Twitter will give political candidates a special badge during US midterm elections

Ahead of 2018 U.S. midterm elections, Twitter is taking a visible step to combat the spread of misinformation on its famously chaotic platform. In a blog post this week, the company explained how it would be adding “election labels” to the profiles of candidates running for political office.

“Twitter has become the first place voters go to seek accurate information, resources, and breaking news from journalists, political candidates, and elected officials,” the company wrote in its announcement. “We understand the significance of this responsibility and our teams are building new ways for people who use Twitter to identify original sources and authentic information.”

These labels feature a small government building icon and text identifying the position a candidate is running for and the state or district where the race is taking place. The label information included in the profile will also appear elsewhere on Twitter, even when tweets are embedded off-site.

The labels will start popping up after May 30 and will apply to candidates in state governor races as well as those campaigning for a seat in the Senate or the House of Representatives.

Twitter will partner with nonpartisan political nonprofit Ballotpedia to create the candidate labels. In a statement announcing its partnership, Ballotpedia explains how that process will work:

Ballotpedia covers all candidates in every upcoming election occurring within the 100 most-populated cities in the U.S., plus all federal and statewide elections, including ballot measures. After each state primary, Ballotpedia will provide Twitter with information on gubernatorial and Congressional candidates who will appear on the November ballot. After receiving consent from each candidate, Twitter will apply the labels to each candidate profile.

The decision to create a dedicated process to verify political profiles is a step in the right direction for Twitter. With major social platforms still in upheaval over revelations around foreign misinformation campaigns during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Twitter and Facebook need to take decisive action now if they intend to inoculate their users against a repeat threat in 2018.


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/05/25/twitter-election-labels/

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Facebook, Google face first GDPR complaints over ‘forced consent’

After two years coming down the pipe at tech giants, Europe’s new privacy framework, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is now being applied — and long time Facebook privacy critic, Max Schrems, has wasted no time in filing four complaints relating to (certain) companies’ ‘take it or leave it’ stance when it comes to consent.

The complaints have been filed on behalf of (unnamed) individual users — with one filed against Facebook; one against Facebook-owned Instagram; one against Facebook-owned WhatsApp; and one against Google’s Android.

Schrems argues that the companies are using a strategy of “forced consent” to continue processing the individuals’ personal data — when in fact the law requires that users be given a free choice unless a consent is strictly necessary for provision of the service. (And, well, Facebook claims its core product is social networking — rather than farming people’s personal data for ad targeting.)

“It’s simple: Anything strictly necessary for a service does not need consent boxes anymore. For everything else users must have a real choice to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’,” Schrems writes in a statement.

“Facebook has even blocked accounts of users who have not given consent,” he adds. “In the end users only had the choice to delete the account or hit the “agree”-button — that’s not a free choice, it more reminds of a North Korean election process.”

We’ve reached out to all the companies involved for comment and will update this story with any response. Update: Facebook has now sent the following statement, attributed to its chief privacy officer, Erin Egan: “We have prepared for the past 18 months to ensure we meet the requirements of the GDPR. We have made our policies clearer, our privacy settings easier to find and introduced better tools for people to access, download, and delete their information. Our work to improve people’s privacy doesn’t stop on May 25th. For example, we’re building Clear History: a way for everyone to see the websites and apps that send us information when you use them, clear this information from your account, and turn off our ability to store it associated with your account going forward.”

Schrems most recently founded a not-for-profit digital rights organization to focus on strategic litigation around the bloc’s updated privacy framework, and the complaints have been filed via this crowdfunded NGO — which is called noyb (aka ‘none of your business’).

As we pointed out in our GDPR explainer, the provision in the regulation allowing for collective enforcement of individuals’ data rights in an important one, with the potential to strengthen the implementation of the law by enabling non-profit organizations such as noyb to file complaints on behalf of individuals — thereby helping to redress the imbalance between corporate giants and consumer rights.

That said, the GDPR’s collective redress provision is a component that Member States can choose to derogate from, which helps explain why the first four complaints have been filed with data protection agencies in Austria, Belgium, France and Hamburg in Germany — regions that also have data protection agencies with a strong record defending privacy rights.

Given that the Facebook companies involved in these complaints have their European headquarters in Ireland it’s likely the Irish data protection agency will get involved too. And it’s fair to say that, within Europe, Ireland does not have a strong reputation for defending data protection rights.

But the GDPR allows for DPAs in different jurisdictions to work together in instances where they have joint concerns and where a service crosses borders — so noyb’s action looks intended to test this element of the new framework too.

Under the penalty structure of GDPR, major violations of the law can attract fines as large as 4% of a company’s global revenue which, in the case of Facebook or Google, implies they could be on the hook for more than a billion euros apiece — if they are deemed to have violated the law, as the complaints argue.

That said, given how freshly fixed in place the rules are, some EU regulators may well tread softly on the enforcement front — at least in the first instances, to give companies some benefit of the doubt and/or a chance to make amends to come into compliance if they are deemed to be falling short of the new standards.

However, in instances where companies themselves appear to be attempting to deform the law with a willfully self-serving interpretation of the rules, regulators may feel they need to act swiftly to nip any disingenuousness in the bud.

“We probably will not immediately have billions of penalty payments, but the corporations have intentionally violated the GDPR, so we expect a corresponding penalty under GDPR,” writes Schrems.

Only yesterday, for example, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg — speaking in an on stage interview at the VivaTech conference in Paris — claimed his company hasn’t had to make any radical changes to comply with GDPR, and further claimed that a “vast majority” of Facebook users are willingly opting in to targeted advertising via its new consent flow.

“We’ve been rolling out the GDPR flows for a number of weeks now in order to make sure that we were doing this in a good way and that we could take into account everyone’s feedback before the May 25 deadline. And one of the things that I’ve found interesting is that the vast majority of people choose to opt in to make it so that we can use the data from other apps and websites that they’re using to make ads better. Because the reality is if you’re willing to see ads in a service you want them to be relevant and good ads,” said Zuckerberg.

He did not mention that the dominant social network does not offer people a free choice on accepting or declining targeted advertising. The new consent flow Facebook revealed ahead of GDPR only offers the ‘choice’ of quitting Facebook entirely if a person does not want to accept targeting advertising. Which, well, isn’t much of a choice given how powerful the network is. (Additionally, it’s worth pointing out that Facebook continues tracking non-users — so even deleting a Facebook account does not guarantee that Facebook will stop processing your personal data.)

Asked about how Facebook’s business model will be affected by the new rules, Zuckerberg essentially claimed nothing significant will change — “because giving people control of how their data is used has been a core principle of Facebook since the beginning”.

“The GDPR adds some new controls and then there’s some areas that we need to comply with but overall it isn’t such a massive departure from how we’ve approached this in the past,” he claimed. “I mean I don’t want to downplay it — there are strong new rules that we’ve needed to put a bunch of work into making sure that we complied with — but as a whole the philosophy behind this is not completely different from how we’ve approached things.

“In order to be able to give people the tools to connect in all the ways they want and build committee a lot of philosophy that is encoded in a regulation like GDPR is really how we’ve thought about all this stuff for a long time. So I don’t want to understate the areas where there are new rules that we’ve had to go and implement but I also don’t want to make it seem like this is a massive departure in how we’ve thought about this stuff.”

Zuckerberg faced a range of tough questions on these points from the EU parliament earlier this week. But he avoided answering them in any meaningful detail.

So EU regulators are essentially facing a first test of their mettle — i.e. whether they are willing to step up and defend the line of the law against big tech’s attempts to reshape it in their business model’s image.

Privacy laws are nothing new in Europe but robust enforcement of them would certainly be a breath of fresh air. And now at least, thanks to GDPR, there’s a penalties structure in place to provide incentives as well as teeth, and spin up a market around strategic litigation — with Schrems and noyb in the vanguard.

Schrems also makes the point that small startups and local companies are less likely to be able to use the kind of strong-arm ‘take it or leave it’ tactics on users that big tech is able to use to extract consent on account of the reach and power of their platforms — arguing there’s a competition concern that GDPR should also help to redress.

“The fight against forced consent ensures that the corporations cannot force users to consent,” he writes. “This is especially important so that monopolies have no advantage over small businesses.”

Image credit: noyb.eu


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/05/25/facebook-google-face-first-gdpr-complaints-over-forced-consent/

Facebook, Google face first GDPR complaints over “forced consent”

After two years coming down the pipe at tech giants, Europe’s new privacy framework, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is now being applied — and long time Facebook privacy critic, Max Schrems, has wasted no time in filing four complaints relating to (certain) companies’ ‘take it or leave it’ stance when it comes to consent.

The complaints have been filed on behalf of (unnamed) individual users — with one filed against Facebook; one against Facebook-owned Instagram; one against Facebook-owned WhatsApp; and one against Google’s Android.

Schrems argues that the companies are using a strategy of “forced consent” to continue processing the individuals’ personal data — when in fact the law requires that users be given a free choice unless a consent is strictly necessary for provision of the service. (And, well, Facebook claims its core product is social networking — rather than farming people’s personal data for ad targeting.)

“It’s simple: Anything strictly necessary for a service does not need consent boxes anymore. For everything else users must have a real choice to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’,” Schrems writes in a statement.

“Facebook has even blocked accounts of users who have not given consent,” he adds. “In the end users only had the choice to delete the account or hit the “agree”-button — that’s not a free choice, it more reminds of a North Korean election process.”

We’ve reached out to all the companies involved for comment and will update this story with any response.

The European privacy campaigner most recently founded a not-for-profit digital rights organization to focus on strategic litigation around the bloc’s updated privacy framework, and the complaints have been filed via this crowdfunded NGO — which is called noyb (aka ‘none of your business’).

As we pointed out in our GDPR explainer, the provision in the regulation allowing for collective enforcement of individuals’ data rights in an important one, with the potential to strengthen the implementation of the law by enabling non-profit organizations such as noyb to file complaints on behalf of individuals — thereby helping to redress the imbalance between corporate giants and consumer rights.

That said, the GDPR’s collective redress provision is a component that Member States can choose to derogate from, which helps explain why the first four complaints have been filed with data protection agencies in Austria, Belgium, France and Hamburg in Germany — regions that also have data protection agencies with a strong record defending privacy rights.

Given that the Facebook companies involved in these complaints have their European headquarters in Ireland it’s likely the Irish data protection agency will get involved too. And it’s fair to say that, within Europe, Ireland does not have a strong reputation for defending data protection rights.

But the GDPR allows for DPAs in different jurisdictions to work together in instances where they have joint concerns and where a service crosses borders — so noyb’s action looks intended to test this element of the new framework too.

Under the penalty structure of GDPR, major violations of the law can attract fines as large as 4% of a company’s global revenue which, in the case of Facebook or Google, implies they could be on the hook for more than a billion euros apiece — if they are deemed to have violated the law, as the complaints argue.

That said, given how freshly fixed in place the rules are, some EU regulators may well tread softly on the enforcement front — at least in the first instances, to give companies some benefit of the doubt and/or a chance to make amends to come into compliance if they are deemed to be falling short of the new standards.

However, in instances where companies themselves appear to be attempting to deform the law with a willfully self-serving interpretation of the rules, regulators may feel they need to act swiftly to nip any disingenuousness in the bud.

“We probably will not immediately have billions of penalty payments, but the corporations have intentionally violated the GDPR, so we expect a corresponding penalty under GDPR,” writes Schrems.

Only yesterday, for example, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg — speaking in an on stage interview at the VivaTech conference in Paris — claimed his company hasn’t had to make any radical changes to comply with GDPR, and further claimed that a “vast majority” of Facebook users are willingly opting in to targeted advertising via its new consent flow.

“We’ve been rolling out the GDPR flows for a number of weeks now in order to make sure that we were doing this in a good way and that we could take into account everyone’s feedback before the May 25 deadline. And one of the things that I’ve found interesting is that the vast majority of people choose to opt in to make it so that we can use the data from other apps and websites that they’re using to make ads better. Because the reality is if you’re willing to see ads in a service you want them to be relevant and good ads,” said Zuckerberg.

He did not mention that the dominant social network does not offer people a free choice on accepting or declining targeted advertising. The new consent flow Facebook revealed ahead of GDPR only offers the ‘choice’ of quitting Facebook entirely if a person does not want to accept targeting advertising. Which, well, isn’t much of a choice given how powerful the network is. (Additionally, it’s worth pointing out that Facebook continues tracking non-users — so even deleting a Facebook account does not guarantee that Facebook will stop processing your personal data.)

Asked about how Facebook’s business model will be affected by the new rules, Zuckerberg essentially claimed nothing significant will change — “because giving people control of how their data is used has been a core principle of Facebook since the beginning”.

“The GDPR adds some new controls and then there’s some areas that we need to comply with but overall it isn’t such a massive departure from how we’ve approached this in the past,” he claimed. “I mean I don’t want to downplay it — there are strong new rules that we’ve needed to put a bunch of work into into making sure that we complied with — but as a whole the philosophy behind this is not completely different from how we’ve approached things.

“In order to be able to give people the tools to connect in all the ways they want and build committee a lot of philosophy that is encoded in a regulation like GDPR is really how we’ve thought about all this stuff for a long time. So I don’t want to understate the areas where there are new rules that we’ve had to go and implement but I also don’t want to make it seem like this is a massive departure in how we’ve thought about this stuff.”

Zuckerberg faced a range of tough questions on these points from the EU parliament earlier this week. But he avoided answering them in any meaningful detail.

So EU regulators are essentially facing a first test of their mettle — i.e. whether they are willing to step up and defend the line of the law against big tech’s attempts to reshape it in their business model’s image.

Privacy laws are nothing new in Europe but robust enforcement of them would certainly be a breath of fresh air. And now at least, thanks to GDPR, there’s a penalties structure in place to provide teeth and spin up a market around strategic litigation, with Schrems in the vanguard.

Schrems also makes the point that small startups and local companies are less likely to be able to use the kind of strong-arm ‘take it or leave it’ tactics on users that platforms are able to use to extract consent on account of the reach and power of their networks — arguing there’s a competition concern that GDPR should also help to redress.

“The fight against forced consent ensures that the corporations cannot force users to consent,” he adds. “This is especially important so that monopolies have no advantage over small businesses.”

Image credit: noyb.eu


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/05/25/facebook-google-face-first-gdpr-complaints-over-forced-consent/

How Do You Set Smart SEO Goals for Your Team/Agency/Project? – Whiteboard Friday

Posted by randfish

Are you sure that your current SEO goals are the best fit for your organization? It’s incredibly important that they tie into both your company goals and your marketing goals, as well as provide specific, measurable metrics you can work to improve. In this edition of Whiteboard Friday, Rand outlines how to set the right SEO goals for your team and shares two examples of how different businesses might go about doing just that.

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Setting Smart SEO Goals for Your Team, Agency, or Project

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Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. This week we’re chatting about SEO goals, how to set smart ones, how to measure your progress against them, how to amplify those goals to the rest of your organization so that people really buy in to SEO.

This is a big challenge. So many folks that I’ve talked to in the field have basically said, “I’m not sure exactly how to set goals for our SEO team that are the right ones.” I think that there’s a particularly pernicious problem once Google took away the keyword-level data for SEO referrals.

So, from paid search, you can see this click was on this keyword and sent traffic to this page and then here’s how it performed after that. In organic search, you can no longer do that. You haven’t been able to do it for a few years now. Because of that removal, proving the return on investment for SEO has been really challenging. We’ll talk in a future Whiteboard Friday about proving ROI. But let’s focus here on how you get some smart SEO goals that are actually measurable, trackable, and pertain intelligently to the goals of the business, the organization.

Where to start:

So the first thing, the first problem that I see is that a lot of folks start here, which seems like a reasonable idea, but is actually a terrible idea. Don’t start with your SEO goals. When your SEO team gets together or when you get together with your consultants, your agency, don’t start with what the SEO goals should be.

  • Start with the company goals. This is what our company is trying to accomplish this quarter or this year or this month.
  • Marketing goals. Go from there to here’s how marketing is going to contribute to those company goals. So if the company has a goal of increasing sales, marketing’s job is what? Is marketing’s job improving the conversion funnel? Is it getting more traffic to the top of the funnel? Is it bringing back more traffic that’s already been to the site but needs to be re-earned? Those marketing goals should be tied directly to the company goals so that anyone and everyone in the organization can clearly see, “Here’s why marketing is doing what they’re doing.”
  • SEO goals. Next, here’s how SEO contributes to those marketing goals. So if the goal is around, as we mentioned, growing traffic to the top of the funnel, for example, SEO could be very broad in their targeting. If it’s bringing people back, you’ve got to get much more narrow in your keyword targeting.
  • Specific metrics to measure and improve. From those SEO goals, you can get the outcome of specific metrics to measure and improve.

Measurable goal metrics

So that list is kind of right here. It’s not very long. There are not that many things in the SEO world that we can truly measure directly. So measurable goal metrics might be things like…

1. Rankings. Which we can measure in three ways. We can measure them globally, nationally, or locally. You can choose to set those up.

2. Organic search visits. So this would be just the raw traffic that is sent from organic search.

3. You can also separate that into branded search versus non-branded search. But it’s much more challenging than it is with paid, because we don’t have the keyword data. Thus, we have to use an implied or inferred model, where essentially we say, “These pages are likely to be receiving branded search traffic, versus these pages that are likely to be receiving non-branded search traffic.”

A good example is the homepage of most brands is most likely to get primarily branded search traffic, whereas resource pages, blog pages, content marketing style pages, those are mostly going to get unbranded. So you can weight those appropriately as you see fit.

Tracking your rankings is crucially important, because that way you can see which pages show up for branded queries versus which pages show up for unbranded queries, and then you can build pretty darn good models of branded search versus non-branded search visits based on which landing pages are going to get traffic.

4. SERP ownership. So ideas around your reputation in the search results. So this is essentially looking at the page of search results that comes up for a given query and what results are in there. There might be things you don’t like and don’t want and things you really do want, and the success and failure can be measured directly through the rankings in the SERP.

5. Search volume. So for folks who are trying to improve their brand’s affinity and reputation on the web and trying to grow the quantity of branded search, which is a good metric, you can look at that through things like Google Trends or through a Google AdWords campaign or through something like Moz’s Keyword Explorer.

6. Links and link metrics. So you could look at the growth or shrinkage of links over time. You can measure that through things like the number of linking root domains, the total number of links. Authority or spam metrics and how those are distributed.

7. Referral traffic. And last, but not least, most SEO campaigns, especially those that focus on links or improving rankings, are going to also send referral traffic from the links that are built. So you can watch referral traffic and what those referrers are and whether they came from pages where you built links with SEO intent.

So taking all of these metrics, these should be applied to the SEO goals that you choose that match up with your marketing and company goals. I wanted to try and illustrate this, not just explain it, but illustrate it through two examples that are very different in what they’re measuring.

Example one

So, first off, Taft Boots, they’ve been advertising like crazy to me on Instagram. Apparently, I must need new boots.

  • Grow online sales. Let’s say that their big company goal for 2018 is “grow online sales to core U.S. customers, so the demographics and psychographics they’re already reaching, by 30%.”
  • Increase top of funnel website traffic by 50%. So marketing says, “All right, you know what? There’s a bunch of ways to do that, but we think that our best opportunity to do that is to grow top of funnel, because we can see how top of funnel turns into sales over time, and we’re going to target a number of 50% growth.” This is awesome. This can turn into very measurable, actionable SEO goals.
  • Grow organic search visits 70%. We can say, “Okay, we know that search is going to contribute an outsized quantity of this 50% growth. So what we want to do is take search traffic up by 70%. How are we going to do that? We have four different plans.
    • A. We’re going to increase our blog content, quality and quantity.
    • B. We’re going to create new product pages that are more detailed, that are better optimized, that target good searches.
    • C. We’re going to create a new resources section with some big content pieces.
    • D. We’re going to improve our link profile and Domain Authority.”

Now, you might say, “Wait a minute. Rand, this is a pretty common SEO methodology here.” Yes, but many times this is not directly tied to the marketing goals, which is not directly tied to the business goals. If you want to have success as an SEO, you want to convince people to keep investing in you, you want to keep having that job or that consulting gig, you’ve got to connect these up.

From these, we can then say, “Okay, for each one, how do we measure it?” Well…

  • A. Quantity of content and search visits/piece. Blog content can be measured through the quantity of content we produce, the search visits that each of those pieces produce, and what the distribution and averages are.
  • B. Rankings and organic traffic. Is a great way to measure product pages and whether we’re hitting our goals there.
  • C. Link growth, rankings, and traffic. That’s a great way to measure the new resources section.
  • D. Linking root domains plus the DA distribution and maybe Spam Score distribution. That’s a great way to measure whether we’re improving our link profile.

All of these, this big-picture goal is going to be measured by the contribution of search visits to essentially non-homepage and non-branded pages that contribute to the conversion funnel. So we have a methodology to create a smart goal and system here.

Example two

Another example, totally different, but let’s try it out because I think that many folks have trouble connecting non-e-commerce pages, non-product stuff. So we’re going to use Book-It Theatre. They’re a theater group here in the Seattle area. They use the area beneath Seattle Center House as their space. They basically will take popular books and literature and convert them into plays. They’ll adapt them into screenplays and then put on performances. It’s quite good. We’ve been to a few shows, Geraldine and I have, and we really like them.

So their goal — I’m making this up, I don’t actually know if this is their goal — but let’s say they want to…

  • Attract theater goers from outside the Seattle area. So they’re looking to hit tourists and critics, people who are not just locals, because they want to expand their brand.
  • Reach audiences in 4 key geographies — LA, Portland, Vancouver, Minneapolis. So they decide, “You know what? Marketing can contribute to this in four key geographies, and that’s where we’re going to focus a bunch of efforts — PR efforts, outreach efforts, offline media, and SEO. The four key geographies are Los Angeles, Portland, Vancouver, and Minneapolis. We think these are good theater-going towns where we can attract the right audiences.”

So what are we going to do as SEOs? Well, as SEOs, we better figure out what’s going to match up to this.

  • Drive traffic from these regions to Book-It Theatre’s pages and to reviews of our show. So it’s not just content on our site. We want to drive people to other critics and press that’s reviewed us.
    • A. So we’re going to create some geo landing pages, maybe some special offers for people from each of these cities.
    • B. We’re going to identify third-party reviews and hopefully get critics who will write reviews, and we’re going to ID those and try and drive traffic to them.
    • C. We’re going to do the same with blog posts and informal critics.
    • D. We’re going to build some content pages around the books that we’re adapting, hoping to drive traffic, that’s interested in those books, from all over the United States to our pages and hopefully to our show.

So there are ways to measure each of these.

  • A. Localized rankings in Moz Pro or a bunch of other rank tracking tools. You can set up geo-specific localized rankings. “I want to track rankings in Vancouver, British Columbia. I want to track rankings from Los Angeles, California.” Those might look different than the ones you see here in Seattle, Washington.
  • B. We can do localized rankings and visits from referrals for the third-party reviews. We won’t be able to track the visits that those pages receive, but if they mention Book-It Theatre and link to us, we can see, oh yes, look, the Minneapolis Journal wrote about us and they linked to us, and we can see what the reviews are from there.
  • C. We can do localized rankings and visits from referrals for the third-party blog posts.
  • D. Local and national ranking, organic visits. For these Book-It content pages, of course, we can track our local and national rankings and the organic visits.

Each of these, and as a whole, the contribution of search visits from non-Seattle regions, so we can remove Seattle or Washington State in our analytics and we can see: How much traffic did we get from there? Was it more than last year? What’s it contributing to the ticket sales conversion funnel?

You can see how, if you build these smart goals and you measure them correctly and you align them with what the company and the marketing team is trying to do, you can build something really special. You can get great involvement from the rest of your teams, and you can show the value of SEO even to people who might not believe in it already.

All right, everyone. Look forward to your thoughts and feedback in the comments, and we’ll see you again next week for another edition of Whiteboard Friday. Take care.

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Source: https://moz.com/blog/smart-seo-goals

Snapchat launches less creepy Send and Request Location features

Snapchat is taking another shot at location after its always-on coordinate-broadcasting Snap Map proved a bit invasive for some users. Snapchat now lets you send your on-going real-time location to a friend, or request theirs, which show up on the Snap Map and within your message thread.

Essentially, this is location sharing built for the intimacy people love about Snapchat, rather than the foreign and a little freaky idea of giving a wide swath of your contacts access to your whereabouts through Snap Map. As Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp ruthlessly exploit their clones of Stories, it’s the more private, close friends features like this and ephemeral messaging that are Snapchat’s best shot at staying relevant.

TechCrunch was tipped off to the location feature by our reader Chand Sethi (thanks!) and now Snapchat confirms it’s been slowly rolling out to iOS and Android users over the past few weeks. Snap Map, which launched last June, has always offered the option to only share with specific friends instead of all of them. Still, the whole idea of location broadcasting might have scared some users into staying in only-me Ghost Mode. This new feature is Snap’s chance to get them on board, one friend at a time.

Now when you long-press on a friend’s name or hit the three-line hamburger button on a chat thread, you’ll get the option to Send Location or Request location. It only works with bi-directional friends, so you can’t ask for the spot of your favorite Snap star if they don’t follow you back, and you can turn off getting requests in your settings if people are spamming you.

Location shared through this feature will only update live for eight hours after you last open the app. You can cancel someone’s access at any time through the Snap Map. And if you’ve never enabled it, you’ll go through the location consent flow first.

By letting users dip their toes in, Snapchat could get more users active on Snap Map. After its June 2017 launch, it hit 35 million daily viewers, but that number was at 19 million and sinking by November, according to leaked data. In February when it launched on web, Snapchat said it had 100 million monthly users — but since Snap never shares monthly user numbers and instead relies on daily counts, the fact that it had to go with a monthly stat here showed some insecurity about its popularity.

Along with Discover, Snap Map represent one of the app’s best differentiators. Investing in improvements here is wise. After all, it might only be a matter of time before we see an Insta Map.


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/05/24/snapchat-location/

Facebook and Instagram launch US political ad labeling and archive

Facebook today revealed that it’s chosen not to shut down all political ads because that could unfairly favor incumbents and candidates without resources to buy pricey TV ads. Instead, it’s now launching its previously announced “paid for by” labels on political and issue ads on Facebook and Instagram in the U.S. and its publicly searchable archive of all these politics-related ads that run in the U.S. That includes ads run by news publishers or others that promote articles with political content.

The labeling won’t just apply to candidate and election ads, but those dealing with political issues such as “abortion, guns, immigration or foreign policy.” Clicking through the labels that appear at the top of these News Feed ads will lead to the archive, which isn’t backdated and will only include ads from early May 2018 and after. The archive will hold them for seven years so they can be searched by keyword or the Page that ran them. It also will display the ad’s budget, and the number of people who saw it, plus aggregated, anonymized data on their age, gender and location.

Any advertiser that wants to run political ads must now go through Facebook’s authorization process that requires them to reveal their identity and location, and advertisers will only have a week’s grace period starting today before those unauthorized will have their ads paused. Facebook plans to monitor political ads with a combination of artificial intelligence and 3,000 to 4,000 newly hired ad reviewers as part of its doubling of its security team from 10,000 to 20,000 this year.

The reviewers and AI will analyze these ads’ images, text and the outside websites to which they point to look for political content. They’ll seek to avoid bias in classification by following guidelines on what constitutes one of 20 political issues from the decades-running Comparative Agendas Project. Users also may report unlabeled ads, which will then be reviewed, paused and archived if they’re deemed political. Their buyer will then be required to go through the authorization process before they can buy more.

A look at ads run by Donald Trump’s official page inside Facebook’s new political ad archive

As part of work with Facebook’s new commission investigating social media’s impact on elections, it plans to provide a database available via a forthcoming API that will let watchdog groups, academics and researchers review how ads are being used. These tools will open to other countries in the following months, and Facebook plans to make all ads visible to everyone through a tool launching in June that’s now testing in Ireland and Canada.

Facebook’s chief product officer Chris Cox writes that “We hope that in aggregate these changes will be a big step to improve the quality of civic engagement in our products, and to keep the public discourse strong.”

Facebook held a conference call to discuss the launch with reporters this morning. Unfortunately it was timed to end just 15 minutes before the news went out, limiting the ability of journalists to write timely, in-depth coverage. You can listen to that call below:

Concerns with Facebook’s push for ad transparency

While the labels and archive are good steps toward transparency, there are still a number of problems with the program. Most specifically, the political action committees and organizations that often fund political ads can have confusing or misleading names that obscure their true purpose. Simply listing those organizations in the Paid For By labels or archive won’t necessarily give users a lot of information about who the people behind the money are unless they’re willing to go digging across the internet themselves.

An example of a “Paid for by” label on an Instagram ad

For example, the notorious conservative political donors the Koch brothers funnel cash through a PAC called Prosperity Action to fund Republican candidates like Paul Ryan. Seeing an ad was paid for by Prosperity Action wouldn’t immediately inform most Americans. On the other side, ads to displace Paul Ryan have been bought by a Page called Stand Up America, which many might not immediately know is an anti-Trump group. If Facebook wants to truly give citizens a better understanding of where these political ads come from, it needs to add more info about the donors and political leanings behind PACs and other big spenders.

Another issue is who will have access to the archive API, since the Cambridge Analytica scandal all started with an academic researcher accessing Facebook data.

One interesting new learning from today is that news publishers’ articles that deal with political issues and are promoted in ads will need the disclosures too. “Any ad that has political content on Facebook going forward will require authorization, labeling, and archiving regardless of who’s running it,” said Facebook Director of Public Policy Steve Satterfield, who notes Facebook is in dialogue with different ad buyers “including news publishers.” While that might seem like overkill if The Wall Street Journal promotes a story regarding one of President Trump’s policy changes in hopes of adding subscribers, not supporting him, the genesis of highly partisan Facebook-specific news sources necessitates there be no loophole for avoiding labeling.

“We won’t always get it right. We know we’ll miss some ads and in other cases we’ll identify some we shouldn’t,” writes Satterfield and Facebook’s Global Politics and Government Outreach Director Katie Harbath. But Harbath described on the call how even though all the monitoring of political ads will cost more than the revenue the company earns from them, Facebook felt it necessary to “make sure people have a way to express themselves and engage in political discourse in a transparent way.”

Self-policing in this manner could reduce the urgency of calls to pass the Honest Ads Act that was unveiled last year to bring online advertising disclosures in line with those for television, though Congress has yet to hold a hearing about.

“These changes won’t fix everything, but they will make it a lot harder for anyone to do what the Russians did during the 2016 election and use fake accounts and pages to run ads,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg concluded. “I hope they’ll also raise the bar for all political advertising online.”

These are the exact kind of tools and labels Facebook should have offered as soon as it began touting its ability to influence elections with its ads more than a half decade ago. But with the mid-term elections approaching alongside races around the world, they’re better late than never.


Source: https://techcrunch.com/2018/05/24/facebook-political-ad-archive/