Media Consortium Reveals Extent of Pegasus Spyware Reach

A consortium of media outlets dubbed the Pegasus Project found that Israeli surveillance firm NSO Group licensed its military-grade spyware Pegasus to governments that used it to hack 37 smartphones of business executives, human rights activists and journalists. Two women close to murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Khasghoggi were also reportedly targeted. Amnesty International and journalism non-profit Forbidden Stories shared a list of 50,000 phone numbers that dates to 2016 and included the 37 targets. New evidence also suggests that thousands of iPhones worldwide may have been compromised.  Continue reading Media Consortium Reveals Extent of Pegasus Spyware Reach

Facebook Targets Substack with Newsletter Platform Bulletin

Social media giant Facebook recently unveiled Bulletin, a near-clone of the newsletter platform Substack. Despite its complicated relationship with journalists, Facebook thinks it can succeed by offering them better terms; whereas Substack takes a 10 percent cut of writers’ revenue, Bulletin will take nothing — at least for now. Best-selling authors Malcolm Gladwell and Mitch Albom will be among the first Bulletin writers. Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said the goal is to “support millions of people doing creative work.” Continue reading Facebook Targets Substack with Newsletter Platform Bulletin

YouTube Bans Alcohol, Gambling, Politics from Masthead Ads

Google’s YouTube announced that its masthead — which appears at the top of its app and website — will no longer run ads related to alcohol, gambling, “prescription drug terms” or politics. Gambling includes sports betting and casino games, and politics references ads that endorse political candidates. According to Google, the move is aimed to “lead to a better experience for users.” The masthead is a very visible rectangle across the top of YouTube’s homepage and is usually the platform’s most expensive and desirable ad unit. Continue reading YouTube Bans Alcohol, Gambling, Politics from Masthead Ads

Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos Will Step Down as CEO on July 5

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos will officially leave his position as chief executive on July 5, and Amazon Web Services chief executive Andy Jassy will take over the Amazon CEO position. The departure of Bezos was originally announced in a February earnings report but a specific date was not revealed. Bezos said July 5 is “sentimental” because it was the date Amazon was incorporated in 1994. Bezos will become executive chair, focusing his attention on “new products and early initiatives.” He said he expects Jassy to be “an outstanding leader.” Continue reading Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos Will Step Down as CEO on July 5

Startup Substack Invests $1 Million in Local News Journalism

Substack is home to writers who establish their own publications. Now the email newsletter startup will spend $1 million total for one-year stipends for up to 30 journalists interested in covering local news. A few writers already use Substack for subscription-based local news sites and co-founder Hamish McKenzie said there are “encouraging signs” that the model works for reporting and local news. Former Vanity Fair editor Jon Kelly is building an online newsletter where writers will share in the subscription revenue. Continue reading Startup Substack Invests $1 Million in Local News Journalism

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Steps Down After 26 Years at the Helm

Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos is stepping down from the role he has held since he started the Big Tech company 26 years ago and will assume the role of executive chairman. Amazon Web Services head Andy Jassy will replace Bezos as Amazon’s new chief executive. Bezos hands over the reins during a time in which COVID-19 has helped the company achieve record-breaking sales, while it also faces regulatory and legal investigations. Personally, he vies with Tesla chief executive Elon Musk as the world’s wealthiest person. Continue reading Amazon’s Jeff Bezos Steps Down After 26 Years at the Helm

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

Apple Privacy Controls Are Likely to Impact Digital Publishers

Apple is upgrading its operating system with privacy controls that reportedly have some advertisers worried. Set to debut in the fall, Apple’s iOS 14 will require apps to ask its users if they want their Internet activity tracked. Many digital publishers are concerned that most users will opt out, which would prevent them from personalizing ads and thus result in a slump in revenue. Facebook has spoken out, pointing out that it will no longer be able to collect a users’ advertising identifiers (IDFA) without their permission. Continue reading Apple Privacy Controls Are Likely to Impact Digital Publishers

Snap Expands AR Toolset, Announces Deals for New Content

Snap inked multi-year deals for custom short-form content with Disney, NBCUniversal, ViacomCBS, the National Basketball Association and the National Football League. It released plans for original content including unscripted series, docuseries, and scripted dramas and comedies. In partnership with The Washington Post, Bloomberg and ESPN, Snap will produce “Happening Now,” a breaking news feature. It also revealed that 170+ million people use its augmented-reality tools daily, moving the technology into the mainstream. Continue reading Snap Expands AR Toolset, Announces Deals for New Content

Coronavirus Transforms Facebook into Major News Hub Again

With millions of Americans stuck at home, Facebook’s usage — especially messaging and video calls — has skyrocketed, and driven traffic to purveyors of coronavirus news. So much so that, as of a week ago, more than 50 percent of the articles being read on Facebook in the U.S. were coronavirus-related, and U.S. traffic from Facebook to other sites also soared 50+ percent due “almost entirely” to the coronavirus. But the social media companies aren’t spared the economic impact of the virus: a decrease in marketing dollars. Continue reading Coronavirus Transforms Facebook into Major News Hub Again

Apple Researchers Improving Accuracy of Virtual Assistant

Over 50 million people worldwide use Apple’s virtual assistant Siri. Apple, focused on improving Siri’s capabilities, published research on how to improve voice trigger detection, speaker verification and language identification for multiple speakers. Apple researchers suggest that an AI model be trained for automatic speech recognition and speaker recognition. Rather than approach it as two independent tasks, the researchers proved that those tasks might actually help one another to “estimate both properties.” Continue reading Apple Researchers Improving Accuracy of Virtual Assistant

Facebook Will Pay For News, But Will Not Mine or Sell Data

Facebook, which has had a mixed relationship with news media, debuted Facebook News, a section devoted to news stories from a range of publications including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, BuzzFeed and Business Insider. Most notably, Facebook is paying for use of the content, inking some deals that top $1 million, and letting professional journalists choose some of the stories to be published. Chief executive Mark Zuckerberg urged all online platforms to support professional news outlets. Continue reading Facebook Will Pay For News, But Will Not Mine or Sell Data

Facebook to License News From Dow Jones Media Outlets

News Corp and Facebook inked a deal that will let the social media platform license headlines from The Wall Street Journal and other Dow Jones media outlets including the New York Post for its ad-free news section. The Washington Post, BuzzFeed News and Business Insider are other publications that have reached similar arrangements with Facebook. The New York Times is in talks with Facebook, but has not revealed whether it is close to a deal. News Corp’s deal was complicated by WSJ’s digital subscription business model. Continue reading Facebook to License News From Dow Jones Media Outlets

News Corp Working on Publisher-Centric Curated News Site

News Corp is developing Knewz.com, a website and mobile app that aggregates news and is intended to be an alternative to Google News and other platforms that don’t adequately compensate publishers. Sources said that an alpha version of Knewz.com was being shown for News Corp executives and that the company could launch the final product later this year — or decide not to proceed with it. Knewz.com is expected to draw from national news outlets such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post and NBC News. Continue reading News Corp Working on Publisher-Centric Curated News Site

Latest Facebook Pitch to Publishers Offers Licensing Fees

Facebook, in preparation for a news section due to launch later this year, has offered news outlets as much as $3 million to license headlines and article previews. According to sources, Facebook has pitched Disney’s ABC News, Wall Street Journal parent Dow Jones, The Washington Post and Bloomberg, for deals that would last for three years. Google already offers AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) allowing articles to load quickly on smartphones, and Snapchat has revenue-sharing deals with publishers on its “Discover” tab. Continue reading Latest Facebook Pitch to Publishers Offers Licensing Fees