confidential."

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