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Ozy’s Digital Media Meltdown Is Just Getting Started – Vanity Fair

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Since the Times’ bombshell report on Ozy’s questionable metrics, which entangled CEO Carlos Watson, the company’s board has opened an investigation, a new hire has publicly quit, and A&E has canceled a partnered broadcast.

New York Times media columnist Ben Smith dropped a bomb Sunday night by revealing how “disruptive” news start-up Ozy Media—one that bills itself as “the New and the Next”—looked more like a digital Potemkin village sold to Silicon Valley investors. In February, according to Smith’s column, Ozy’s cofounder Samir Rao altered his voice and created a fake email address to apparently impersonate a YouTube executive during a call with Ozy CEO Carlos Watson and the asset-management division of Goldman Sachs, which was looking to pump $40 million into the company. While the meeting was arranged as a Zoom videoconference, Rao, who claimed to be YouTube Originals’ head of unscripted programming, asked attendees to switch to a non-video call. Once everyone had switched over to audio-only, according to the Times, Rao made claims about the impressive traffic numbers that Ozy’s content was enjoying on YouTube. 

Watson blamed his partner’s apparent attempt to defraud investors on “a very personal mental health issue.” Rao, he told Smith, “is a valued colleague and a close friend” and “I’m proud that we stood by him while he struggled, and we’re all glad to see him now thriving again.” On Tuesday, Ozy’s board of directors announced the hiring of an outside firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison, to review its “business activities,” while also noting that Rao will “take a leave of absence pending the results of the investigation. We will continue to review the company’s leadership in the coming months.”

Even in an industry where digital metrics are seized upon for maximum hype, Ozy seems to have taken self-promotion to another level. The company is now facing serious scrutiny over claims about its audience and influence, with the Daily Beast reporting that the deception reported Sunday “is just one of several times the outlet has appeared to engage in misleading or exaggerating tactics.” (Ozy and Watson did not respond to the Daily Beast’s request for comment.) Watson, the public face of Ozy, is facing a swift fallout since the Times column dropped. On Monday, A&E cable network canceled the broadcast of Watson’s program, Voices Magnified: Youth Digital Crisis, and organizers of the Emmy Awards for news and documentaries announced Wednesday that the Ozy chief would no longer host. “Carlos Watson has graciously reached out to us and asked to be removed from his hosting duties…so as not to distract the focus from the talented nominees,” an Emmys spokesperson said in a statement. And NPR, where Watson has sat on the board since 2016, is looking into the matter. “Our board is aware of the NYT story,” the network said Wednesday, “and consistent with our corporate governance, the governance committee will be considering these developments.”

Marc Lasry, a member of Ozy’s board, hedge fund manager, and a co-owner of the Milwaukee Bucks, responded to the Times report by saying, “The board was made aware of the incident, and we fully support the way it was handled. The incident was an unfortunate one-time event, and Carlos and his team showed the kind of compassion we would all want if any of us faced a difficult situation in our own lives.” And while Goldman Sachs is the seeming victim of what could be possibly construed as attempted securities fraud, the investment firm has yet to take legal action against Ozy. Though, Google’s security division did look into the incident further and the YouTube parent company eventually alerted the FBI, according to two sources who spoke to the Times. (The FBI will not confirm or deny the existence of any investigation.) Goldman Sachs has since been contacted by federal law enforcement officials, but investigators have not reached out to Ozy, per Watson.

Meanwhile, former BBC anchor Katty Kay, one of Ozy’s most high-profile stars, announced her decision to leave the company on Wednesday. “I had recently joined the company after my long career at the BBC, excited to explore opportunities in the digital space,” Kay wrote in a Twitter statement. “I support the mission to bring diverse stories and voices to the public conversation. But the allegations in The New York Times, which caught me by surprise, are serious and deeply troubling, and I had no choice but to end my relationship with the company.”

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NDP calls for social media watchdog as scrutiny of Facebook heats up – The Globe and Mail

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NDP Member of Parliament Charlie Angus speaks during a news conference in Ottawa on Oct. 18.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

The fallout from a Facebook whistleblower’s explosive revelations this month continues to descend on Canada as politicians and experts grapple with how to regulate Big Tech amid renewed questions on the harm it can wreak.

A prolonged “techlash” over the past few years has seen western countries adopt varying degrees of platform regulation, with users becoming increasingly alive to the fractured civic bonds brought on by digital echo chambers. But so far no single approach to regulating and policing the platforms has emerged as a solution.

New Democrats are the latest to demand a federal government crackdown on social media giants. On Monday, NDP MP Charlie Angus called on Ottawa to establish an independent watchdog that tackles disinformation, hateful posts and algorithm transparency, citing a former Facebook executive .

Frances Haugen testified before a U.S. Senate committee on Oct. 5 that the company’s products harm children and fuel polarization in the U.S., a claim supported by internal company research leaked to the Wall Street Journal.

“Ms. Haugen reveals that Facebook knew that its algorithms are driving hate content and leading to breakdown in civic engagement,” Angus said.

“Facebook made the decision to incentivize profits through its use of its algorithms over the well-being of its users.”

As the company confronts intense public scrutiny over how its coding fans inflammatory rhetoric and affects users’ self-esteem, Angus is proposing to create an independent ombudsman accountable to the House of Commons, akin to Canada’s ethics and privacy commissioners.

“Rather than relying on outdated institutions like the Competition Bureau or the CRTC, it’s time for the federal government to establish a regulator that actually understands this file,” he said.

Facebook Canada said it continues to make investments that target misinformation and harmful content, and stands ready to collaborate with lawmakers on a new legal frameworks for platforms.

“As we’ve shared, we welcome regulation and have been vocal calling for a new set of public rules for all technology companies to follow. It’s been 25 years since the rules for the Internet have been updated and it’s time for industry standards to be introduced so private companies aren’t making these decisions on their own,” Rachel Curran, head of policy at Facebook Canada, said in a statement.

Online hate remains on Ottawa’s radar as global observers continue to question Facebook’s role in tragedies ranging from the Christchurch mosque shootings in New Zealand to deadly military violence directed at Myanmar’s Rohingya minority, along with racist posts in Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has pledged to overhaul internet rules after a pair of bills aiming to regulate social media giants and tackle online hate died on the order paper this year.

In last month’s federal election campaign, he promised to introduce legislation within 100 days of forming government that combats harmful online materials.

His plan would create a digital safety commissioner to enforce a new regime that targets child pornography, terrorist content, hate speech and other harmful posts on social media platforms. The regulator could order social media companies to take down posts within 24 hours.

Sam Andrey, director of policy and research at the Ryerson Leadership Lab, welcomes the new blueprint. But he suggested enhancing transparency at tech giants by requiring details on algorithms, not just company data on illegal content and post takedowns.

Andrey also said the government’s proposal targets sites where the posts are public such as YouTube and Facebook, but not private messages on platforms such as the Facebook-owned WhatsApp.

“But there’s mounting evidence … that private platforms, including things like WhatsApp or WeChat, can contribute to the spread of online harm,” he said, suggesting a way to flag troubling messages.

Charter questions of privacy and free expression may well come into play as the government considers whether the regime should cover private communication, whether to expand its scope to other harmful activity such as impersonation and how proactive the digital safety commissioner and accompanying tribunal could be.

Vivek Krishnamurthy, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, noted that most large platforms already have policies that claim to meet or exceed the government’s would-be rules on harmful material, with some seeking to highlight or remove misleading information – about COVID-19 vaccines, for example.

New Democrats and Conservatives have also questioned why a new regulator is needed to crack down on exploitive material when the Criminal Code already bars child pornography, hate speech and the knowing distribution of illicit images.

Krishnamurthy says the government is focusing too heavily on “culture war” wedge points rather than data privacy, which involves fewer grey areas.

“There’s no real work happening on Big Tech and competition in Canada,” he added.

Trudeau has said he will reintroduce legislation to modernize the broadcasting regime in a way that could force internet steaming sites like Netflix and Spotify to showcase Canadian content and cough up financial contributions to bolster Canadian creators.

Bill C-10, which died in the Senate in August after the election was triggered, provoked months of debate over whether its regulation of online videos would amount to government overreach, with free speech advocates criticizing the bill and the arts community supporting it.

Angus said Monday that the bill amounted to a “political dumpster fire” and that having the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) address Facebook algorithms would bring “a 1980s solution to a 21st-century problem.” He added that Bill C-10 included “good ideas” around applying broadcast rules for funding to Big Tech.

“Tax the SOBs,” he said of tech behemoths.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said earlier this month the Liberal government will move ahead with legislation finalizing the enactment of a Digital Services Tax by Jan. 1. The tax would come into effect two years later on Jan. 1, 2024, if a tax regime under a newly inked global agreement has not already come into force.

A spokesperson for Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault said comment is not possible until cabinet has been formed, but pointed to the Liberals’ platform pledges, including a plank requiring digital giants to pay legacy media outlets for linking to their work.

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Media Advisory: Minister Coady to Introduce Legislation on Making Better Beverage Choices – News Releases – Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

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The Honourable Siobhan Coady, Minister of Finance and Deputy Premier, will be available to discuss amendments to the Revenue Administration Act regarding sugar sweetened beverages prior to debate in the House of Assembly tomorrow (Tuesday, October 19) at 11:00 a.m. in the media centre, East Block, Confederation Building.

The event will be live-streamed on the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts.

Media covering the announcement will have the opportunity to join in person in the media centre or by teleconference. Media planning to participate should register with Victoria Barbour (victoriabarbour@gov.nl.ca) by 9:00 a.m. tomorrow (Tuesday, October 19).

Technical Briefing

Prior to the announcement, a technical briefing for media will be provided at 10:00 a.m.

Media participating in the briefing will also have the opportunity to join in person in the media centre or by teleconference. Media who wish to participate in the technical briefing should RSVP Victoria Barbour (victoriabarbour@gov.nl.ca), who will provide the details and the required information.

Media must join the teleconference at 9:45 a.m. (NST) to be included on the call. For sound quality purposes, registered media are asked to use a land line if at all possible.

-30-

Media contact
Diana Quinton
Finance
709-729-2477
dianaquinton@gov.nl.ca

2021 10 18
5:10 pm

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Thomas Knapp: Legacy social media: Free as in beer, not as in speech – Ontario Argus Observer

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Thomas Knapp: Legacy social media: Free as in beer, not as in speech  Ontario Argus Observer



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