Washington State sues online titans Google and Facebook over political ads

Facebook last month said it began implementing a policy requiring labeling and verification of identities of those paying for political messages. (AFP)
Updated 05 June 2018
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Washington State sues online titans Google and Facebook over political ads

SAN FRANCISCO: The US state of Washington on Monday announced it was suing Google and Facebook for not abiding by local law requirements regarding keeping records of political ads and their backers.
Campaign finance laws in that state call on ad sellers to keep track of who is behind ads and how much is spent, and make the information available to the public, Washington attorney general Bob Ferguson said in a release.
Suits filed in state court accuse Facebook and Google of failing to meet these obligations since the year 2013.
“Washington’s political advertising disclosure laws apply to everyone, whether you are a small-town newspaper or a large corporation,” Ferguson said in the release.
In the last decade, Washington candidates and political committees reported about $3.4 million in payments to Facebook and $1.5 million to Google related to advertising, according to the state attorney general.
Google and Facebook dominate the market for online advertising.
Google and Facebook are among Internet firms dealing with criticism and concerns about online platforms being used to spread division and misinformation with the potential to sway elections.
Facebook last month said it began implementing a policy requiring labeling and verification of identities of those paying for political messages.
The move came in response to criticism over Facebook’s role in allowing disinformation to spread during the 2016 US election, in many cases with the help of automated “bots” or disguised Russian-based accounts.
Facebook said its new handling of political ads has taken hold in the United States on Facebook and Instagram. It intended to implement the same policy worldwide in the coming months
“The tools we are introducing set a new standard for transparency in digital advertising,” Facebook director of product management Rob Leathern said in response to an AFP inquiry.
“Attorney General Ferguson has raised important questions and we look forward to resolving this matter with his office quickly.”
Google did not immediately respond to a query for comment.


Facebook suspends Boston analytics firm over data usage

In this Oct. 15, 2013, file photo, Chuck Goolsbee, site director for Facebook's Prineville data centers, shows the computer servers that store users' photos and other data, at the Facebook site in Prineville, Ore. (AP)
Updated 21 July 2018
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Facebook suspends Boston analytics firm over data usage

  • Facebook said Friday that Crimson Hexagon is cooperating and that so far its investigation hasn’t found evidence that the firm obtained Facebook or Instagram information inappropriately

NEW YORK: Facebook said Friday that it has suspended Boston-based analytics firm Crimson Hexagon while it investigates how it collects and shares Facebook and Instagram’s user data.
Facebook has been facing increased scrutiny over how third-party firms use its data since news broke in March that data firm Cambridge Analytica improperly accessed user data.
The Wall Street Journal first reported that Facebook had suspended Crimson Hexagon. The newspaper says among the firm’s clients is a Russian nonprofit with ties to the Kremlin.
“We don’t allow developers to build surveillance tools using information from Facebook or Instagram,” said Ime Archibong, Facebook’s vice president of product partnerships. “We take these allegations seriously, and we have suspended these apps while we investigate.”
Facebook said Friday that Crimson Hexagon is cooperating and that so far its investigation hasn’t found evidence that the firm obtained Facebook or Instagram information inappropriately.
Crimson Hexagon says on its website it has access to over one trillion consumer conversations from social media, forums, blogs and reviews.
In a blog posting , Crimson Hexagon Chief Technology Officer Chris Bingham said the company “abides completely” by the rules social media sites including Twitter and Facebook put in place to limit the ways third-party companies can use their data.
He said the firm only collects publicly available social media data. He contrasted that with Cambridge Analytica’s use of private user data.
Users of Crimson Hexagon’s platform, which include government customers, analyze the data to understand large-scale consumer trends and preferences, Bingham wrote.
“Government entities that leverage the Crimson Hexagon platform do so for the same reasons as many of our other non-government customers: a broad-based and aggregate understanding of the public’s perception, preferences and sentiment about matters of concern to them,” he wrote.