Facebook’s Project Amplify blatantly pushes pro-company stories: US newspaper

Despite Facebook owning up to some of its mistakes and promising to take corrective measures, the platform continued to come under fire for the same issues. (File/AFP)
Despite Facebook owning up to some of its mistakes and promising to take corrective measures, the platform continued to come under fire for the same issues. (File/AFP)
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Updated 22 September 2021

Facebook’s Project Amplify blatantly pushes pro-company stories: US newspaper

Despite Facebook owning up to some of its mistakes and promising to take corrective measures, the platform continued to come under fire for the same issues. (File/AFP)
  • CEO Mark Zuckerberg signed off pushing pro-platform stories to users via Facebook News Feed, reported The New York Times

LONDON: A recently launched Facebook initiative codenamed Project Amplify was set up to push pro-platform stories on users’ news feeds, The New York Times reported.

And some of the promoted articles were written by the social networking giant to help paint the company in a positive light, the newspaper claimed.

The article said Project Amplify came into being at a meeting in January with the aim of reshaping Facebook’s image by adopting a multi-faceted approach including measures such as distancing the chief executive officer, Mark Zuckerberg, from controversies, and reducing external access to data.

Despite Facebook owning up to some of its mistakes and promising to take corrective measures, the platform continued to come under fire for the same issues. As a result, Facebook executives decided to go on the offensive with a new approach involving marketing, communications, policy, and integrity teams, sources revealed.

Although Zuckerberg did not drive all the decisions as part of the new initiative, he reportedly approved them.

Denying the newspaper’s claims, Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne said: “People deserve to know the steps we’re taking to address the different issues facing our company — and we’re going to share those steps widely.”

Since the recent launch of the new project, Facebook has been testing the changes in three US cities through a tool called Quick Promote. The stories appear with a Facebook logo and link to websites published by the company as well as third-party websites.

Osborne told The New York Times that it was a “test for an informational unit clearly marked as coming from Facebook,” adding that the new initiative was “similar to corporate responsibility initiatives people see in other technology and consumer products.”

In a series of tweets, Osborne said The New York Times’ article had attempted to “villainize Facebook,” included “clear falsehoods,” and had left out part of his statement which included him saying, “there is zero change to News Feed ranking.”

He added that the January meeting had never taken place, although according to the newspaper report one attendee had claimed that several executives at the meeting were shocked by the proposal.

Osborne concluded his tweets by suggesting that The New York Times’ story should have written that, “Facebook ran a small test of an informational unit on Facebook in three cities – clearly labeled as from Facebook on the top of the unit,” along with an image of what the stories looked like.




Screengrab of Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne's tweet of pro-Facebook stories in the News Feed. (Twitter:@JoeOsborne) 

 


Fatafeat to release 1st-ever podcast in partnership with Deezer

Fatafeat to release 1st-ever podcast in partnership with Deezer
Updated 11 sec ago

Fatafeat to release 1st-ever podcast in partnership with Deezer

Fatafeat to release 1st-ever podcast in partnership with Deezer
  • New episodes on Arabic food network will go live on Dec. 20

DUBAI: Middle Eastern food and lifestyle TV channel Fatafeat is to launch its first-ever podcast series in an exclusive collaboration with global audio streaming service Deezer.

Through the partnership deal, Fatafeat — which is part of Discovery Inc. — and Deezer aim to provide a high-quality food-related podcast in the region celebrating the best of Arabic cuisine.

Mazen Abdallah, director of international brand partnerships, Deezer. (Supplied)

Mazen Abdallah, Deezer’s director of international brand partnerships, said: “Our promise to our users has always been offering the largest and most diverse library in the region. We want to make sure our listeners can find all interesting content on Deezer, from music to self-help, history, business, or cooking.”

The podcast series, which will be available for streaming across the Middle East and North Africa region, will see new episodes dropping weekly featuring recipes, talk shows, songs, and comedy news.

Layla Tamim, head of ad sales and brand partnerships MENA, Discovery Inc. (Supplied)

Layla Tamim, head of ad sales and brand partnerships for the MENA region at Discovery Inc., said: “We are driven to help spur people’s passions. With food being such an integral part of Middle East life, we are extremely excited to announce our latest partnership between Fatafeat and Deezer.”

The first episode will go live on Dec. 20.


TikTok launches transparency center to act as reports hub

TikTok launches transparency center to act as reports hub
Updated 06 December 2021

TikTok launches transparency center to act as reports hub

TikTok launches transparency center to act as reports hub
  • Initiative aims to bolster social networking firm’s efforts to be more open, accountable to audiences

DUBAI: Social networking service TikTok has launched a dedicated transparency center to bolster its efforts to be more open and accountable to audiences.

The new hub will house the platform’s annual and quarterly transparency reports, in addition to upcoming interactive reports. The launch accompanies the latest H1 2021 content removal requests reports.

The company began releasing transparency reports in 2019 in a bid to build trust, which is becoming increasingly important as more instances of social media platforms’ negligent use of user data come to light.

Most recently, the platform released the findings of a report specially commissioned to help better understand young people’s engagement with potentially harmful challenges and hoaxes — pranks or scams created to frighten someone — in an attempt to strengthen safety on the platform.

TikTok is also incorporating feedback from civil society organizations and experts to further develop refreshed report formats, offering downloadable data in machine-readable formats. The reports aim to be visually appealing and reader-friendly with interactive charts and graphs to better illustrate data and actions taken.

The reports will be published in 26 languages, including Arabic, English, French, German, Spanish, traditional Chinese, Russian, and Urdu.


CNN fires Chris Cuomo over help he gave to governor brother

CNN fires Chris Cuomo over help he gave to governor brother
Updated 05 December 2021

CNN fires Chris Cuomo over help he gave to governor brother

CNN fires Chris Cuomo over help he gave to governor brother

WASHINGTON: CNN fired veteran anchor and correspondent Chris Cuomo, the cable news channel said Saturday, during an investigation into his involvement with helping defend his brother, former New York governor Andrew Cuomo, against sexual misconduct allegations.
Chris Cuomo had been suspended from CNN over the matter just days before his termination.
“We retained a respected law firm to conduct the review, and have terminated him, effective immediately,” a statement posted to CNN’s official communications Twitter account said.
“While in the process of that review, additional information has come to light.”
The termination comes after documents surfaced showing that Cuomo, who anchored the 9:00 p.m. news slot, offered advice to his politician brother that was deemed too close for comfort by his employer.
“The documents, which we were not privy to before their public release, raise serious questions,” a CNN spokesperson said Tuesday, adding they “point to a greater level of involvement in his brother’s efforts than we previously knew.”
“He’s my brother. And if I can help my brother, I do. If he wants me to hear something, I will. If he wants me to weigh in on something, I’ll try,” Chris Cuomo, 51, told investigators in July when asked about the counsel he had offered.
“He’s my brother, and I love him to death no matter what.”
Democrat Andrew Cuomo was elected governor three times before resigning in August after New York’s attorney general said an investigation concluded he had sexually harassed at least 11 women.
In October, the former governor — whose father Mario Cuomo had also been governor of New York — was charged with a misdemeanor sex crime for forcible touching.
At the start of the pandemic, the Cuomo brothers soared to new heights of popularity: Andrew, 63, earned praise for his frank daily briefings as the coronavirus ravaged New York, and his live exchanges with Chris on CNN were peppered with banter.
The investigation into Chris Cuomo’s conduct remains ongoing, CNN said.


Report: Google profited from sale of T-shirts praising Hamas

Report: Google profited from sale of T-shirts praising Hamas
Updated 04 December 2021

Report: Google profited from sale of T-shirts praising Hamas

Report: Google profited from sale of T-shirts praising Hamas
  • The Independent report found that Google has been displaying adverts for T-shirts bearing a picture of a Hamas fighter with the message “HAMAS ARMY”

LONDON: A report by the Independent revealed on Saturday that Google has been profiting from the sale of T-shirts glorifying Hamas, days after the UK government designated their political arm a terrorist organization.

Last Friday, Home Secretary Priti Patel made the move in a bid to crack down on anti-semitism, making it a criminal offence to be a member of Hamas or even wear clothing suggesting affiliation.

Nevertheless, the Independent report found that Google has been displaying adverts for T-shirts bearing a picture of a Hamas fighter with the message “HAMAS ARMY” ever since Patel’s designation.

Google had been advertising the £9.93 ($13.14) shirts, to be sold via another website, at the top of the shopping section of its search engine. One advert even highlighted a price drop, showing that the T-shirt was previously sold for £19.26.

Shortly after the Independent published its report, Google removed the adverts.

“We prohibit ads or products that are made by or in support of terrorist groups. In this case, we removed the ads and listings from our platform. We enforce our policies vigorously and take action when they are breached,” a Google spokesperson said.

Teepublic, the website selling the T-shirts, removed the adverts after being contacted by the Independent.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We expect tech companies to tackle terrorist content on their platforms and respond to emerging threats quickly. We are pleased Google acted so swiftly here, and we will continue to work with companies to ensure it remains a priority.”


Facebook whistleblower says transparency needed to fix social media ills

Haugen said the company should be required to disclose which languages are supported by its tech safety systems. (AFP)
Haugen said the company should be required to disclose which languages are supported by its tech safety systems. (AFP)
Updated 04 December 2021

Facebook whistleblower says transparency needed to fix social media ills

Haugen said the company should be required to disclose which languages are supported by its tech safety systems. (AFP)
  • Facebook whistleblower says the degree to which Facebook is harmful in languages other than English will leave people “even more shocked”

LONDON: A deeper investigation into Facebook’s lack of controls to prevent misinformation and abuse in languages other than English is likely to leave people “even more shocked” about the potential harms caused by the social media firm, whistleblower Frances Haugen told Reuters.
Haugen, a former product manager at Meta Platforms Inc’s Facebook, spoke at the Reuters Next conference on Friday.
She left the company in May with thousands of internal documents which she leaked to the Wall Street Journal. That led to a series of articles in September detailing how the company knew its apps helped spread divisive content and harmed the mental health of some young users.
Facebook also knew it had too few workers with the necessary language skills to identify objectionable posts from users in a number of developing countries, according to the internal documents and Reuters interviews with former employees.
People who use the platform in languages other than English are using a “raw, dangerous version of Facebook,” Haugen said.
Facebook has consistently said it disagrees with Haugen’s characterization of the internal research and that it is proud of the work it has done to stop abuse on the platform.
Haugen said the company should be required to disclose which languages are supported by its tech safety systems, otherwise “Facebook will do ... the bare minimum to minimize PR risk,” she said.
The internal Facebook documents made public by Haugen have also raised fresh concerns about how it may have failed to take actions to prevent the spread of misleading information.
Haugen said the social media company knew it could introduce “strategic friction” to make users slow down before resharing posts, such as requiring users to click a link before they were able to share the content. But she said the company avoided taking such actions in order to preserve profit.
Such measures to prompt users to reconsider sharing certain content could be helpful given that allowing tech platforms or governments to determine what information is true poses many risks, according to Internet and legal experts who spoke during a separate panel at the Reuters Next conference on Friday.
“In regulating speech, you’re handing states the power to manipulate speech for their own purposes,” said David Greene, civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The documents made public by Haugen have led to a series of US congressional hearings. Adam Mosseri, head of Meta Platforms’ Instagram app, will testify next week on the app’s effect on young people.
Asked what she would say to Mosseri given the opportunity, Haugen said she would question why the company has not released more of its internal research.
“We have evidence now that Facebook has known for years that it was harming kids,” she said. “How are we supposed to trust you going forward?“