(Bloomberg) — Almost one in three top brands are set to stop spending on advertising with social media platforms like Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube due to hate speech policies, according to a new survey.
Among major brands, 5% said they have already withheld money from such platforms, and a further 26% said they are likely to do so, according to a poll from the World Federation of Advertisers. The industry lobby group says it represents 90% of global marketing spending, or about $900 billion a year. About 40% of companies are undecided.
Facebook has come under particular fire from organizations like the Anti-Defamation League, who say it isn’t doing enough to curb hate speech. A growing list of top tier brands, from Starbucks Corp. to PepsiCo Inc. said they will stop spending on the platform, which sent Facebook’s shares down 8% on Friday. Still, Facebook is well-insulated from a blue-chip revolt because most of its ad sales come from small- and-medium sized businesses.
©2020 Bloomberg L.P.
Google: Mitigating disinformation and foreign influence through social media a joint effort – ZDNet
Google Australia believes long term success in mitigating disinformation and foreign influence through social media rests on the development of a culture of online safety across society, including through ongoing “collaboration” between the likes of industry, the technical community, and government.
According to Google, such efforts must be partnered with efforts to educate users and organisations, from school students through to senior citizens and company employees on how to secure their online presence and to “apply critical thinking to the information they see and consume”.
The remarks were made in the company’s submission [PDF] to the Select Committee on Foreign Interference through Social Media, which also contained an overview of the work its parent company has done to counter coordinated influence operations and other government-backed attacks.
In its submission to the committee looking into the risk posed by foreign interference through social media, the local arm of the search giant said it takes its responsibility “very seriously”.
“How companies like Google address these concerns has an impact on society and on the trust users place in our services,” it wrote.
“We believe that meeting it begins with providing transparency into our policies, inviting feedback, enabling users to understand and control their online engagement, and collaborating with policymakers, civil society, and academics around the world in the development of sensible, effective policies, and processes.”
In its submission, Google said algorithms cannot determine whether a piece of content on current events is true or false, nor can they assess the intent of its creator just by reading what’s on a page. It said, however, there are clear cases of intent to manipulate or deceive users.
“For instance, a news website that alleges it contains ‘Reporting from Canberra, Australia’ but whose account activity indicates that it is operated out of Eastern Europe is likely not being transparent with users about its operations or what they can trust it to know firsthand,” Google wrote.
It said the policies across Google Search, Google News, YouTube, and its advertising products outline behaviours that are prohibited to address such situations.
Google said its Threat Analysis Group (TAG) reported disabling influence campaigns originating from groups in Iran, Egypt, India, Serbia, and Indonesia in the first quarter of 2020. It also removed more than a thousand YouTube channels that were apparently part of a large campaign and that were “behaving in a coordinated manner”.
“On any given day, Google’s Threat Analysis Group is tracking more than 270 targeted or government-backed attacker groups from more than 50 countries,” it wrote.
Since the beginning of 2020, Google said it had seen a rising number of attackers, including those from Iran and North Korea, impersonating news outlets or journalists. In April this year, Google sent 1,755 warnings to users whose accounts were targets of government-backed attackers.
“We intentionally send warnings in timed batches to all users who may be at risk, rather than at the moment we detect the threat itself, so that attackers cannot track some of our defence strategies,” the submission said. “We also notify law enforcement about what we’re seeing, as they have additional tools to investigate these attacks.”
The search giant also said it detected 18 million malware and phishing Gmail messages per day related to COVID-19, in addition to more than 240 million COVID-related daily spam messages.
“Our machine learning models have evolved to understand and filter these threats, and we continue to block more than 99.9% of spam, phishing, and malware from reaching our users.
“Google’s TAG has specifically identified over a dozen government-backed attacker groups using COVID-19 themes as lure for phishing and malware attempts — trying to get their targets to click malicious links and download files, including in Australia,” it added.
“We have an important responsibility to our users and to the societies in which we operate to curb the efforts of those who aim to propagate false information on our platforms.”
Undaunted, US global media chief plows ahead with changes – 570 News
WASHINGTON — Despite a barrage of criticism from both Democrats and Republicans, the new chief of U.S. global media is plowing ahead with changes to the Voice of America and other international broadcasters that are heightening concerns about their future as independent news organizations.
Although Agency for Global Media chief executive Michael Pack has assured Congress that VOA and its sister networks will remain independent and pledged he would consult lawmakers on significant developments, last week he initiated personnel changes and began a review of visas for foreign employees.
Some fear the moves will damage the institution’s credibility and its ability to fulfil its congressionally mandated mission to broadcast impartial news around the world by turning the operation into a propaganda machine for President Donald Trump. Others, though, see them as important and long-needed reforms.
Pack on Wednesday fired the executive editor of Radio Free Asia, Bay Fang, whom he had demoted from president shortly after assuming office last month. A day earlier, Pack installed a South Carolina politician with little, if any, relevant experience to run the Open Technology Fund, which works to provide secure internet access to people around the world.
In addition, Pack launched a case-by-case review of visas for foreign agency employees, many of whom bring critical language skills needed to communicate with the foreign populations that are the primary audiences for AGM broadcasts. Although the review is not complete and no visa actions have yet been taken, some believe the review itself sends a chilling message to journalists.
As those moves were happening, the agency on Thursday publicly boasted of removing the Iranian and North Korean flags from a display at its Washington headquarters, prompting questions about the priorities of its new leadership at a tumultuous time in world events amid rising tensions between the U.S. and China and disputes over how to handle the coronavirus pandemic.
“As of today, the flags of regimes hostile to America no longer fly in the halls @USAGMgov, the taxpayer-funded home of U.S. international broadcasting,” the agency’s public relations bureau tweeted. The post included before and after photos of the flag display and the hashtags: “#America” “#freedom” and “#SpotTheDifference.”
Pack, a conservative filmmaker and associate of former Trump political adviser Steve Bannon, has defended the moves as necessary to reforming the agency, which critics have long said is beset by bureaucratic and journalistic issues. That criticism exploded earlier this year when the White House attacked VOA for its coverage of COVID-19.
Democrats, who suspect Pack wants to promote Trump over broader American values and interests, and some Republicans have demanded explanations for his abrupt dismissal of the heads of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Free Asia, Middle East Broadcasting Networks and the Open Technology Fund. (The director and deputy director of VOA resigned within days of Pack taking control of AGM.)
On July 1, seven U.S. senators, including four Republicans who voted for his controversial nomination, sent a letter to Pack expressing concern about the dismissals and possible politicization of AGM. “These actions, which came without any consultation with Congress, let alone notification, raise serious questions about the future of USAGM under your leadership,” they wrote.
Pack did not respond to the letter from Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine and Jerry Moran of Kansas until a week later, when he sent a polite but firm reply that said he was only doing what he had been hired to do.
“The president, the American people, and the Senate asked me to make bold and meaningful changes,” he wrote in his July 8 response, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. “Indeed, throughout the confirmation process, and in the weeks since taking the helm, I made clear my commitment to fixing the widely-known management issues that have long beleaguered USAGM and, in turn, its institutions.”
‘During the confirmation process, I pledged to respect and protect the independence of the USAGM journalists, and I stand by that pledge,” he said. “I also wish to reiterate my firm commitment to honouring the VOA Charter and to supporting the missions of the other USAGM networks and our heroic journalists around the world. As an agency, through accurate and reliable reporting, we have to get the truth to those starved for it.”
Yet, the review of visas, known as J-1 visas, for foreign staffers and the appointment of 78-year-old former South Carolina Secretary of State James Mills to run the Open Technology Fund have raised questions about that commitment.
The visa review, in particular, “will be perceived as a threat to many reporters,” said Matt Armstrong, a former Republican appointee to the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which was the AGM’s predecessor. “Mr Pack is finding his ways to influence VOA’s output without direct intervention. Failing to renew (visas) may result in harsh penalties for some of these reporters and their families, from jail to even death.”
In response to reports that visas had already been or were about to be cancelled, the agency responded that the review was not yet complete and that “it appreciates the value of critical-language skills offered by U.S. citizens and foreign nationals.”
“To improve agency management and protect U.S. national security, it is imperative to determine that hiring authorities and personnel practices are not misused,” it said. “As such, USAGM is undertaking a comprehensive, case-by-case assessment of personal services contractors who are J-1 visa holders.”
It did not give a projected date for the completion of the review.
Matthew Lee, The Associated Press
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