Facebook introduces new features for Pakistani market

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KARACHI: With the expansion of broadband internet services in Pakistan, technology companies like Facebook are taking keen interest to enhance their user base in this country, addressing their core interests and issues by launching personalised features and tools.

According to Internet World Stats, there were 32 million users of Facebook registered from Pakistan out of 44.6 million internet users in the country at end of 2017. The country is ranked 25 throughout the world with considerable growth in the number of people using social networks.

These users are consuming social networks not only for infotainment and networking but also for commercial purposes and social causes as well, which can be seen through the significant number of groups and pages created by Pakistanis.

Facebook recently has introduced various features specifically for the Pakistani market. These include facial recognition, registering yourself as a possible blood donation candidate, and now, a profile photo guard tool.

Among these features and tools, the latest one is a picture profile guard which is believed to be extremely helpful for subscribers of Facebook in Pakistan, especially for girls and women. It is expected that the number of female users will increase with this new tool and will also feel safe when sharing pictures over the social media platform.

In an exclusive interview with Pakistan Today, Facebook’s Head of Policy, Middle East and Africa, Nashwa  Hussien Aly explained the reason behind the launch of a picture profile guard in Pakistan.

Profile pictures are an important part of community building on Facebook because they help people find friends and create meaningful connections. But not everyone feels safe adding a profile picture. In Pakistan, we have heard that people want more control over their profile pictures, and we have been working over the past year to understand how we can help. This launch is part of our ongoing commitment to keeping people safe online.

Women are underrepresented on the internet in Pakistan, and we are trying to help make Facebook a safe place for them to be online, she added. Facebook cares about bringing more women online in Pakistan. It cares about keeping women safe online, an official of Facebook told Pakistan Today in an email interview.

At Facebook, we carried out regular research, including our Future of Business research in collaboration with The World Bank and OECD, to understand the entrepreneurial desires, barriers and challenges facing women in the region. We work with several safety experts and NGOs to train women on how to stay safe online. We also have a female representative on our global Safety Advisory Board from the region.

We are always looking for ways to improve people experience on Facebook. In our research with people and safety organisations in India, Egypt, Pakistan and Bangladesh, we have heard that some women choose not to share profile pictures that include their faces anywhere on the internet because they’re concerned about what may happen to their photos. These tools will be available to both men and women as they continue to roll out more broadly, she said.

Aly further said the profile picture guard prevents misuse by disabling some ways of saving, downloading and screen-shotting that are in our control on Facebook. Though we were able to disable screenshots on some versions of the Android app, we understand there are other ways people can gain access, such as camera-to-screen and desktop screenshots. The profile picture design is intended to help deter people from using these additional ways to gain access.

We are continuously looking for ways to make people feel welcome and free to express themselves on Facebook, and are committed to helping people build a safe community on Facebook. We are working to understand the best way to address this issue in partnership with safety experts and NGOs. This is a pilot test that gives people more control over how other people interact with your profile picture which will help us understand the impact of different features, the official from Facebook concluded.