Asset managers on alert after ‘WhatsApp’ crackdown on banks

Regulations governing financial institutions have progressively been tightened since the global financial crisis of 2007-9 and companies have long recorded staff communications to and from office phones. (Shutterstock/File)
Regulations governing financial institutions have progressively been tightened since the global financial crisis of 2007-9 and companies have long recorded staff communications to and from office phones. (Shutterstock/File)
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Updated 18 August 2022

Asset managers on alert after ‘WhatsApp’ crackdown on banks

Asset managers on alert after ‘WhatsApp’ crackdown on banks
  • Demand for software to record, archive messaging on the rise
  • Continued remote working underscores risk of compliance missteps with banks paying hundreds of millions of dollars in regulatory fines

LONDON: Asset managers are tightening controls on personal communication tools such as WhatsApp as they join banks in trying to ensure employees play by the rules when they do business with clients remotely.
Regulators had already begun to clamp down on the use of unauthorized messaging tools to discuss potentially market-moving matters, but the issue gathered urgency when the pandemic forced more finance staff to work from home in 2020.
Most of the companies caught in communications and record-keeping probes by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) have been banks — which have collectively been fined or have set aside more than $1 billion to cover regulatory penalties.
But fund firms with billions of dollars in assets are also increasing their scrutiny of how staff and clients interact.
“It is the hottest topic in the industry right now,” said one deals banker, who declined to be named in keeping with his employer’s rules on speaking to the media.
Reuters reported last year the SEC was looking into whether Wall Street banks had adequately documented employees’ work-related communications, and JPMorgan was fined $200 million in December for “widespread” failures.
German asset manager DWS said last month it had set aside 12 million euros ($12 million) to cover potential US fines linked to investigations into its employees’ use of unapproved devices and record-keeping requirements, joining a host of banks making similar provisions, including Bank of America, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse.
Sources at several other investment firms — described in the financial community as the ‘buy-side’ — including Amundi, AXA Investment Management, BNP Paribas Asset Management and JPMorgan Asset Management, told Reuters they have deployed tools to keep all communications between staff and clients compliant.
Spokespeople for the SEC and CFTC declined to comment on whether their investigations could extend beyond the banks, but industry sources expect authorities to cast their nets wider across the finance industry and even into government.
Last month Britain’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), the country’s top data protection watchdog, called for a review of the use of WhatsApp, private emails and other messaging apps by government officials after an investigation found “inadequate data security” during the pandemic.
Regulations governing financial institutions have progressively been tightened since the global financial crisis of 2007-9 and companies have long recorded staff communications to and from office phones.
This practice is designed to deter and uncover infringements such as insider trading and “front-running,” or trading on information that is not yet public, as well as ensuring best practice in terms of treatment of customers.
But with thousands of finance workers and their clientele still working remotely after decamping from company offices at the start of the pandemic, some sensitive conversations that should be recorded remain at risk of being inadvertently held over informal or unauthorized channels.
Brad Levy, CEO of business messaging software firm Symphony, said concerns on managing that risk had driven a surge in interest for software upgrades that make conversations on popular messenging tools including Meta Platforms’ WhatsApp recordable.
“Most believe the breadth of these investigations will go wider as they go deeper,” Levy said.
“Many markets participants have retention and surveillance requirements so are likely to take a view, including being more proactive without being a direct target.”
He said Symphony’s user base has more than doubled since the pandemic to 600,000, spanning 1,000 financial institutions including JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs.
Symphony peer Movius also said its business lines specializing in making WhatsApp and other tools recordable have more than doubled in size in the space of a year, with sales to asset managers a growing component.
“Many on the buy-side have recognized that you can’t just rely on SMS and voice calls,” said Movius Chief Executive Ananth Siva, adding that the company was also seeking to work with other highly-regulated industries including health care.
Movius software integrates third-party communications tools such as email, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and WhatsApp into one system that can be recorded and archived as required, he said.
Amundi, AXA IM, BNPP AM and JPMorgan Asset Management all confirmed they had adopted Symphony software but declined to comment on the full breadth of services they used or when these had been rolled out.
Amundi and AXA IM both confirmed they used Symphony services for team communications, while AXA IM also said they used it for market information.
Amundi, BNPP AM and JP Morgan AM declined to comment on whether they thought regulators would seek to investigate record keeping at asset managers after enforcement actions against the banks were completed.
A spokesperson for BNPP AM said it had banned the use of WhatsApp for client communications due to compliance, legal and risk considerations including General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).


Twitter exec says moving fast on moderation, as harmful content surges

A Twitter logo hangs outside the company's San Francisco offices on Nov. 1, 2022. (AP)
A Twitter logo hangs outside the company's San Francisco offices on Nov. 1, 2022. (AP)
Updated 03 December 2022

Twitter exec says moving fast on moderation, as harmful content surges

A Twitter logo hangs outside the company's San Francisco offices on Nov. 1, 2022. (AP)
  • Twitter is restricting hashtags and search results frequently associated with abuse, like those aimed at looking up “teen” pornography

SAN FRANCISCO: Elon Musk’s Twitter is leaning heavily on automation to moderate content, doing away with certain manual reviews and favoring restrictions on distribution rather than removing certain speech outright, its new head of trust and safety told Reuters.
Twitter is also more aggressively restricting abuse-prone hashtags and search results in areas including child exploitation, regardless of potential impacts on “benign uses” of those terms, said Twitter Vice President of Trust and Safety Product Ella Irwin.
“The biggest thing that’s changed is the team is fully empowered to move fast and be as aggressive as possible,” Irwin said on Thursday, in the first interview a Twitter executive has given since Musk’s acquisition of the social media company in late October.
Her comments come as researchers are reporting a surge in hate speech on the social media service, after Musk announced an amnesty for accounts suspended under the company’s previous leadership that had not broken the law or engaged in “egregious spam.”
The company has faced pointed questions about its ability and willingness to moderate harmful and illegal content since Musk slashed half of Twitter’s staff and issued an ultimatum to work long hours that resulted in the loss of hundreds more employees.
And advertisers, Twitter’s main revenue source, have fled the platform over concerns about brand safety.
On Friday, Musk vowed “significant reinforcement of content moderation and protection of freedom of speech” in a meeting with France President Emmanuel Macron.
Irwin said Musk encouraged the team to worry less about how their actions would affect user growth or revenue, saying safety was the company’s top priority. “He emphasizes that every single day, multiple times a day,” she said.
The approach to safety Irwin described at least in part reflects an acceleration of changes that were already being planned since last year around Twitter’s handling of hateful conduct and other policy violations, according to former employees familiar with that work.
One approach, captured in the industry mantra “freedom of speech, not freedom of reach,” entails leaving up certain tweets that violate the company’s policies but barring them from appearing in places like the home timeline and search.
Twitter has long deployed such “visibility filtering” tools around misinformation and had already incorporated them into its official hateful conduct policy before the Musk acquisition. The approach allows for more freewheeling speech while cutting down on the potential harms associated with viral abusive content.
The number of tweets containing hateful content on Twitter rose sharply in the week before Musk tweeted on Nov. 23 that impressions, or views, of hateful speech were declining, according to the Center for Countering Digital Hate – in one example of researchers pointing to the prevalence of such content, while Musk touts a reduction in visibility.
Tweets containing words that were anti-Black that week were triple the number seen in the month before Musk took over, while tweets containing a gay slur were up 31 percent, the researchers said.
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Irwin, who joined the company in June and previously held safety roles at other companies including Amazon.com and Google, pushed back on suggestions that Twitter did not have the resources or willingness to protect the platform.
She said layoffs did not significantly impact full-time employees or contractors working on what the company referred to as its “Health” divisions, including in “critical areas” like child safety and content moderation.
Two sources familiar with the cuts said that more than 50 percent of the Health engineering unit was laid off. Irwin did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the assertion, but previously denied that the Health team was severely impacted by layoffs.
She added that the number of people working on child safety had not changed since the acquisition, and that the product manager for the team was still there. Irwin said Twitter backfilled some positions for people who left the company, though she declined to provide specific figures for the extent of the turnover.
She said Musk was focused on using automation more, arguing that the company had in the past erred on the side of using time- and labor-intensive human reviews of harmful content.
“He’s encouraged the team to take more risks, move fast, get the platform safe,” she said.
On child safety, for instance, Irwin said Twitter had shifted toward automatically taking down tweets reported by trusted figures with a track record of accurately flagging harmful posts.
Carolina Christofoletti, a threat intelligence researcher at TRM Labs who specializes in child sexual abuse material, said she has noticed Twitter recently taking down some content as fast as 30 seconds after she reports it, without acknowledging receipt of her report or confirmation of its decision.
In the interview on Thursday, Irwin said Twitter took down about 44,000 accounts involved in child safety violations, in collaboration with cybersecurity group Ghost Data.
Twitter is also restricting hashtags and search results frequently associated with abuse, like those aimed at looking up “teen” pornography. Past concerns about the impact of such restrictions on permitted uses of the terms were gone, she said.
The use of “trusted reporters” was “something we’ve discussed in the past at Twitter, but there was some hesitancy and frankly just some delay,” said Irwin.
“I think we now have the ability to actually move forward with things like that,” she said.

 


Hate speech on the rise on Twitter despite Elon Musk’s claims

A view of the Twitter logo at its corporate headquarters in San Francisco, California, U.S. November 18, 2022. (REUTERS)
A view of the Twitter logo at its corporate headquarters in San Francisco, California, U.S. November 18, 2022. (REUTERS)
Updated 02 December 2022

Hate speech on the rise on Twitter despite Elon Musk’s claims

A view of the Twitter logo at its corporate headquarters in San Francisco, California, U.S. November 18, 2022. (REUTERS)
  • Data from researchers reveals a sharp increase in racial slurs and other offensive terms on the platform immediately after the billionaire’s takeover of the platform
  • In the 12 days after Musk’s takeover, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue tracked 450 new Twitter accounts linked to Daesh, a 69 percent increase on the previous 12 days

DUBAI: On Nov. 4, just over a week after he completed his takeover of Twitter, billionaire Elon Musk Tweeted that the platform had “seen hateful speech at times this week decline *below* our prior norms, contrary to what you may read in the press.”

However, newly published data from several organizations suggests otherwise.

In the first 12 days following the takeover, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue tracked 450 newly created Twitter accounts linked to Daesh, a 69 percent increase compared with the previous 12 days.

Meanwhile, the Center for Countering Digital Hate said that in the week beginning Oct. 31, the first full week the platform was under the ownership of Musk, one particular racial slur appeared in tweets and retweets 26,228 times, triple the 2022 average for that slur. A derogatory term used to attack another group was mentioned in 33,926 tweets and retweets, a 53 percent increase on the 2022 average.

Musk’s takeover of Twitter has been controversial from the moment he announced it. It came as social media platforms had been under increasing scrutiny for some time over their policies on content moderation and efforts to combat hate speech.

Musk, however, describes himself as a “free speech absolutist” and said he wanted to change the way in which content is moderated on the platform. During a TED Talk in April, the same month he reached his agreement to buy Twitter, he talked about his plans for moderation and suggested he might make Twitter’s algorithm open source.

On Oct. 28, the day after his takeover was completed, he announced his plans to form “a content moderation council with widely diverse viewpoints.”

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On Nov. 4 he said: “Twitter’s strong commitment to content moderation remains absolutely unchanged.”

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But CCDH’s analysis revealed that despite early claims by Musk and Twitter’s head of trust and safety at the time, Yoel Roth, that the platform had succeeded in reducing the number of times hate speech was seen on Twitter’s search and trending pages, the actual volume of hateful tweets on the platform increased.

Before Musk bought Twitter, for example, slurs against Black Americans appeared on the platform an average of 1,282 times a day. In the days after, the number increased to 3,876 times a day, The New York Times reported. Antisemitic posts increased by more than 61 percent in the two weeks following Musk’s arrival, it added.

A separate study by the Network Contagion Research Institute found an increase of nearly 500 percent in the use of a derogatory racial term for Black people in the 12 hours immediately following the shift of ownership to Musk.

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Analysts note that an escalation in hate speech on Twitter is not only dangerous for users and society as a whole, but also represents a threat to the company itself. According to research and information center Media Matters for America, 50 of the platform’s top 100 advertisers have either announced they will no longer advertise on Twitter or have simply stopped.

Collectively, they accounted for nearly $2 billion in advertising revenue on the platform since 2020 and more than $750 million in 2022 alone.

Roth quit the company last month and later said: “I realized that even if I spent all day, every day trying to avert whatever the next disaster was, there were going to be the ones that got through.

Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters for America, said that Musk’s Twitter is a cacophony of dictatorship, egotism and blatant disregard for the advice of experts.

If it continues, he warned, “under Musk’s leadership, Twitter will become a fever swamp of dangerous conspiracy theories, partisan chicanery and operationalized harassment.”

 

 


Twitter suspends Kanye’s account again on violating rules

Twitter suspends Kanye’s account again on violating rules
Updated 03 December 2022

Twitter suspends Kanye’s account again on violating rules

Twitter suspends Kanye’s account again on violating rules
  • Twitter owner Elon Musk had welcomed the return of the rapper, now known as Ye, to the platform in October

DUBAI: Twitter Inc. on Friday suspended Kanye West’s account again, just two months after it was reinstated, after its owner Elon Musk said he had violated the platform’s rules prohibiting incitement to violence.
Musk, who calls himself a free speech absolutist, had welcomed the return of the rapper, now known as Ye, to the platform in October.
“I tried my best. Despite that, he again violated our rule against incitement to violence. Account will be suspended,” Musk tweeted late on Thursday.
West’s account was suspended within an hour of Musk’s post, made in a reply to a Twitter user who had said “Elon Fix Kanye Please.” Twitter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Before suspending Ye’s account, which had over 30 million followers, Twitter had restricted one of his tweets. Reuters could not independently verify the contents of the post.
The social media platform restored the rapper’s account before the completion of its $44 billion takeover by Musk. Musk later clarified that he had had no role in bringing Ye back on Twitter.
Ye on Thursday tweeted a photo of Hollywood mogul Ari Emanuel spraying water at the back of Musk’s head with a hose. He captioned the picture “Let’s always remember this as my final tweet #ye24,” before the account was suspended.
Musk responded that Ye’s account was suspended for incitement to violence, and not for posting “an unflattering pic of me being hosed by Ari.”
In November, Twitter reinstated some controversial accounts that had been banned or suspended, including satirical website Babylon Bee and comedian Kathy Griffin.
Musk also decided to reinstate former US President Donald Trump’s account after a majority of Twitter users voted in favor in a poll to bring back Trump.

 


MBC Group to expand Shahid catalog with hit anime titles

MBC Group to expand Shahid catalog with hit anime titles
Updated 02 December 2022

MBC Group to expand Shahid catalog with hit anime titles

MBC Group to expand Shahid catalog with hit anime titles
  • Group secured rights to various series, including TV Tokyo’s ‘Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War,’ ‘Bleach’ and ‘One Piece’

LONDON: MBC Group, the Middle East and North Africa region’s leading media company, announced new partnerships on Thursday to expand the number of anime titles available on its streaming platform Shahid.

The Riyadh-based organization said in a statement it had teamed up “with key anime studios and production houses in Japan beyond to bring more anime content to its streaming platform.”

“Anime is extremely popular in the Middle East region — particularly in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia — so needless to say, we are incredibly excited to be making new additions to our ever-expanding anime catalog on Shahid, bringing new and hit titles that audiences will love exploring,” said Tareq Al-Ibrahim, director of content for subscription video on demand at Shahid.

As part of the new deals, MBC Group said it has secured exclusive rights in MENA to TV Tokyo’s “Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War,” the 52-episode Japanese anime television series based on the “Bleach” manga series by Tite Kubo, and a direct sequel to the “Bleach” anime series.

The title, which returns after an eight-year hiatus, is available to stream on Shahid at the same time as in Japan and the US.

The group also announced the extension of the partnership with TOEI Animation, the Japanese anime studio behind the 25-year global hit manga series “One Piece.” As part of the renewed collaboration, MBC Group will air the new upcoming episodes of the series exclusively on its platform.

Following the success of the anime adaptation of “Rascal Does Not Dream of Bunny Girl Senpai” on Shahid, the media group has also expanded its partnership with its production company, Aniplex.

Under the new collaboration, fans will enjoy more than 200 hours of Aniplex content on Shahid, including “Fate/Stay Night,” “Sword Art Online,” and “Gurren Lagann.”

The move reinforces MBC Group’s commitment to expanding its anime offering, continuing to add to an already rich catalog that includes renowned titles “Hunter x Hunter,” “Legend of the Galactic Heroes,” “Belle,” as well as the Japanese–Saudi Arabian animated action fantasy film, “The Journey.”

The company said the new titles will be available to stream on Shahid by the end of the year.

The news comes at an exciting moment for the MBC Group. The company was reported last month to be working with HSBC Holdings and JPMorgan Chase & Co. to go public as early as next year.


Social app Parler says sale to Kanye West called off

Social app Parler says sale to Kanye West called off
Updated 02 December 2022

Social app Parler says sale to Kanye West called off

Social app Parler says sale to Kanye West called off
  • Owners said the decision was made “in the interest of both parties in mid-November.”

NEW YORK: Social network Parler announced Thursday that its planned sale to Kanye West has been called off, as the rapper-businessman now known as Ye continues to alienate fans and commercial partners with anti-Semitic comments.
“Parlement Technologies would like to confirm that the company has mutually agreed with Ye to terminate the intent of sale of Parler,” the network — seen as a home for online extremist rhetoric — said in a tweet.
It said the decision was made “in the interest of both parties in mid-November.”
Parler had announced a deal for West to buy the platform popular with conservatives in mid-October — just over a week after the rapper’s Twitter and Instagram accounts were restricted over anti-Semitic posts he made.
But the rapper, who has spoken openly about his struggles with mental illness, has seen his business relationships crumble in recent weeks as his erratic behavior and extreme speech continue to raise concerns.
In perhaps his most provocative outburst to date, West on Thursday declared his “love” of Nazis and admiration for Adolf Hitler during a rambling livestream with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
The 45-year-old’s restrictions on Twitter and Instagram last month were not the first time his posts prompted punitive action from major social media platforms.
Earlier this year, West was banned from posting on Instagram for 24 hours after violating the social network’s harassment policy amid his acrimonious divorce from reality star Kim Kardashian.
Launched in 2018, Parler became a haven for Donald Trump supporters and far-right users who say they have been censored on mainstream social media platforms. It has since signed up many more traditional Republican voices.
Parler was temporarily removed from Apple and Google app stores last year for failing to moderate calls for violence after the attack on the US Capitol by supporters of the former president.
It has since been allowed back in the both stores, ostensibly after improving its content moderation systems.