Ex-Facebook Scientist Reveals Slow Action on Fake Accounts

A recently fired Facebook data scientist, Sophie Zhang, sent a 6,600-word memo giving specific examples of how the social media company ignored or was slow to act on solid information on fake accounts undermining global politics and elections. That included her proof that, in Azerbaijan and Honduras, government leaders and political parties used fake accounts to shift public opinion. She found similar evidence of coordinated campaigns to impact candidates or elections in Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, India, Spain and Ukraine. Continue reading Ex-Facebook Scientist Reveals Slow Action on Fake Accounts

Social Media Platforms Prep for Flood of False Election Info

As the 2020 U.S. presidential election looms, social media platforms are launching strategies to combat false claims and misinformation. Internet companies anticipate a tsunami of this type of content in the lead-up to the election. Google, for example, said it would block some autocomplete search suggestions in an effort to combat misinformation, and Twitter said it would more aggressively label or remove tweets that undermine confidence in the election or promote disputed information. Twitter and Facebook plan to ban new political ads the week leading up to the election. Facebook, meanwhile, is also working to prevent climate misinformation. Continue reading Social Media Platforms Prep for Flood of False Election Info

Facebook’s New Rules Aim to Quash Election Misinformation

Facebook has made several changes ahead of this year’s U.S. presidential election to prevent potential misinformation being shared by politicians, their campaigns and special interest groups. The social media company will bar new political ads beginning the week before the election and tamp down any posts trying to convince people not to vote. After the election it will quell attempts to claim false victories, directing readers to accurate election information. In India meanwhile, Facebook is under pressure after banning a politician for hate speech. Continue reading Facebook’s New Rules Aim to Quash Election Misinformation

Microsoft Develops Video Authenticator to Identify Deepfakes

Microsoft debuted a Video Authenticator tool that can analyze a still photo or video to determine the percentage of the chance that it is an AI-manipulated deepfake. For videos, Microsoft said the tool will work on a frame-by-frame basis in real time. The company’s tool is based on a FaceForensics++ public database and detects the “blending boundary” of the deepfake, with “subtle fading or grayscale elements” that may be indistinguishable by the human eye. It has been tested on the Deepfake Detection Challenge dataset. Continue reading Microsoft Develops Video Authenticator to Identify Deepfakes

Russia Pushes More Disinformation via Facebook and Twitter

Facebook and Twitter reported that the Internet Research Agency in Russia, which reportedly interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, is again using fake accounts and created Peace Data, a fake left-wing website. With the likely goal of influencing the 2020 election, it is believed to be spreading disinformation about Democratic presidential candidate Joseph Biden. U.S. intelligence agencies have warned for months about Russian meddling. Both social platforms have already taken steps to address such disinformation; most recently, Facebook announced plans to block political ads one week before the November election and Twitter is adding more context to Trending Topics. Continue reading Russia Pushes More Disinformation via Facebook and Twitter

FTC Interviews Mark Zuckerberg as Part of Its Antitrust Probe

The Federal Trade Commission often interviews witnesses under oath as part of investigations that lead to lawsuits. It’s telling, then, that, according to sources, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg testified remotely and under oath over a two-day FTC “investigative hearing.” Those sources also pointed out that Zuckerberg’s testimony doesn’t guarantee the case is headed toward an antitrust lawsuit but could be used by the FTC and state attorneys to build their case. State officials also participated in the hearing. Continue reading FTC Interviews Mark Zuckerberg as Part of Its Antitrust Probe

Some DOJ Lawyers Warn of a ‘Rush’ to Bring Google Lawsuit

The Justice Department and Attorney General William Barr plan to bring an antitrust lawsuit against Google as soon as this summer, but not all of the DOJ staffers are happy with what they say is an “aggressive timeline.” Critics believe that the case isn’t ready for trial and that they need more time to determine if the “millions of pages of documents” contain enough evidence to win the case. But Deputy Attorney General Jeff Rosen stated that the case is “a major priority” and the DOJ is “going full-tilt.”

Continue reading Some DOJ Lawyers Warn of a ‘Rush’ to Bring Google Lawsuit

FTC Probe of Facebook Unlikely to Conclude by Election Time

About a year ago, the Federal Trade Commission chair Joseph Simons predicted that the antitrust probe of Facebook would be done before the presidential election, a goal that now seems unlikely. If it runs into next year, a new president could change the FTC’s priorities. For now, the Facebook investigation continues, with staff members prepping depositions of Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg and examining its purchase of Giphy, a search database for short videos. Continue reading FTC Probe of Facebook Unlikely to Conclude by Election Time

New Facebook Feature Provides Option to Avoid Political Ads

Facebook debuted a feature, first to a small group, to allow U.S. users to opt out of seeing political, electoral and social issue ads in Facebook and Instagram feeds. After months of refusing to take action on these ads, even those with lies, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg admitted that, “everyone wants to see politicians held accountable for what they say — and I know many people want us to moderate and remove more of their content.” Facebook also announced its intent to register 4 million new voters in the next few months.

Continue reading New Facebook Feature Provides Option to Avoid Political Ads

TV Ad Budgets Dwindle, Productions Shut Down in Pandemic

With the presidential election and the Tokyo Summer Olympics, television networks expected robust advertising in 2020. But MoffettNathanson noted that, with the Olympics postponed and presidential campaigns muted due to the coronavirus pandemic, advertising revenue is expected to drop 12 percent; the WARC research group predicted that will pencil out to a $25.5 billion loss in spending. Although viewership has exploded during the shutdown, research firm Kantar said that companies have cut advertising budgets more than 40 percent. Continue reading TV Ad Budgets Dwindle, Productions Shut Down in Pandemic

Facebook Gives $100 Million in Local News Grants, Marketing

Although news media have seen a rise in digital subscriptions during the coronavirus, advertising has plummeted. Facebook has stepped in with the announcement it will provide $25 million in grants to local news outlets, as well as spend $75 million in marketing. Examples of outlets hard hit include BuzzFeed and American Media, which are cutting employees’ salaries, and alt-weeklies that have laid off as much as 75 percent of their employees. Facebook fact-checkers, meanwhile, are fighting coronavirus misinformation. Continue reading Facebook Gives $100 Million in Local News Grants, Marketing

Facebook Creates Changes to Its Rules on Paid Political Ads

Facebook has made adjustments to its policy on digital political advertising after reports emerged that 2020 presidential candidates are paying Instagram influencers. It will now require candidates buying branded content to register as political advertisers. FTC commissioner Rohit Chopra stated that a 2017 policy requiring influencers and marketers to reveal any “material connection” to advertisers is under review, adding that, “we may need new rules for tech platforms and for companies that pay influencers to promote products.” Continue reading Facebook Creates Changes to Its Rules on Paid Political Ads

Study Reveals Power, Reach of Paid Influence Campaigns

The NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence, an independent group that advises the organization, conducted a test to see how well big tech companies such as Facebook and Twitter are doing in filtering out paid influence campaigns that use automated bots and other means to manipulate social media. It did so by hiring 11 Russian and five European companies in the business of selling fake social media engagement and found that a small amount of money could cause a lot of damage. Continue reading Study Reveals Power, Reach of Paid Influence Campaigns

Tim Berners-Lee’s Contract For The Web Is a Plan to Save It

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, co-founder of the World Wide Web Foundation, has a new “global action” plan to save the Internet from what he dubs a “digital dystopia.” His Contract for the Web would require governments, companies and individuals to pledge and act to protect the Internet from abuse and “ensure it benefits humanity.” “We need to turn the Web around now,” said Berners-Lee, who noted that, “people’s fear of bad things happening on the Internet is becoming, justifiably, greater and greater.” Continue reading Tim Berners-Lee’s Contract For The Web Is a Plan to Save It

Google Reconsiders Micro-Targeted Ads Ahead of Election

Google is tweaking its policies in advance of the 2020 presidential election. The company has decided to restrict just how minutely political advertisers can target an online audience. While advertisers will still be able to target ads based on age, gender, location and content of the websites that users visited, they will no longer be able to target audiences based on public voter records or political affiliations described as “left-leaning,” “right-leaning” or “independent.” Meanwhile, social giant Facebook is considering a similar move. Continue reading Google Reconsiders Micro-Targeted Ads Ahead of Election

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