The need to ban political Ads on social media. Yair Cohen participates i...

Twitter, Facebook and Political Ads

An interesting developing story that demonstrates how #values and #MissionStatement impact on short and long term policies of two internet giants, Twitter and Facebook.

The issue:

The spread of fake news and disinformation on social media.

Background: Facebook has declared that it will take steps to either remove accounts that it believes spread disinformation or demote those accounts across its network, unless the disinformation is contained within paid Ads by political parties.

This has opened Facebook to accusations of hypocrisy and greed.
Read more on Twitter, Facebook, Political Ads and Mission Statements


Google's right to be forgotten ruled by top EU courts not to apply outside of EU - Yair Cohen talks with RT News

'The door isn't quite shut yet,' Yair Cohen speaks with RT news about the recent EU ruling on right to be forgotten not to be extended worldwide. 

The EU courts have said that currently, there wasn't any obligation for search engine operators to grant a request for de-listing on all of its versions across the world but it doesn't mean it won't ever be possible to be granted the right to privacy and the right to be forgotten globally. 


US law changes necessary as well as social media platform responsibility to counter extremism

Yair Cohen talked with Al Jazeera earlier this month about the connection between online gaming message boards and terrorism, following the aftermath of the El Paso shooting. 

The terrorist posted a white nationalist manifesto on 8chan (shut down, for now) before sharing the post on social media platforms and then proceeded to kill 20 plus people in a supermarket. 

There is a strong connection between the gaming community and extremists and social media platforms need to do a better job of policing since their sites promote the amplification of the hate speech. 

Should sites like this even exist? Al Jazeera asked Yair Cohen

Yair: Whether sites like this should exist, depends very much on how far we are willing to stretch the right to free speech. Each society and country places its own limits and carries out its own balancing act. The US has The Communications Decency Act which provides discussion forum operators such as 8chan (and now there are others replacing 8chan, using the same format), immunity from prosecution in relation to third party posts.
The reality is that the immunity exists, regardless of the question whether the website is being monitored or not. To remove these sorts of websites from the internet, there will need to be a change in the law in the US.

Al Jazeera: How can they be better policed and should they be shut down? 

Yair Cohen: The US government has found a creative way of policing websites such as 8chan (and Discord). They started to put pressure on public companies such as Google and Bing to completely delist links to those sites from mainstream search results. However, internet users have found ways around this ban on Google by using images which are much more difficult to identify as harmful. They post these images, with content from 8chan on social media networks, such as Twitter, Instagram and Google Image libraries.

Al Jazeera: Do they play a significant role in instigating hate and causing scenarios such as mass shootings?

Yair Cohen: Yes. There is evidence that websites such as 8chan did are used as breeding grounds for young extremists. Ironically, because those websites have been effectively outlawed by the mainstream search engines, they become increasingly attractive to teenagers and to anyone else who feel the need to rebel. Previous mass shooters have acquired a status of heroes amongst some extremists, who follow the murderers’ vision and mode of operation.

On the day of the mass shooting, 8chan users were commentating about the massacre and calling the terrorist 'our guy' as well as congratulating him on the amount of people that he had killed. 

Al Jazeera: Does the overall acceptance of online shooting games also "normalise" shootings?

Yair Cohen: Indeed. There is clear evidence that in some instances, online gaming channels normalise extremist websites like 8chan did and now there are others. This is where gamers can move on particularly violent and offending conversations whilst avoiding the risk of being banned from certain gaming platforms.

Al Jazeera: What can be done about that?

Yair Cohen: Tighter control over social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, to be able to identify mass sharing of offending images. At the same time, there are increasing calls in the US for change in the law, which could find operators of discussion forums liable to posts by their users under certain circumstances. The US government are currently citing 'Freedom of Speech' issues as justification to refrain from joining an international initiative in reigning in extremist content on social media but Freedom of Speech does not exist if marginalised groups are being threatened, attacked and killed digitally and physically. 

Yair Cohen, Social Media Expert and Internet Law Lawyer, founder of Cohen Davis, is also the author of The Net is Closing: Birth of the e-police. It is a powerful debate about the future policing of the internet and is a fascinating insight into the internet and our society.


Yair Cohen Live on RT International Facebook privacy policy and your data

Facebook's new privacy feature 'Off-Facebook Activity', we are being told, is meant to allow users to turn off some or have all of their browsing; online shopping and other activities removed from their history from now onwards. 

Facebook collects data about its users' activities in order to gather information to target advertising to their users, of course, to profit through the sales of advertising and sales of data to third parties, including advertisers. 
Even with this new feature, after you have disconnected the apps and turned off your browsing, Facebook will continue to collect your data, without it being linked to your account, so Facebook will still benefit from your data which is collected outside your Facebook activities.The only difference is that it will not be allowed to use that particular data to target you with personalised ads.
If Facebook are so keen on 'giving people control over their data', it begs the questions of why the new tool will be hidden under one of the sub-menus, making it hard to access and also, why it will take 48 hours to implement, after you have requested to use the removal tool. 
It is also unclear how much detail Facebook is going to provide you about the nature of the data that is being passed on to it via the third party websites and apps.The information is expected to be very limited to the name of the website and the country of its origin.
It is astonishing how much information Facebook has about their users. You only to have to visit a site for a nanosecond or be redirected briefly to a site accidentally and those sites hold your data that is sent back to Facebook.
Working on this new feature over 12 months ago, Facebook referred to it as a 'clear history' tool, much like a web browser, where history can be deleted entirely. This new tool does not do that. It just severs identifying information. 
It seems that there is no way out of Facebook still benefiting from using your data, even if you are able to find the Off-Facebook feature under the sub-menu to use it.



Facebook launches reporting tool to clamp down on scam adverts in the UK

Facebook has created a reporting tool for scam adverts and donated £3m to Citizens Advice for an anti-scan project called Scams Action. 

The project was launched by Facebook after they agreed to treat the matter seriously after Martin Lewis, the consumer champion, dropped a lawsuit of defamation against them, for the many scam ads appearing on Facebook that were featuring his image with the endorsement that he was backing financial schemes and to click through on the fake ad. 

Scam adverts are often posted by fake companies that don't own, hold or dispatch what they are advertising and often use celebrity images to endorse false products like mobile phones, miracle medical breakthroughs, free trial offers, miracle face creams diet pills and 'get rich quick' bitcoin trading schemes.

As many Social Media platforms push advertising content and Facebook still does not allow users to deny advertising uploads of their personal data to Facebook, it has become easy for scammers to reach a broader audience. The UK faces an epidemic of online scam ads, yet there isn't a law or regulation to prevent them. Usually, these criminal scammers are based outside of the EU. 

Thousands of people have fallen victim to these ad scams and they have devastating effects on those that have been conned out of thousands of pounds and serious affects on their health if they have actually received the 'miracle new drug that replaces insulin'. 

The social media company's new scam ads reporting tool will involve a specially trained team investigating alerts raised by users, reviewing reports and taking down violating posts to clamp down on potentially misleading adverts. 

Citizens Advice project Scams Action (casa) will help those that have been impacted by scammers (it is estimated that 20,000 people are year are scammed) but also raise awareness of how to avoid scams, too. 

Many ad scams are obvious to lots of people but there are many that don't recognise them as scams and they are left vulnerable because when an advertisement appears on Facebook, they may feel that it is to be trusted; that Facebook would have vetted the company to protect its users, surely? Match that advert with a celebrity's face that is thought to be an opinion leader saying that they use the product or have invested in the company and now life is so wonderful and that is where the dangers lie. It is a ripe area for scammers and it is right that Facebook are doing something about protecting their users because it isn't just an issue with the ad scammers now. It is an issue for legitimate UK advertisers trying to get their brand message across. The ad scam issue dilutes trust.  

There are a few obvious things to look out for in spotting an ad scam:
  • The price is too good to be true - cheaper than it could be bought elsewhere
  • It's a too good to be true Miracle cream that gets rid of every wrinkle
  • Being asked to pay quickly and for any other personal information
  • The http address at the start of the URL should have an s at the end of http: https. This means that the website has a security certificate and that if you are paying by credit card, your card is encrypted. 
  • Check if there is an option of paying by Paypal which would give you added security. If there isn't an option, this should ring alarm bells. 
  • Spelling, grammar, poor images and no contact address on the page.

Facebook have also made updates in its Ad Preference menu to provide users with more information about businesses and third parties, including their email and phone numbers and other data. 

Yet, Facebook is still not letting their users deny advertiser uploads of their personal data to Facebook via Facebook itself. Users have to go through and contact each and every one individually and of course, how many people would do that? So, these users are still bombarded with all types of manipulative advertisements, which leaves them extremely vulnerable to ad scams. 

Social Media companies provide a vehicle to carry fake news and fake ads across the world. The reach is global and unquantifiable. It's collection of data has made it easy for these criminals that are creating these fake ads to manipulate the users on the social media platforms. 

Martin Lewis sued Facebook for defamation because his reputation was being ruined on their platform. 

Will the big tech giants understand the damage that their negligent behaviour can cause?

Global companies are the key to spreading better policing on the internet.

Online defamation refers to any untrue statement (and in this case an untrue endorsement) posted in an online context that causes or is likely to cause serious harm to someone's reputation or business.