The big tech giants at the gates of media

Zuck was prepared. The Senators weren’t.

Tuesday’s 5-hour Congressional hearings showed how little American politicians understand, let alone how to regulate them. The lawmakers, who came across as out-of-touch old men, had no points to make, apart from trying to score soundbites (compare this with Singapore’s grilling of Facebook a few weeks back). They couldn’t figure out what ad tech is, how advertising works, or what data Facebook collects. Zuck seemed nervous but confident — he’s been coached by internal and external consultants on this. His team even reconfigured a conference room to look like a congressional hearing room. Never underestimate this guy’s ability to learn. Investors were encouraged by Zuck’s performance, and the lowered risk of regulation. They sent the stock up 4.5% at the end of the testimony on Tuesday.

Earlier this year, I wrote a piece in Nieman Lab about 2018 trends.

I argued there was a need for publishers to take microtargeting seriously as a way to reach niche audiences and actually serve them with useful content that was created just to solve a problem or need. In the fallout from CA and its implications around user data, I still think there’s an important role for the use of specific data. “Imagine the impact you could achieve as a media company that informs a specific community,” I wrote.
The Verge

Facebook took a drastic step in getting its data together.

It’s cutting third-party providers out of ad targeting. The Partner Categories, which allowed advertisers to target segments like gamers or soda drinkers, are no more. Facebook has been mixing information on its platform (eg. Liked Pages) with information from advertisers (eg. loyalty programs), as well as data obtained from third-party providers. You can imagine the resulting concoction — and its risk. Experian and Acxiom will be among those locked out of the targeting functions.

#WTZ? Almost a whole week went by before Zuckerberg finally broke his silence on how Cambridge Analytica collected user data from Facebook without user consent.

About $50 billion was wiped off the company’s stock in the first two days (it’s recovered a little since). But everyone was asking — where was Zuck? His response, when it finally came, was standard FB: We messed up. We should do better. But he also went on to detail steps that FB will take to limit the amount of data app developers can pull to just your name, your email address, and your profile photo. Read his statement here.

How does a company that hires so many smart people do stupid shit like this?

Facebook said it asked users whether paedophiles requesting sexual pictures from children should be allowed on its website. In a policy survey, it asked: “In thinking about an ideal world where you could set Facebook’s policies, how would you handle the following: a private message in which an adult man asks a 14-year-old girl for sexual pictures.” First, it’s illegal in most countries. Second, WTF were you thinking with a question like that? Facebook said it was a “mistake.”
The Guardian

First Rupert. Now CNN chief Jeff Zucker wants regulators to start probing Facebook and Google for their role in disrupting the advertising industry and media.

“That’s where the government should be looking, and helping to make sure everyone else survives. I think that’s probably the biggest issue facing the growth of journalism in the years ahead.” Ultimately, journalism survives if people find it useful. I don’t think it’s up to government to make that happen.

A senior executive at Facebook created something of a shitstorm after tweeting a series of comments about the Russia investigation.

The U.S. Justice Department indicted 13 people for their alleged involvement in Russian meddling in the election. Rob Goldman, Facebook’s VP of advertising, tweeted to say that he was not only excited by the indictment, but that it showed “very definitively that swaying the election was not the main goal.” In doing so, Goldman unravelled months of policy work that Facebook has been doing behind the scenes to stay above partisan politics. It got worse: Trump retweeted him.