Cuba has restricted access to social media and messaging platforms including Facebook and WhatsApp, global internet monitoring firm NetBlocks said on Tuesday, in the wake of the biggest anti-government protests in decades.
Thousands of Cubans joined demonstrations throughout the Communist-run country on Sunday to protest against a deep economic crisis that has seen shortages of basic goods and power outages. They were also protesting against the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and curbs on civil liberties.
Cuba’s government has said the demonstrations were orchestrated by counter-revolutionaries financed by the United States, manipulating frustration with an economic crisis largely caused by the decades-old U.S. trade embargo.
The protests, rare in a country where public dissent is tightly controlled, had largely ended by Sunday evening, as security forces were deployed to the streets and President Miguel Diaz-Canel called on government supporters to go out and fight to defend their revolution.
But another protest flared late Monday in the southern Havana suburb of La Guinera, where one man died and several others, including members of the security forces, were hospitalized with injuries, according to state-run media on Tuesday.
It did not say what caused the death. No other deaths and injuries have been officially confirmed so far.
Hundreds had taken to streets in La Guinera, shouting slogans like ‘down with communism,’ and ‘freedom for the people of Cuba,’ according to two residents and video footage seen by Reuters. Some started throwing rocks at security forces who eventually responded with gunfire, said resident Waldo Herrera, 49.
“I think the Communists have lost control, they won’t have a solution to this situation,” he said. “The people are tired of so much humiliation, so much repression.”
A Reuters witness saw dozens of people carrying sticks departing La Guinera late on Monday.
Activists say the government is using so-called rapid-reaction brigades — government-organized bands of civilian recruits — to counter protesters.
Mobile internet outages reported
They also accuse the government of trying to disrupt communications. Introduced just over two years ago, mobile internet has been a key factor behind the protests, giving Cubans more of a platform to express their frustrations and enabling the word to get out quickly when people are on the street.
In the capital, there have been regular and atypical mobile internet outages since Sunday, according to Reuters witnesses.
NetBlocks, based in London, said on its website that Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Telegram in Cuba were partially disrupted on Monday and Tuesday.
“The pattern of restrictions observed in Cuba indicate an ongoing crackdown on messaging platforms used to organize and share news of protests in real-time,” said NetBlocks director Alp Toker. “At the same time, some connectivity is preserved to maintain a semblance of normality.”
Facebook Inc, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp, said that it was concerned about its services being restricted in Cuba, in a statement to Reuters late on Tuesday.
“We oppose shutdowns, throttling, and other disruptions of the internet that limit the debate of our community. We hope connectivity will be restored as soon as possible so that Cubans can communicate with family and friends,” said Joe Osborne, a Facebook spokesperson.
Asked whether the government was intentionally restricting internet connections, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez told a news briefing the situation was “complicated.” He said power outages could impact telecommunications services and “Cuba would never renounce the right to defend itself.”
Telegram did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Twitter Inc said it found no blocking of its service.
“Our weapon is the internet. If they take away the internet we are unarmed,” said Havana resident Gino Ocumares, as he tried but failed to connect to the web at a government Wi-Fi hotspot. “The government does not want people to see the truth.”
The protest in La Guinera was spearheaded by “antisocial and criminal elements” that had tried to reach the police station with the aim of attacking its officials and damaging infrastructure, said the state-run Cuban News Agency.
WATCH | Cubans protest deepening economic crisis and curbs on freedom:
When security forces stopped them, they vandalized homes, set containers on fire, and damaged the suburb’s electricity wiring, attacking officials with stones and other objects, the agency said.
State-run media also reported on Tuesday that Raul Castro, who stepped down as head of the ruling Cuban Communist Party in April, attended a meeting on Sunday of the political bureau to address the “provocations.”
Diaz-Canel said in April he would continue to consult Castro on matters of utmost importance.
The Cuban Bishops Conference said in a statement it was worried that the response to protests over legitimate concerns would be “immobilism” rather than an attempt to resolve them, and even a counterproductive hardening of positions.
Biden ‘stands firmly’ with Cubans
Reaction to the protest in Latin America split along ideological lines, with Mexico’s president blaming the U.S. embargo for fomenting the unrest, while Chile and Peru urged the government to allow pro-democracy protests.
U.S. President Joe Biden said on Monday that the United States “stands firmly with the people of Cuba as they assert their universal rights.”
State Department spokesman Ned Price called on the Havana government to open all means of communication, both online and offline.
“Shutting down technology, shutting down information pathways — that does nothing to address the legitimate needs and aspirations of the Cuban people,” Price told a news briefing on Tuesday.
Prominent Agencies And Marketers Are Ramping Up Their Ad Commitment To Minority-Owned Media – Forbes
The killing of George Floyd and the subsequent protests has triggered a call to action in the advertising industry to invest a greater amount of their budgets to minority owned media companies. As a result, every prominent media holding group recently launched a separate division with the objective to facilitate and encourage their clients to make long-term investments and a greater portion of their ad budget to media companies owned by minority groups that target multicultural audiences. Additionally, several “blue-chip” marketers have separately announced their own plans to allocate more ad dollars to minority owned media outlets.
Many of these announcements occurred during the upfronts when agencies are registering their client’s budgets and negotiating billions of ad dollars for the upcoming year. Here is a rundown of these recent announcements.
GroupM: In May, the WPP-owned media company launched the Media Inclusion Initiative, an integrated investment strategy to support and grow diverse and Black-owned media companies and creators. The initial focus will be on Black-owned media and creators. GroupM, the world’s largest media investment company, will invite their clients to pledge at least 2% of their annual ad spend on Black-owned media. In June, twenty GroupM clients had committed to this initiative.
IPG Mediabrands: In May, announced a commitment to spend a minimum of 5% of ad budgets in Black-owned media channels across all clients, in aggregate, by 2023. IPG also launched their first annual Equity Upfront™ to highlight the importance of Black-owned companies that target Black audiences. Among the media companies participating were the Allen Media Group/Entertainment Studios, BET Network, Essence Communications, Urban One ReachTV, Revolt, The Source, Blavity, Ebony along with a number of IPG clients. The goal is to expand to other multicultural platforms in the future. In June IPG announced a partnership with ReachTV, a Black-owned in-airport linear TV channel.
Dani Benowitz, US President, MAGNA says “We saw the critical need to move beyond intent and into actionable steps with minority and Black-owned media partnerships. This young and affluent audience shapes the culture, is entrepreneurial and drives growth. At MAGNA and Mediabrands, we presented the first Equity Upfront, in an effort to reverse long-standing inequities in the advertising industry. We also launched our partnership with ReachTV so our clients could see the immediate benefit of how minority-owned media companies not only provide them with exciting content environments, but also closely connect them with highly desirable and hard to reach consumers in engaging ways.”
Dentsu: Also in May, Dentsu International announced the creation of a separate, stand-alone division to promote diversity in media and support minority-owned companies. The new group called Economic Empowerment, will combat the existing inequities by creating benchmarks when clients are investing in minority owned media and reaching diverse audiences. The unit will support both established and up and coming media companies as well as offer strategic consultancy services to clients along with feedback to media owners.
: In June, Omnicom announced the launch of Diverse Content Creators Network which targets minority-owned publishers and content creators. The plan is to tap Omnicom clients into content from Asian, Black, LatinX, and LGBTQ+ creators across all media platforms and eliminate any barriers of ad investments. These creators include actor Will Smith (53.8 million Instagram followers), director Ava DuVernay (2.7 million Twitter followers) and singer Jason Derulo (46.2 million TikTok followers) as well as famous web creators. Furthermore, Omnicom will add a programmatic element with the goal of overcoming built-in biases especially with smaller minority publishers that typically wind up toward the bottom of programmatic bidding.
Havas: In July, the Havas Media Group started BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) Media Connections. The goal is to assist advertisers to allocate more ad dollars to Black and Hispanic owned U.S.-based radio stations. Havas says 180+ minority owned radio stations have joined. Last year, Havas had launched a social equity marketplace that facilitated their clients to invest ad dollars in underrepresented Black, Hispanic and LGBTQ+ owned media companies. A number of HMG clients have enlisted in the initiative. Havas has been expanding the program to global markets.
Publicis: In July, Publicis launched a cross-industry consortium called The Once and For All Coalition: a multi-year, industrywide initiative to remove barriers to equitable financial opportunity and representation of ethnically-diverse suppliers to help its clients uncover opportunities that mirror their brand values and drive growth with audiences in a multicultural world.
“The Once and For All coalition was created to address a legacy challenge to our client’s business growth, which is the ability to sustainably evaluate, support and invest with ethnic minority owned or targeted businesses to drive superior performance with communities of underrepresented backgrounds,” said Jason Smith, President, Diversified Investment at Spark Foundry, a part of Publicis. “We felt a strategic need to approach this critical growth area with a comprehensive, collaborative, measurable and open-source approach built off industrywide representation and an eye toward the rapidly changing dynamic of our culture.”
Publicis says 21 clients have signed on for the first wave of participation along with 23 minority owned and targeted supplies from traditional and emerging media. The early emphasis will be on Black and Hispanic owned media. In addition, a number of marketers have pledged greater advertising support to minority owned media outlets.
Coca-Cola: In June, the Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Company
vowed to almost double their ad spending with minority owned media. Coca-Cola has announced their ad spend will be five times higher in minority owned media when 2021 is compared to 2020. Furthermore, by 2024 Black, Hispanic, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI)-owned media will account for 8% of Coca-Cola’s annual ad spend in North America, resulting in an increase of at least $500 million in five years. Coca-Cola also said their U.S. employee population across all positions will mirror the U.S. census for race and ethnicity.
General Motors: In May, General Motors charted a “five-point action plan” to amend how they partner with diverse owned media companies and their audiences. Historically one of the top marketers in ad spend, the Detroit-based carmaker announced they would allocate 2% of ad spend in Black-owned media spend in 2021, double it to 4% by 2024 and then double it again to 8% in 2025. General Motors was cited by Black-media owners for spending less than 0.5% of their ad budget on Black-owned media, although GM
disputes the figure. The carmaker also had a virtual meeting with members of NABOB (National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters) to make their commitment known. GM also plans to invest $50 million over the next decade to fund diversity in sponsorships and marketing.
: The quick service restaurant announced plans to double by 2024 their marketing dollars toward media companies, programmers and production companies owned by Black, AAPI, females and the LGBTQ community. McDonald’s plans to increase their national ad spend to diverse owned media companies from an estimated 4% this year to 10% in 2024. As part of their marketing strategy, McDonald’s will increase their national ad dollars to Black-owned media from 2% this year to 5% in 2024. McDonald’s said they also cultivate long-term relationships with minority owned media companies.
Other blue-chip advertisers announcing plans to commit to minority owned media include.
, a GroupM client, announced plans to invest $2 billion in Black-owned businesses by the end of 2025.
announced plans to increase their ad spend in Black-owned media companies.
· The goal of Procter & Gamble’s
“Widen the Screen” initiative is to improve the image of Black life on screen and promote Black creators in film, television and advertising. Procter & Gamble also has plans to invest more ad dollars in minority-owned media.
The multicultural consumer is an attractive target for advertisers. Their population is growing; within 25 years, the Census Bureau projects non-Hispanic whites will account for less than half the U.S. population. The buying power of minority groups in the U.S. is exploding, totaling $4.2 trillion in 2020 and forecast to be $5.2 trillion in 2023. In addition, the multicultural market presents a desirable youthful target for marketers, the median age of Hispanics is 30, for Blacks it is 35 and it is 38 for Asian-Americans, compared to 44 for non-Hispanic whites.
Nonetheless, support of minority owned media and their target audience has been sluggish. For example, Nielsen’s Ad Tel reports Black-owned media companies account for less than 2% of total ad dollars spent in 2020 despite accounting for 13% of the U.S. population.
CBC grapples with how to program an Olympics in the social media age – The Globe and Mail
After dozens of Olympics on television, you might think it would be easy for a network programmer to figure out which sports Canadian audiences want to watch. But conventional wisdom goes only so far. “In a Winter Games, it’s pretty much: hockey, figure skating, curling – and then you sort everything else out,” said Chris Irwin, the executive producer and head of production for CBC Olympics, in a recent interview. “But a Summer Games, once you get past the big three – athletics, aquatics, gymnastics – everyone in the room has a different opinion.”
In the entertainment realm, TV networks that are programming a new show might base decisions on the performance of similar fare: if CSI Miami pulls in 10 million viewers on Thursdays in primetime, it’s a safe bet CSI: Poughkeepsie would do more or less the same. That works for sports, too: Networks can project with some accuracy the viewership numbers for a typical Yankees or Maple Leafs game.
But the relative rarity of the Olympic Games, combined with their changing locations and the head-swirling developments in both technology and viewer habits, have made historical comparisons of little use for the Tokyo Games, which will unfold 11½ to 16 hours ahead of viewers watching across Canada.
“It’s definitely part science, part art form,” Irwin said.
Looking at data from the 2018 Games in Pyeongchang, “you have the right time zone [as Tokyo], but it’s winter sports, so nothing is relevant. You go back to Rio, and it’s summer sports on the same schedule, but nothing is relevant from a time-zone perspective,” he said. “So, when you get people weighing in and saying, ‘The highest-rated sporting hour in Rio was this [particular event],’ you say, ‘Yes, but that’s because it was at 9 o’clock eastern time and it followed that big, huge other thing.’ And then you try to map that to Tokyo, and [that same sport] is at 8 a.m. and the available audience is one-tenth of what it is [in primetime].
“So, the last comparable Olympics with information that could help you make better decisions was [the Beijing Games in] 2008 – and you can imagine how irrelevant that research is. Nobody was watching streaming. There wasn’t even an app in 2010,” for the Vancouver Games. “So the idea that people [might watch the Olympics] on their phones, and in their beds and on trains and planes and everything, was just non-existent until this cycle.”
Canadians will have a dizzying array of ways to access these Games: five broadcast channels (the main CBC network, which will devote 23 hours every weekday, and 24 hours on weekend days, to coverage; two channels each of CBC’s sub-licensees, TSN and Sportsnet); up to 20 livestreams at once on CBC’s Gem app, the new CBC Olympics app, and the CBC Olympics website. Amazon Prime will have a CBC Olympics hub filled with live games and replays. Select bits of content will run on YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. CBC Sports even started up a TikTok account for Tokyo.
“As we look at these Olympics and [the 2022 Winter Games] coming up, and Paris [in 2024] down the road, I’m convinced it’s our responsibility not to just expect Canadians to come to the main channel and watch it like they used to,” said Chris Wilson, the executive director of CBC Sports and Olympics. We’ve got to challenge ourselves to present the Olympic content in different ways, on different platforms and be very creative with our partners.”
Mindful of its role as a public broadcaster, the CBC will be offering the opening ceremony, which airs Friday morning, in eight Indigenous languages on its online platforms: Eastern Cree, Dehcho Dene, Denesuline, Gwichʼin, Inuktitut, Inuvialuktun, Sahtu Dene and Tlicho.
And while TSN and Sportsnet are only available to paying subscribers, all of the action airing on those cable networks will also be available free on the CBC’s streaming platforms.
That free and universal access – at least for those who have broadband internet – contrasts with the United States, where NBC will spread content across its over-the-air network and several of its pay cable channels. And it is using the Games to push subscriptions to its new streaming service, Peacock.
The CBC is also treating these Games as a promotional opportunity. “We’re certainly interested to see if we can drive additional awareness and additional free subscriptions to Gem,” Wilson said. “There’s no question that Gem is a massive part of our future.”
During the Games themselves, all of those online platforms will help Irwin and his team take the country’s pulse on a continuing basis: They’ll be able to see, in real time, what people are engaging with, what they’re sharing. “Actual clicks, actual minutes, actual numbers, when [viewers] joined, when they left: There are some very specific things that the digital and social metrics can tell us all about what the country is thinking, what the users are thinking,” Irwin said. But, he adds, those numbers need to be read with some caution. Social media is not a perfect proxy for the wider world.
And while the CBC can simply run all of the available sports on its online platforms, it needs to aggregate the largest possible audience for the five broadcast channels at its disposal, especially the main CBC network. That’s where it will aim to show the biggest event of interest to Canadians at any given moment. Long-form competitions – including team sports, road races, golf – will be carried on TSN and Sportsnet, with the CBC main channel possibly cutting in to the final minutes.
Recognizing that many viewers can and do access results on their phones as soon as they occur, the CBC decided years ago it would prioritize live events. “That’s where the change has come to the global media [landscape],” Irwin said. “You can no longer stage the release of information in a way that makes a show [of tape-delayed content] work, or make an audience play along.”
So the broadcaster decided “live trumped everything, and that your filters to make decisions started with live – live Canadian, live of Canadian interest – and worked its way down, to delayed international events that aren’t for medals.” That made it immediately clear where an event might end up on its matrix of outlets.
Irwin knows that makes it challenging to bring in a primetime audience, but he says there is still a hunger for that communal, narrative experience. “The audience, if they love [a particular sport], they did see it when it happened live,” possibly hours before. “And we told them about it on our digital platforms and in our shows and social [media] talked about it, and our daytime show reviewed it, and we’ve interviewed athletes since it happened. But now we have a very captive audience that has made an appointment to come and watch us tonight, when they have a chance to sit down. And we’ve made them a promise that we’re going to tell them a story.”
Sign up for The Globe’s Olympic newsletter and follow all of the news, features and opinion in the leadup to the Summer Games in Tokyo.
U.S. senators want social media to be held liable for spreading health misinformation – Global News
Two Democratic U.S. senators on Thursday will add to the stack of bills going after Section 230 — a law that protects tech companies from being sued over content posted by users — making such platforms responsible for health-related misinformation.
The legislation introduced by Amy Klobuchar and Ben Ray Lujan requires internet platforms such as Facebook to take down health and vaccine-related misinformation during public health emergencies or be held liable for that failure.
It also directs the Department of Health & Human Services to issue guidelines on what constitutes health misinformation.
“These are some of the biggest, richest companies in the world and they must do more to prevent the spread of deadly vaccine misinformation,” Klobuchar said.
The bill quotes a study from the Center for Countering Digital Hate that found social media platforms failed to act on 95% of coronavirus-related disinformation reported to them.
Kevin Martin, a vice president of public policy at Facebook, said the company supports reforming Section 230.
Increasing concerns about COVID-19 misinformation
“We believe clarification on the difficult and urgent questions about health related misinformation would be helpful and look forward to working with Congress and the industry as we consider options for reform.”
The Health Misinformation Act is not the first bill targeting tech firms’ liability shield from Senator Klobuchar, who chairs the Senate antitrust subcommittee.
Earlier this year, she co-sponsored another bill called the Safe Tech Act with two fellow Democrats. It aims to make social media companies more accountable for enabling cyber-stalking, targeted harassment and discrimination on their platforms.
The chief executives of Google, Twitter and Facebook have said Section 230 is crucial to free expression on the internet. They said it gives them the tools to strike a balance between preserving free speech and moderating content, even as they appeared open to suggestions that law needs moderate changes.
Health officials warn about disinformation, conspiracies
Several Republican lawmakers have separately pushed to scrap the law entirely over decisions by tech platforms to moderate content critical of former President Donald Trump and his supporters.
There are several other pieces of legislation aimed at changing the law that have been making the rounds for over a year, including a bipartisan bill from Democrat Brian Schatz and Republican John Thune.
Trump repeatedly pushed for the legal protection to be stripped away over what he alleged was censorship against conservatives.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Dan Grebler and Sam Holmes)
© 2021 Reuters
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