UK lawmakers question tech attempts to stem coronavirus conspiracies

UK lawmakers question tech attempts to stem coronavirus conspiracies

UK lawmakers question tech attempts to stem coronavirus conspiracies

UK lawmakers questioned whether social media giants are doing enough to stop the spread of false information, after a conspiracy theory that 5G technology is contributing to the Covid-19 pandemic led to a spate of attacks on telecom masts and engineers.

Representatives from Facebook Inc, Alphabet Inc’s Google and Twitter Inc were asked to appear before the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee on Thursday to explain how their companies are tackling disinformation. It didn’t go well.

“We will be writing to all of your organisations with a series of questions and, frankly, we will be expressing our displeasure at the quality of the answers – well, the lack of answers – we received today,” chairman Julian Knight concluded after more than an hour of questioning via conference call.

The Silicon Valley giants outlined measures they’ve taken to combat fake news, such as Facebook’s move to restrict WhatsApp message forwarding and promote official guidance on the pandemic. But the panel of British lawmakers often interjected bluntly and deemed the testimony unsatisfactory.

Legislators demanded to know how Twitter was cracking down on world leaders, including US President Donald Trump, if they spread misinformation. The company’s UK head of government relations, Katy Minshall, was also grilled about the prevalence of bots on the site, which are automated accounts that perform repetitive tasks, such as sharing fake news stories.

“We’re really proud of the progress we’ve made over the past couple of years,” said Minshall, responding to a question about online abuse.

“Well I don’t know why,” interrupted member of Parliament John Nicolson.

Google public policy manager Alina Dimofte was asked why YouTube didn’t tackle 5G conspiracy videos earlier. It banned such videos on April 7 after a spate of attacks on towers and telecom engineers.

‘Astonished’

MP Steve Brine said that, during the session, he found a Facebook post from his district inciting the destruction of a 5G mast, which has been baselessly linked to the spread of Covid-19.

More than 60 telecom masts have been attacked in the UK in the past few weeks as the theory has gained traction and even made it onto mainstream TV shows.

Brine added that he was “astonished” that Facebook’s UK Public Policy Manager Richard Earley had not personally discussed the issues with chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg or its vice president for global affairs and communication, Nick Clegg. Clegg is also the former UK deputy prime minister.

TikTok, the most downloaded app in the world outside of China during the crisis, avoided questioning. The relatively new social media site was not asked to appear despite also hosting conspiracy theories. – Bloomberg

Instagram is bringing new fonts to Stories - Latest News

Instagram is bringing new fonts to Stories – Latest News

Facebook-owned photo-sharing app Instagram is set to bring new fonts to its Stories. This was announced by the company on Twitter, where it said that it is testing it with a small percentage of people.

“New fonts coming to Stories soon*

*We’re testing this with a small percentage of people. Stay tuned for updates,” reads the tweet.

The company did not reveal the percentage or the location of users it is testing these or when the feature is coming to everyone else.

Recently, it was reported that Instagram is soon going to add a memorialisation option for the account of someone who has passed away. This was discovered by reverse-engineer Jane Manchun Wong.

Replying to her tweet, the account of Instagram’s PR team confirmed that this feature is indeed in the works. “Yes, we’re making changes to help people identify if an Instagram account belongs to someone who has passed away. We’ll have more to share on this at a later time,” reads the tweet.

Recently, Instagram rolled out the web support for sending Direct Messages (DMs) along with supports for viewing Instagram Live videos.

The live video streaming happens in the same portrait mode — and in the same size — as it does on users’ smartphones. However, thanks to the bigger screen space, you get to see the comments on the side of the ongoing live video instead of how you see them at the bottom on a smartphone on a transparent window making the viewing experience a little better on the web.

Twitter gains users, beats estimates but ad trends alarm investors - Latest News

Twitter gains users, beats estimates but ad trends alarm investors – Latest News

Twitter Inc reported higher first-quarter revenue and a smaller loss than analysts had expected amid the coronavirus pandemic, but its shares fell as investors fretted about potential weakness in the second quarter.

The San Francisco-based social media company said daily users who can view ads also grew 24% to 166 million, about 2 million above estimates, as people looked to Twitter for information related to the virus.

Twitter also said its ads sales had slightly rebounded in Asia after a plunge due to the coronavirus outbreak and it accelerated work on tools to attract advertisers, becoming the latest tech company to report a lighter blow from the pandemic than forecast.

The company did not provide specific guidance on the second quarter but on a conference call with analysts, Twitter’s chief financial officer Ned Segal pointed to a March 11 to March 31 time frame, when ad revenue declined approximately 27% year-over-year, as a sign of what the company has seen in April.

In comparison, Facebook Inc on Wednesday said that ad revenue was roughly flat in the first three weeks of April compared with last year, a tentative early sign of recovery following a steep decrease in March revenue.

Twitter shares, which initially rose 11% after the earning report, were down 4.8%.

The company said its March decline was particularly pronounced in the United States, its largest market by revenue.

The novel coronavirus halted travel, retail and entertainment in much of the world by March, leading to sudden budgets cuts at many advertisers and generating concerns about the prospects of ad sellers.

About 84% of Twitter’s revenue comes from ads on its service and partner apps, and those sales were 27% lower in the last three weeks of March than the same period in 2019, the company said on Thursday. But sales bounced back in Asia during late March as lockdowns lifted there, Twitter said, without providing specific figures.

“We’re not likely to see the full effects of the coronavirus on Twitter’s revenues until Q2, but due to rapidly changing conditions, the severity of the impact is hard to predict,” said eMarketer senior analyst Jasmine Enberg.

Twitter said it hoped to release tools earlier than planned this year to attract business from mobile games and other app makers. Those companies are trying to gain market share among consumers stuck at home and are continuing to buy what the ad industry calls “direct response” ads.

Alphabet Inc’s Google on Wednesday also said it expected revenue from direct response ads sold by its YouTube unit to return to normal faster than from other ad types.

Twitter also warned of smaller increases in non-advertising revenue.

SLASHING COSTS

Twitter’s first-quarter revenue was $808 million, up 3% compared with a year earlier, above the average estimate of $776 million among analysts tracked by Refinitiv.

The company said that sales growth from licensing users’ posts to researchers and marketers, which was 17% in the first quarter, is expected to “moderate” the rest of the year.

Twitter lost $8 million in the first quarter, or a penny per share, better than the average estimate of two cents per share.

Twitter is aiming to stem losses by slashing its own budgets, including by limiting hiring to product development, research and user support. Expense growth in 2020 is likely to be in “the low teens,” versus earlier plans to spend 20% more than last year, Twitter said.

Focusing its product teams on advertiser tools could pose challenges for Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey. He pledged in February to launch new features for users this year at a faster pace to stoke growth.

The growth goal was part of an agreement allowing Dorsey to remain CEO as a revamped board of directors evaluates Twitter’s leadership structure and CEO succession plan. Elliott had expressed concern about Dorsey, who is also CEO of financial tech company Square Inc , taking on too much.

Twitter: Twitter logs 166 milllion monetisable daily active users in Q1 - Latest News

Twitter: Twitter logs 166 milllion monetisable daily active users in Q1 – Latest News

Twitter on Thursday reported a 24 per cent growth in its average monetizable daily active users (mDAU) at 166 million for the first quarter of 2020, compared to 134 million in the same period last year.

The company beat the analysts’ forecast on revenue, logging $808 million in Q1 which is up 3 per cent (year over year) despite COVID-19 pandemic settling in.

“In this difficult time, Twitter’s purpose is proving more vital than ever. We are helping the world stay informed, and providing a unique way for people to come together to help or simply entertain and remind one another of our connections. We’ve delivered our strongest ever year over year mDAU growth,” said Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.

Advertising revenue totalled $682 million, up approximately $3 million year-over-year while ad engagements increased 25 per cent year-over-year.

“US revenue totaled $468 million, an increase of 8 per cent year-over-year and international revenue totaled $339 million, a decrease of 4 per cent year-over-year,” the company said in a statement.

“Our task now is to make sure we retain that connection over the long term with the many people new to Twitter,” said Dorsey.

Given the unprecedented uncertainty and rapidly shifting market conditions of the current business environment, Twitter said it will not provide quarterly revenue or operating income guidance for Q2.

“We are shifting resources and priorities to increase focus on our revenue products and reduce expense growth, ensuring our resources are allocated against our most important work,” said Ned Segal, Twitter’s CFO.

Average US mDAU were 33 million for Q1, compared to 28 million in the same period of the previous year and compared to 31 million in the previous quarter.

Average international mDAU for Twitter were 133 million for Q1, compared to 105 million in the same period of the previous year and compared to 121 million in the previous quarter.

RBI most-popular among central banks on Twitter - Latest News

RBI most-popular among central banks on Twitter – Latest News

MUMBAI: The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is not the most powerful in terms of monetary fire power like its peers in the US and Europe but when it comes to popularity, the monetary authority is the most followed on Twitter.

With the microblogging site emerging as a key platform for information dissemination, many central banks are active on Twitter, especially in these times of economic uncertainties amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The 85-year-old RBI and its governor Shaktikanta Das have separate Twitter accounts.

An analysis of official Twitter accounts of major central banks shows that RBI has the maximum number of followers.

As of Thursday morning, RBI’s Twitter handle has 7.45 lakh followers. On April 20 alone, the handle saw 1.31 lakh new followers, according to an official with the central bank, who attributes the massive spike to an ongoing campaign.

Since March 2019, the count of followers has more than doubled from just about 3,42,000 to over 7,50,000 to data, the official said.

The RBI created its Twitter account in January 2012.

Closely behind RBI is the Bank Indonesia, the central bank of the East Asian nation, with 7.15 lakh followers. At the third spot is Banco de Mexico — the apex bank of Mexico — with 7.11 lakh followers on the microblogging site.

RBI also created a Twitter account ‘RBI Says’ and also started a Facebook page with the same name in early April. At that time, it also launched a safety campaign advising people to remain healthy and safe by not going to bank branches as the nation was put under a lockdown to help contain the spread of coronavirus infections.

During the ongoing seven-week lockdown that began from March 25, the number of followers has increased by more than 1.5 lakh, the official said.

In March 2019, RBI was at the sixth position among major central banks and at the fourth place before the lockdown in terms of followers, the official added.

The RBI campaign featuring cine star Amitabh Bachchan to drive public awareness about going digital and keeping safe distance in times of the coronavirus pandemic, has also helped increase the number of followers, as per the official.

In comparison, the world’s most powerful central bank — the US Federal Reserve — has only about 6.17 lakh followers for its Twitter account created in March 2009.

The Frankfurt-headquartered European Central Bank, the second most powerful monetary authority in the world, has 5.55 lakh followers. This account was created in October 2009.

The Bank of Japan, which created its Twitter account in October 2011, has 27,100 followers, while Bank of England has around 3.03 lakh followers on its account created in January 2009, as per the data.

Personally, Das has 1.11 lakh followers. He joined Twitter in January 2015, when he was in the government.

After the coronavirus pandemic battered the markets and economy, Das on March 27 unleashed a monetary policy bazooka with trillions of rupees in fresh liquidity support along with a 75 basis points repo rate cut and nudged all to promote digital transaction.

“The pandemic is upon us but this too shall pass. We need to remain careful and take all precautions. I leave you with this comforting thought. Stay clean. Stay safe. Go digital,” Das had said.

His ‘go digital’ call was significant as social distancing is being reiterated as one of the good practices to avoid spreading of coronavirus infections.

Ever since Das was air-dashed to fill the vacuum created by the sudden resignation of his media-shy predecessor Urjit Patel in December 2018, RBI has been emphasising on simplify banking and its workings to the youth, by aggressively tapping social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

There is a need to take to these popular social media platforms to reach the youth as a part of its mass media awareness programmes, RBI said in its annual report released in August 2019.