Brands blast Twitter for ads next to child pornography accounts

Brands blast Twitter for ads next to child pornography accounts
A promoted tweet on Twitter app is displayed on a mobile phone near a Twitter logo, in this illustration picture taken Sept. 8, 2022 (REUTERS)
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Updated 29 September 2022

Brands blast Twitter for ads next to child pornography accounts

Brands blast Twitter for ads next to child pornography accounts
  • Mazda, Forbes and Dyson are among the brands to suspend their marketing campaigns on the platform

 

Some major advertisers including Dyson, Mazda, Forbes and PBS Kids have suspended their marketing campaigns or removed their ads from parts of Twitter because their promotions appeared alongside tweets soliciting child pornography, the companies told Reuters.

DIRECTV and Thoughtworks also told Reuters late on Wednesday they have paused their advertising on Twitter.

Brands ranging from Walt Disney Co (DIS.N), NBCUniversal (CMCSA.O) and Coca-Cola Co (KO.N) to a children's hospital were among more than 30 advertisers that appeared on the profile pages of Twitter accounts peddling links to the exploitative material, according to a Reuters review of accounts identified in new research about child sex abuse online from cybersecurity group Ghost Data.

Some of tweets include key words related to “rape” and “teens,” and appeared alongside promoted tweets from corporate advertisers, the Reuters review found. In one example, a promoted tweet for shoe and accessories brand Cole Haan appeared next to a tweet in which a user said they were “trading teen/child” content.

“We’re horrified,” David Maddocks, brand president at Cole Haan, told Reuters after being notified that the company’s ads appeared alongside such tweets. “Either Twitter is going to fix this, or we’ll fix it by any means we can, which includes not buying Twitter ads.”

In another example, a user tweeted searching for content of “Yung girls ONLY, NO Boys,” which was immediately followed by a promoted tweet for Texas-based Scottish Rite Children's Hospital. Scottish Rite did not return multiple requests for comment.

In a statement, Twitter spokesperson Celeste Carswell said the company “has zero tolerance for child sexual exploitation” and is investing more resources dedicated to child safety, including hiring for new positions to write policy and implement solutions.

She added that Twitter is working closely with its advertising clients and partners to investigate and take steps to prevent the situation from happening again.

Twitter’s challenges in identifying child abuse content were first reported in an investigation by tech news site The Verge in late August. The emerging pushback from advertisers that are critical to Twitter’s revenue stream is reported here by Reuters for the first time.

Like all social media platforms, Twitter bans depictions of child sexual exploitation, which are illegal in most countries. But it permits adult content generally and is home to a thriving exchange of pornographic imagery, which comprises about 13 percent of all content on Twitter, according to an internal company document seen by Reuters.

Twitter declined to comment on the volume of adult content on the platform.

Ghost Data identified the more than 500 accounts that openly shared or requested child sexual abuse material over a 20-day period this month. Twitter failed to remove more than 70 percent of the accounts during the study period, according to the group, which shared the findings exclusively with Reuters.

Reuters could not independently confirm the accuracy of Ghost Data’s finding in full, but reviewed dozens of accounts that remained online and were soliciting materials for "13+" and “young looking nudes.”

After Reuters shared a sample of 20 accounts with Twitter last Thursday, the company removed about 300 additional accounts from the network, but more than 100 others still remained on the site the following day, according to Ghost Data and a Reuters review.

Reuters then on Monday shared the full list of more than 500 accounts after it was furnished by Ghost Data, which Twitter reviewed and permanently suspended for violating its rules, said Twitter’s Carswell on Tuesday.

In an email to advertisers on Wednesday morning, ahead of the publication of this story, Twitter said it “discovered that ads were running within Profiles that were involved with publicly selling or soliciting child sexual abuse material.”

Andrea Stroppa, the founder of Ghost Data, said the study was an attempt to assess Twitter’s ability to remove the material. He said he personally funded the research after receiving a tip about the topic.

Twitter’s transparency reports on its website show it suspended more than 1 million accounts last year for child sexual exploitation.

It made about 87,000 reports to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a government-funded non-profit that facilitates information sharing with law enforcement, according to that organization's annual report.

“Twitter needs to fix this problem ASAP, and until they do, we are going to cease any further paid activity on Twitter,” said a spokesperson for Forbes.

“There is no place for this type of content online,” a spokesperson for carmaker Mazda USA said in a statement to Reuters, adding that in response, the company is now prohibiting its ads from appearing on Twitter profile pages.

A Disney spokesperson called the content “reprehensible” and said they are “doubling-down on our efforts to ensure that the digital platforms on which we advertise, and the media buyers we use, strengthen their efforts to prevent such errors from recurring.”

A spokesperson for Coca-Cola, which had a promoted tweet appear on an account tracked by the researchers, said it did not condone the material being associated with its brand and said “any breach of these standards is unacceptable and taken very seriously.”

NBCUniversal said it has asked Twitter to remove the ads associated with the inappropriate content.

CODE WORDS

Twitter is hardly alone in grappling with moderation failures related to child safety online. Child welfare advocates say the number of known child sexual abuse images has soared from thousands to tens of millions in recent years, as predators have used social networks including Meta’s Facebook and Instagram to groom victims and exchange explicit images.

For the accounts identified by Ghost Data, nearly all the traders of child sexual abuse material marketed the materials on Twitter, then instructed buyers to reach them on messaging services such as Discord and Telegram in order to complete payment and receive the files, which were stored on cloud storage services like New Zealand-based Mega and US-based Dropbox, according to the group’s report.

A Discord spokesperson said the company had banned one server and one user for violating its rules against sharing links or content that sexualize children.

Mega said a link referenced in the Ghost Data report was created in early August and soon after deleted by the user, which it declined to identify. Mega said it permanently closed the user's account two days later.

Dropbox and Telegram said they use a variety of tools to moderate content but did not provide additional detail on how they would respond to the report.

Still the reaction from advertisers poses a risk to Twitter’s business, which earns more than 90 percent of its revenue by selling digital advertising placements to brands seeking to market products to the service's 237 million daily active users.

Twitter is also battling in court Tesla CEO and billionaire Elon Musk, who is attempting to back out of a $44 billion deal to buy the social media company over complaints about the prevalence of spam accounts and its impact on the business.

A team of Twitter employees concluded in a report dated February 2021 that the company needed more investment to identify and remove child exploitation material at scale, noting the company had a backlog of cases to review for possible reporting to law enforcement.

“While the amount of (child sexual exploitation content) has grown exponentially, Twitter’s investment in technologies to detect and manage the growth has not,” according to the report, which was prepared by an internal team to provide an overview about the state of child exploitation material on Twitter and receive legal advice on the proposed strategies.

“Recent reports about Twitter provide an outdated, moment in time glance at just one aspect of our work in this space, and is not an accurate reflection of where we are today,” Carswell said.

The traffickers often use code words such as “cp” for child pornography and are “intentionally as vague as possible,” to avoid detection, according to the internal documents.

The more that Twitter cracks down on certain keywords, the more that users are nudged to use obfuscated text, which “tend to be harder for (Twitter) to automate against,” the documents said.

Ghost Data’s Stroppa said that such tricks would complicate efforts to hunt down the materials, but noted that his small team of five researchers and no access to Twitter’s internal resources was able to find hundreds of accounts within 20 days.

Twitter did not respond to a request for further comment.


Oman’s love of football highlighted with new campaign

Oman’s love of football highlighted with new campaign
Updated 06 December 2022

Oman’s love of football highlighted with new campaign

Oman’s love of football highlighted with new campaign
  • Industrial firm partners with Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj, players including Ali Al-Habsi

DUBAI: Jindal Shadeed, an Oman-based iron and steel company, has partnered with independent agency Wieden+Kennedy to create a new campaign that highlights the nation’s love of football during the FIFA World Cup 2022.

The agency’s India office created “The Steel of Oman” campaign, which celebrates the country’s culture and development.

The agency collaborated with celebrated Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj to create 15 portraits, which were used as print and outdoor averts. The portraits feature talented Omani achievers, the “steel” of the nation, who have been celebrated for their contribution to the nation.

The company also partnered with national team football players including Ali Al-Habsi. The agency collaborated with award-winning director Ayappa K.M. to create a three-minute film that showcases Omani culture with football as the backdrop. The track was composed by Danish musician Sofyann Ben Youssef and focuses on local folk songs.

“The brief was inspiring and the client’s faith in our ability to do something truly authentic pushed us for something truly special,” said Ruchika Khanna, director of digital and business head, W+K India.

“The creative team came up with a simple yet powerful narrative that also enabled us to find interesting production partners who could help bring our ideas to life and we found them in Ayappa and Hassan Hajjaj who are known for their stellar craft,” she added.


MENA content creators highlighted in new video, podcast series

MENA content creators highlighted in new video, podcast series
Updated 06 December 2022

MENA content creators highlighted in new video, podcast series

MENA content creators highlighted in new video, podcast series
  • ‘Play it Forward’ launched by YouTube
  • 5 episodes, stories from Saudi, Egypt, Iraq, UAE

DUBAI: YouTube has launched its latest video and podcast series “Play it Forward with YouTube” or “Hekayat YouTube” in Arabic, focusing on stories from the Middle East North Africa region.

The five-episode series, which is available on the YouTube Arabia channel, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Spotify & Deezer, aims to shed light on the journey and aspirations of content creators from the MENA region.

The majority of watch time of YouTube content that is produced in the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt comes from outside these countries.

Content produced in the UAE has the highest number of viewers from outside the country at 95 percent, followed by Saudi Arabia at 60 percent and Egypt at 55 percent.

“I’m always inspired by the creativity and dedication of YouTube creators from MENA,” said Tarek Amin, director of partnerships at YouTube MENA.

“Their journey to content creation and wanting to share more of what inspires them or what needs to be spoken about are stories we hope more people can hear and be inspired from through ‘Play it Forward with YouTube,’” he added.

In each episode, Amin interviews different creators including Passant Nur El-Din and Mostafa Attia from Egypt, Zainab Al-Eqabi from Iraq, Rehab Saad from Saudi Arabia and Anas Bukhash from the UAE.

The first episode was released on Dec. 5 with others coming out every week.


Latvia revokes license of independent Russian TV channel

Latvia revokes license of independent Russian TV channel
Updated 06 December 2022

Latvia revokes license of independent Russian TV channel

Latvia revokes license of independent Russian TV channel
  • The decision by the Latvian National Electronic Mass Media Council was based on number of recent violations by TV Rain
  • The license was revoked on the grounds of a threat to national security and public order

TALLINN, Estonia: Latvia has revoked the license of an independent Russian TV channel exiled in the Baltic country for, among other things, voicing support for the Russian military and including Crimea in its map of Russia, media authorities said on Tuesday.
The decision by the Latvian National Electronic Mass Media Council was based on number of recent violations by TV Rain and the license was revoked on the grounds of a threat to national security and public order.
The region’s main news agency, Baltic News Service, said the decision will take effect on Thursday when not only TV Rain’s broadcasts but also its programs on YouTube will be blocked in Latvia.aTV Rain was earlier fined by the Latvian media watchdog for failing to ensure proper translation of its broadcasts into Latvian, the Baltic country’s only official language.
On Friday, Latvia’s state security service started a probe into statements made by TV Rain on suspicion that it was supporting Russia and its military currently waging a war in Ukraine.
Latvia’s decision was triggered by a TV Rain program in which the anchor invited Russian soldiers and their families watching it to share their stories with the channel and promised to offer help. The host offered an apology, saying he wasn’t promising material assistance to Russian troops on the front line in Ukraine, but the channel quickly fired him and apologized.
The incident came on top of earlier tensions with the Latvian authorities, who issued a reprimand over the channel depicting the Moscow-annexed Crimea as part of Russia on maps and referring to the Russian military as “our army.”
TV Rain owner Natalya Sindeyeva said in an interview that she hasn’t decided on the next steps yet. “I wasn’t prepared for that, I was sure they wouldn’t do that,” Sindeyeva told Meduza, an independent Russian news outlet also based in Latvia.
Since its creation in 2010, TV Rain has been the most visible independent TV station in Russia, criticizing the Kremlin’s policies, offering airtime to government critics and extensively covering opposition protests.
It has faced continuous official intimidation and pressure from the Russian authorities in the past. In August 2021, it was branded a “foreign agent,” a label that implied closer government scrutiny and carried a strong pejorative connotation that could discourage potential viewers.
TV Rain suspended operations in Russia earlier this year after authorities blocked its broadcasts allegedly due to the channel’s critical coverage of Russia’s war in Ukraine. The channel restarted broadcasting in the summer from Latvia’s capital, Riga, where several other independent Russian media outlets are based.
The Latvian media watchdog’s ruling can be appealed. Its chairman, Ivars Abolins, said that all media outlets working in Latvia should follow and respect Latvia’s legislation but TV Rain — known in Russia as “Dozhd” — has refused to do it.
“I believe that this decision demonstrates that Latvia is open also for the Russian media because all Russian media who respect the law are welcome and may work in Latvia,” said Abolins as quoted by the Baltic News Service. “Those who are not ready to follow the rules, cross the red lines, may not work here. The rules are fair.”


Facebook owner Meta may remove news from platform if US Congress passes media bill

Facebook owner Meta may remove news from platform if US Congress passes media bill
Updated 06 December 2022

Facebook owner Meta may remove news from platform if US Congress passes media bill

Facebook owner Meta may remove news from platform if US Congress passes media bill

WASHINGTON: Facebook parent Meta Platforms Inc. on Monday threatened to remove news from its platform if the US Congress passes a proposal aimed at making it easier for news organizations to negotiate collectively with companies like Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook.
Sources briefed on the matter said lawmakers are considering adding the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act to a must-pass annual defense bill as way to help the struggling local news industry.
Meta spokesperson Andy Stone in a tweet said the company would be forced to consider removing news if the law was passed “rather than submit to government-mandated negotiations that unfairly disregard any value we provide to news outlets through increased traffic and subscriptions.”
He added the proposal fails to recognize that publishers and broadcasters put content on the platform because “it benefits their bottom line — not the other way around.”
The News Media Alliance, a trade group representing newspaper publishers, is urging Congress to add the bill to the defense bill, arguing that “local papers cannot afford to endure several more years of Big Tech’s use and abuse, and time to take action is dwindling. If Congress does not act soon, we risk allowing social media to become America’s de facto local newspaper.”
More than two dozen groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Public Knowledge and the Computer & Communications Industry Association on Monday urged Congress not to approve the local news bill saying it would “create an ill-advised antitrust exemption for publishers and broadcasters” and argued the bill does not require “funds gained through negotiation or arbitration will even be paid to journalists.”
A similar Australian law, which took effect in March 2021 after talks with the big tech firms led to a brief shutdown of Facebook news feeds in the country, has largely worked, a government report said.
Since the News Media Bargaining Code took effect, various tech firms including Meta and Alphabet have signed more than 30 deals with media outlets, compensating them for content that generated clicks and advertising dollars, the report added.


Google Doodle celebrates late Kuwaiti actor and comedian 

Google Doodle celebrates late Kuwaiti actor and comedian 
Updated 06 December 2022

Google Doodle celebrates late Kuwaiti actor and comedian 

Google Doodle celebrates late Kuwaiti actor and comedian 

DUBAI: Google Doodle marked on Tuesday the birthday of the late Kuwaiti actor and comedian Abdul Hussein Abdul Reda, which falls on Dec. 6. 

Abdul Reda is one of the most famous and prominent Gulf and Arab artists, and one of the Gulf region’s pioneers of acting, with a career that exceeded 50 years.

He participated in the first theatrical play in classical Arabic under the title “Saqr Quraish” in 1961. 

(Internet)

Abdul Reda presented many prominent works in theater and television, where he became famous on television with series like The Slippery Path and Destinies.  

He was nicknamed by Dubai Ruler and Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid as the “Gulf’s laughter and joy” for his famous theatrical roles in well-known Khaleej plays like Bye Bye London and Bani Samet. 

On his passing, Sheikh Mohammed took to Twitter to pay tribute to the late Kuwaiti actor, saying: “We bid farewell to the Gulf's laughter and joy. Every Khaleeji citizen had a beautiful time with you.” 

After suffering several diseases in his lifetime, Abdul Reda passed away in London and was buried in Sulaibikhiyat Al Jaafariah on Aug. 16, 2017.