Chinese apps could face subpoenas or bans under Biden order

WeChat, TikTok and eight other apps targeted by the Trump administration are reportedly eligible for review by Biden’s team. (REUTERS/File Photo)
WeChat, TikTok and eight other apps targeted by the Trump administration are reportedly eligible for review by Biden’s team. (REUTERS/File Photo)
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Updated 18 June 2021

Chinese apps could face subpoenas or bans under Biden order

Chinese apps could face subpoenas or bans under Biden order
  • US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will decide which apps to target for US action
  • Apps linked to other adversaries such as Iran or Venezuela are already blocked under broader sanctions

President Joe Biden’s executive order aimed at safeguarding Americans’ sensitive data would force some Chinese apps to take tougher measures to protect private information if they want to remain in the US market, according to people familiar with the matter.
The goal is to keep foreign adversaries like China and Russia from gaining access to large amounts of personal and proprietary business information.
The US Department of Commerce may issue subpoenas to collect information about certain smartphone, tablet and desktop computer software applications. Then the agency may negotiate conditions for their use in the United States or ban the apps, according to people familiar with the matter.
Biden’s June 9 order replaced former President Donald Trump’s 2020 bans against the popular Chinese applications WeChat, owned by Tencent Holdings Co, and ByteDance Ltd’s TikTok. US courts halted those bans.
US officials share many of the concerns Trump cited in his order banning TikTok, according to one person familiar with the matter. Notably, they fear that China could track the locations of US government employees, build dossiers of personal information for blackmail and conduct corporate espionage.
While the new order does not name companies, it could end up capturing more apps than the Trump bans and hold up better if challenged in court. Reuters is the first to report details on how the Biden administration plans to implement the order, including seeking support from other countries.
US officials have begun speaking with allies about adopting a similar approach, one source said. The hope is that partner countries will agree on apps that should be banned.
US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will decide which apps to target for US action, but they must meet certain criteria. For instance, they must be owned, controlled or managed by a person or entity that supports the military or intelligence activities of a foreign adversary such as China or Russia.

WeChat, TikTok may be reviewed
If Raimondo decides an app poses an unacceptable risk, she “has the discretion to notify the parties” directly or publish the information in the government’s official daily publication, the Federal Register, a Commerce Department spokesman said.
Companies will then have 30 days to object or propose measures to secure data better, the Commerce spokesman said.
The process stems from a May 2019 Trump executive order for reviewing information and communications technology from foreign adversaries.
Apps from China are most likely to find themselves in the Commerce Department’s crosshairs given escalating tensions between Washington and Beijing, the Chinese government’s ability to exert control over companies and the number of Chinese apps used by Americans.
WeChat, TikTok and eight other apps targeted by the Trump administration in its last months are eligible for review by Biden’s team, one source said.
The Trump targets also included Ant Group’s Alipay mobile payment app, WeChat Pay, Tencent Holdings Ltd’s QQ Wallet, Tencent QQ, CamScanner, SHAREit, VMate published by Alibaba Group subsidiary UCWeb and Beijing Kingsoft Office Software’s WPS Office.
Some of the apps named by Trump have serious data protection issues, while it’s unclear why others pose a heightened risk to national security, according to another person familiar with the matter.
The order will apply to business apps, including those used in banking and telecommunications, as well as consumer apps, the first source said.
Apps linked to other adversaries such as Iran or Venezuela are already blocked under broader sanctions. 


Facebook to target harmful coordination by real accounts using playbook against fake networks

Facebook to target harmful coordination by real accounts using playbook against fake networks
Updated 26 sec ago

Facebook to target harmful coordination by real accounts using playbook against fake networks

Facebook to target harmful coordination by real accounts using playbook against fake networks
  • Facebook is taking a more aggressive approach to shut down coordinated groups of real-user accounts engaging in certain harmful activities
  • The move could have major implications for how the social media giant handles political and other coordinated movements
LONDON: Facebook is taking a more aggressive approach to shut down coordinated groups of real-user accounts engaging in certain harmful activities on its platform, using the same strategy its security teams take against campaigns using fake accounts, the company told Reuters.
The new approach, reported here for the first time, uses the tactics usually taken by Facebook’s security teams for wholesale shutdowns of networks engaged in influence operations that use false accounts to manipulate public debate, such as Russian troll farms.
It could have major implications for how the social media giant handles political and other coordinated movements breaking its rules, at a time when Facebook’s approach to abuses on its platforms is under heavy scrutiny from global lawmakers and civil society groups.
Facebook said it now plans to take this same network-level approach with groups of coordinated real accounts that systemically break its rules, through mass reporting, where many users falsely report a target’s content or account to get it shut down, or brigading, a type of online harassment where users might coordinate to target an individual through mass posts or comments.
The expansion, which a spokeswoman said was in its early stages, means Facebook’s security teams could identify core movements driving such behavior and take more sweeping actions than the company removing posts or individual accounts as it otherwise might.
In April, BuzzFeed News published a leaked Facebook internal report about the company’s role in the Jan. 6 riot on the US Capitol and its challenges in curbing the fast-growing ‘Stop the Steal’ movement, where one of the findings was Facebook had “little policy around coordinated authentic harm.”
Facebook’s security experts, who are separate from the company’s content moderators and handle threats from adversaries trying to evade its rules, started cracking down on influence operations using fake accounts in 2017, following the 2016 US election in which US intelligence officials concluded Russia had used social media platforms as part of a cyber-influence campaign — a claim Moscow has denied.
Facebook dubbed this banned activity by the groups of fake accounts “coordinated inauthentic behavior” (CIB), and its security teams started announcing sweeping takedowns in monthly reports. The security teams also handle some specific threats that may not use fake accounts, such as fraud or cyber-espionage networks or overt influence operations like some state media campaigns.
Sources said teams at the company had long debated how it should intervene at a network level for large movements of real user accounts systemically breaking its rules.
In July, Reuters reported on the Vietnam army’s online information warfare unit, who engaged in actions including mass reporting of accounts to Facebook but also often used their real names.
Facebook is under increasing pressure from global regulators, lawmakers and employees to combat wide-ranging abuses on its services. Others have criticized the company over allegations of censorship, anti-conservative bias or inconsistent enforcement.
An expansion of Facebook’s network disruption models to affect authentic accounts raises further questions about how changes might impact types of public debate, online movements and campaign tactics across the political spectrum.
High-profile instances of coordinated activity around last year’s US election, from teens and K-pop fans claiming they used TikTok to sabotage a rally for former President Donald Trump in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to political campaigns paying online meme-makers, have also sparked debates on how platforms should define and approach coordinated campaigns.

Facebook rolls out new messaging, business tools for brands

Facebook will begin testing the ability for brands to send emails through Facebook Business Suite
Facebook will begin testing the ability for brands to send emails through Facebook Business Suite
Updated 24 min 16 sec ago

Facebook rolls out new messaging, business tools for brands

Facebook will begin testing the ability for brands to send emails through Facebook Business Suite
  • Facebook rolls out new feature that allows businesses to find and chat with potential customers on the app
  • The new features will help Facebook offer personalized shopping experiences to its users

LONDON: Facebook Inc. is rolling out new ways for businesses to find and chat with potential customers on its apps, the social media company said Thursday, as it seeks to become an online shopping destination.
The new features will help Facebook, already a leader in digital advertising, offer personalized shopping experiences to its users, said Karandeep Anand, vice president of business products at Facebook.
Businesses will now be able to add a button on their Instagram profiles to let people send a WhatsApp message to the company with one click.
Integrating WhatsApp is particularly important for customers in countries such as India and Brazil, where the Facebook-owned messaging app is widely used, Anand said.
Facebook said it will begin testing the ability for brands to send emails through Facebook Business Suite, a feature that lets businesses manage their presence across the social media site’s apps, in order to simplify how companies reach customers.
It will also test new work accounts to let employees manage business pages without needing to log in with their personal accounts.
The new business tools come a day after WhatsApp began testing a new feature in São Paulo, Brazil, to let users find shops and services through a directory in the app for the first time, part of an effort to bolster ecommerce on the service.


Facebook bans German accounts under new ‘social harm’ policy

The action is the first under Facebook’s new policy focused on preventing “coordinated social harm.” (File/AFP)
The action is the first under Facebook’s new policy focused on preventing “coordinated social harm.” (File/AFP)
Updated 33 min 19 sec ago

Facebook bans German accounts under new ‘social harm’ policy

The action is the first under Facebook’s new policy focused on preventing “coordinated social harm.” (File/AFP)
  • Facebook removes almost 150 accounts and pages linked to anti-lockdown demonstrators in Germany under new policy to halt the spread of misinformation

LONDON: Facebook removed almost 150 accounts and pages linked to anti-lockdown demonstrators in Germany, the company announced Thursday, under a new policy focused on groups that spread misinformation or incite violence but who don’t fit into the platform’s existing categories of bad actors.
The accounts on Facebook and Instagram spread content linked to the so-called Querdenken movement, a disparate group that has protested lockdown measures in Germany and includes vaccine and mask opponents, conspiracy theorists and some far-right extremists.
Posts from the accounts included one making the debunked claim that vaccines create viral variants and another that wished death upon police officers who broke up violent anti-lockdown protests in Berlin.
The action is the first under Facebook’s new policy focused on preventing “coordinated social harm,” which company officials said is an attempt to address content from social media users who work together to spread harmful content and evade platform rules.
Under its long-standing guidelines, Facebook has removed accounts that use false personas or spread hate speech or make threats of violence. The new policy is intended to catch groups that work together in an attempt to get around the rules, while still spreading harmful content.
In the case of the Querdenken network, Facebook said multiple account holders used both individual and duplicate accounts to spread content that violated Facebook’s rules on COVID-19 misinformation, hate speech, bullying and incitement of violence.
It was that coordinated effort to deceive, along with the harmful content and a history of past violations, that prompted Facebook’s action, according to Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy.
“Simply sharing a belief or affinity with a particular movement or group wouldn’t be enough” to warrant a similar response, he told reporters on a conference call Thursday.
Germany’s domestic intelligence agency has put some Querdenker adherents under surveillance as the movement has become increasingly radicalized and its protests have attracted neo-Nazis and other right-wing extremists.


WFA’s Planet Pledge pushes marketers to act on climate change

WFA’s Planet Pledge pushes marketers to act on climate change
Updated 59 min 51 sec ago

WFA’s Planet Pledge pushes marketers to act on climate change

WFA’s Planet Pledge pushes marketers to act on climate change
  • Global campaign will see 17 major multinationals commit to driving change both internally and among consumers 

DUBAI: Four major multinationals, including drinks companies Asahi Europe & International, Carlsberg Group and Pernod Ricard as well as IKEA, have joined 13 other major multinationals in the World Federation of Advertisers’ Planet Pledge, a global commitment to making marketing teams a force for positive change both internally and with the consumers who buy their products and services.

 

 

The four new companies join signatories Bayer, Danone, Diageo, Dole Packaged Foods, Mastercard, Orsted, Reckitt, Telefonica, Tesco and Unilever as well as L’Oreal, NatWest and PepsiCo. in using the power of marketing to drive action on climate change.

Alongside the multinationals, 22 national advertiser associations in various countries have committed to promoting the pledge to local advertisers, highlighting the role marketing can play in delivering change and creating a network of local champions around the world.

“I am delighted that these four companies and so many of our national association partners have signed up to the Planet Pledge,” said WFA CEO Stephan Loerke.

“In light of the recent UN IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report, which lays bare the challenge of climate change, it’s vital that our members commit to not only reducing their impact but also to educate consumers about how they can have an impact, too,” he added.

Planet Pledge was launched at WFA’s Global Marketer Week in April this year and seeks to find a clear role for marketing as a positive force for environmental change by encouraging chief marketing officers to take action in four key areas:

  1. Commit to being a champion, both internally within their organizations and by encouraging their marketing supply chain to do the same, for the global “Race to Zero” campaign, which encourages “businesses, cities, regions, and investors for a healthy, resilient, zero carbon recovery that prevents future threats, creates decent jobs, and unlocks inclusive, sustainable growth,” according to the UN.
  2. Scale the capability of marketing organizations to lead for climate action by providing tools and guidance for their marketers and agencies.
  3. Harness the power of their marketing communications to drive more sustainable consumer behaviors.
  4. Reinforce a trustworthy marketing environment, where sustainability claims can be easily substantiated so that consumers can trust the marketing messages they are presented with.

The WFA will track and report progress on all these goals on an annual basis. It will also work with advertising standards bodies worldwide and other relevant stakeholders to deliver industry guidance that will preserve trust in the evolving language of environmental claims in a way that enables consumers to make sustainable choices.

The pledge is designed to amplify the association’s existing efforts and direct its members and their value chain partners toward them. In addition, it introduces new actions that marketing leaders can initiate and champion.

“Addressing climate change can seem complex, but marketing teams have the skills to make it easier for everyone to understand how they can make a real difference. Joining the WFA Planet Pledge is a serious statement of intent. We look forward to more brands signing up in the future and seeing how marketers can take the lead on addressing the world’s most pressing challenge,” added Loerke.


Are some Saudi social media influencers crossing the line?

Are some Saudi social media influencers crossing the line?
Updated 17 September 2021

Are some Saudi social media influencers crossing the line?

Are some Saudi social media influencers crossing the line?
  • Saudi social media stars are learning they must play by the rules — or pay the price

RIYADH: Saudi social media influencers have become a key element in the Kingdom’s advertising market in recent years, but many are increasingly aware they risk a backlash if their growing power is not used wisely.
While many observers argue that influencers serve a positive purpose, others say they are simply filling the airwaves with nonsense — but there can be no disputing the effect they have, especially when using the right tone to sell a product, brand or idea.
However, marketers warn that this can be a double-edged sword, with influencers naively thinking they can get away with simple advertising techniques or using a convincing sales pitch, while others break established rules and even laws in a bid to gain followers.
Either approach can land influencers in trouble and, thanks to the internet’s long memory, the damage can linger for years.

Some influencers do not think except to rush behind their interests and gain from advertisements or the number of followers  — Dr. Abdulrahman Alazmi, Associate professor of psychology at Naif University

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Commerce has strict and clearly defined rules for online advertisements, and regularly updates “red-flagged” establishments and shady businesses. The ministry also issues warnings against spreading rumors or promoting products that fail to comply with the relevant authorities’ standards. Firms or individuals who breach regulations are subject to legal action, including hefty fines.
Some marketing and advertising outfits told Arab News that they face difficulty at times over influencers’ failure to comply with the rules, “interacting with the spirit of the law rather than its text.”
Nafel Al-Nabhan, a Snapchat influencer, said that he does his best to comply with legal and ethical standards. “I do not target a specific category in my posts; they’re just moments that I share and consider as a daily diary with both good and bad,” he said. “I made many mistakes because I did not study the media, but I learned from my mistakes, and that was fun.”
Al-Nabhan said that his views on social media platforms have changed over time. “After Twitter deleted former US President Donald Trump’s account, social media became more powerful than bombs and bullets,” he said.
Deena Alardi, an Instagram and Snapchat influencer, said that “being present in the largest media source today is a great responsibility, so I must act within the laws, regulations and conditions (outlined) by official and private bodies in this field.”
Asked about the challenges she faces, Alardi admits that communicating her message to the public can be difficult, but said she is determined to maintain her standards.
“I have not and will not allow myself to resort to methods that are an embarrassment in front of the community.” The influencer said that content must be studied and planned professionally. “My high regard for people has put me in some bad situations that I do not want to repeat. You should not trust easily,” she said.
“It is normal for thinking to change over time,” Alardi said, adding that some influencers lower society’s view of their lives, interests and priorities because they present unrealistic, exaggerated and sometimes false claims.
“The audience believes everything it sees, and this is one mistake that can backfire.”
Nourah Al-Salem, another Snapchat influencer, said: “There is no doubt that the influencer is a byproduct of their environment and culture, and they have moral standards and responsibilities to highlight the positive aspects of society.”

There are standards that we adhere to with influencers, and the most important are ethical behavior and good reputation. We are also interested in adhering to the customs, traditions and culture of society — Moustafa Reda, Managing director at the First Exhibitor marketing agency

She added: “As for delivering messages to my audience, the challenges are simple since they have a high level of awareness and deep understanding. I do not need to pretend or resort to devious methods that leave me embarrassed in front of my followers or society.”
Dr. Abdulrahman Alazmi, an associate professor of psychology at Naif University, told Arab News that some influencers resort to dishonest behavior to gain followers, especially those in adolescence and childhood.
“The influencer at this age is looking for enjoyment because it is compatible with his audience in their age group. Bad behavior can be comedic, prompting followers to publish, spread and follow an influencer, and giving the influencer negative support to make them interact more and behave in a way that attracts the attention of children and teenagers,” he said.
“Some influencers do not think except to rush behind their interests and gain from advertisements or the number of followers.”
Alazmi, who specializes in family counseling, said that an influencer’s mistakes in the short term are usually limited to fame, advertisements and interests. “However, in the long run, the impact is very painful, because this person documents himself through videos that do not correspond to his stage after the age of 40, for example, and his sons will not accept them in the future. He reveals to himself and his family that he is superficial, and he has a behavioral deviation that is not appropriate for him when he grows older.”
Nasser Alodah, general manager at advertising and digital marketing specialists the NOB Agency, told Arab News that the firm insists influencers agree with the conditions requested by a client, such as advertising the work, obtaining approval and adhering to the number of views.
At least 95 percent of influencers agree to these conditions, he said.
“In the past we had difficulty dealing with influencers when signing the terms. Some did not want to sign, perhaps because they see that signing with others is a big responsibility and it is frightening for them. The professionalism and knowledge of most distinguished influencers today has made signing contracts an easy matter,” Alodah said. As for influencers with bad reputations, Alodah said that the agency steers away from them and advises clients to do the same.
“When an influencer violates one or more conditions, it is discretionary. For example, if the mistake is out of the influencer’s control, we move past it, and sometimes we see that we are partners in the mistake, like having to postpone shooting or something, and so we resort to discussions with the influencer and the matter is often settled amicably.”

If the mistake is out of the influencer’s control, we get past it, and sometimes we see that we are partners in the mistake — Nasser Alodah, NOB Agency general manager

He added: “As for whoever makes a mistake intentionally, we cancel the deal with them and inform the party with which we are contracted that we are canceling the contract with this person. I think this is one of the strongest punishments an influencer can receive.”
Moustafa Reda, managing director at the First Exhibitor marketing agency, said: “There are standards that we adhere to with influencers, and the most important are ethical behavior and good reputation. We are also interested in adhering to the customs, traditions and culture of society.”
The agency is also keen to main influencers’ “credibility” on social media. Reda said that influencers could be divided into two groups: “Some understand the nature of the work, and the culture and environment in which they are located, while others violate these agreed conditions.”
Only a small number fell into the second category, he said.
He agreed that some influencers’ love of image and fame leaves them vulnerable to unintentional mistakes. “Still, as professionals, we remind them to follow guidelines and go by the book.”
According to Ahmed Nazzal, CEO of Wajahah Marketing, working with influencers demands high standards. “The most important is reputation, society’s view of this person, his view of society, and respecting the culture, and respecting customs and traditions.” He said that influencers, like everyone, are prone to error and many receive insufficient training for their role.