Wij willen met u aan tafel zitten en in een openhartig gesprek uitvinden welke uitdagingen en vragen er bij u spelen om zo, gezamelijk, tot een beste oplossing te komen. Oftewel, hoe kan de techniek u ondersteunen in plaats van dat u de techniek moet ondersteunen.

Na maanden van gesprekken hebben adverteerders met Facebook, YouTube en Twitter afspraken gemaakt over het aanpakken van haatzaaien. Dat heeft de World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) bekendgemaakt, die het onderwerp een van de “uitdagingen van onze generatie” noemt.

De overeenkomst volgt op een onrustige zomer voor met name Facebook. In juli trokken meer dan duizend bedrijven hun reclames tijdelijk terug van Facebook en Instagram; ze vonden dat het bedrijf te weinig doet tegen haatzaaien en racisme.

De afspraken roepen nog wel veel vragen op over de precieze invulling, hier zal naar verwachting de komende maanden naar worden gekeken.

Definitie haatzaaien

Onderdeel van de afspraken die nu zijn gemaakt, is onder meer dat er een gezamenlijke definitie van “schadelijke content” komt. De definitie varieert momenteel van platform tot platform, waardoor het volgens de adverteerdersorganisatie voor bedrijven lastig is om te bepalen waar ze hun reclames willen plaatsen.

Daarnaast moet de werkwijze waarop platforms rapporteren over dergelijke content worden “geharmoniseerd”, dit heeft als doel om adverteerders meer duidelijkheid te geven over hoe het beleid wordt toegepast. Ook komt er onafhankelijk toezicht op hoe Facebook, Twitter en YouTube uitvoering geven aan hun beleid.

Unilever zei in juli van dit jaar dat alleen als zo’n toezichthouder er kwam het bedrijf zou stoppen met de reclameboycot.

Facebook noemt de afspraken in een verklaring een “ongewone samenwerking” die moet helpen om online haat tegen te gaan. Twitter laat weten trots te zijn op wat er is bereikt en het bedrijf gelooft dat de veranderingen “gaan helpen om een plek te creëren voor gezonde publieke conversaties”.

‘Nog geen overwinning’

Twee grote adverteerders, Mars en Unilever, noemen de afspraken tegenover de Financial Times een goede eerste stap, maar zijn ook nog terughoudend en willen eerst de uitwerking zien. “We spreken nog niet van een overwinning”, zegt Mars’ hoofd marketing Jane Wakeley, maar ze noemt het wel een “belangrijk mijlpaal”.

Unilever, dat eerder aankondigde tot het einde van het jaar in de VS niet meer te adverteren op sociale media, is blij dat er meer één lijn komt in hoe techplatforms gaan rapporteren over haatzaaien. Vicepresident global media, Luis Di Como, zegt verder dat dit de “juiste voorwaarden” zijn om het adverteren weer te hervatten als de afspraken goed worden uitgevoerd.

Het initiatief van de reclameboycot tegen Facebook en Instagram kwam van een aantal burgerrechtenbewegingen in de vorm van de campagne #StopHateForProfit, bedoeld om zo verandering af te dwingen. Een gesprek in juli met Facebook werd door de organisatie achter de campagne bestempeld als “vruchteloos”.

Voor zover bekend heeft de organisatie #StopHateForProfit nog niet op de nieuwe afspraken gereageerd. De Nederlandse Bond van Adverteerders laat weten achter de gemaakte afspraken te staan en zegt ook zelf nog altijd in gesprek te zijn met Facebook over afspraken op lokaal niveau.

NOS Tech

Mensenrechtenorganisatie Human Rights Watch (HRW) maakt zich zorgen over de regels rond het archiveren van foto’s en video’s die socialemediaplatforms verwijderen. Een deel van dat materiaal zou volgens HRW van pas kunnen komen in onderzoek naar oorlogsmisdaden.

Beeldmateriaal dat volgens YouTube, Facebook en Twitter geweld verheerlijkt, of terreur of extreem geweld laat zien, worden door algoritmes snel verwijderd. Vaak nog voordat iemand het te zien krijgt.

Omdat er bijna geen menselijk oog aan de verwijdering van het materiaal te pas komt, is de organisatie bang dat potentieel bewijs van oorlogsmisdaden ongezien blijft.

Niet beschikbaar voor journalisten en wetenschap

“Een deel van de inhoud die Facebook, YouTube en andere platforms verwijderen, heeft een cruciale en onvervangbare waarde als bewijs van wreedheden op het gebied van mensenrechten”, zegt Belkis Wille, hoofd crisis- en conflictonderzoek bij Human Rights Watch.

Het verwijderde materiaal wordt volgens de organisatie niet altijd goed gearchiveerd, en wat er nog wel is, is dan alleen maar beschikbaar voor juridische instanties. En dus niet voor internationale wetenschappers, onderzoekers en journalisten, stelt HRW.

HRW zegt in een rapport dat er geen bewijs is gevonden dat de platforms ooit beeldmateriaal aan onafhankelijke maatschappelijke instellingen of journalisten beschikbaar heeft gesteld. Het rapport heet Video niet beschikbaar – Sociale Mediaplatforms Verwijderen Bewijs van Oorlogsmisdaden.

Onafhankelijke partij

De mensenrechtenorganisatie stelt een transparant systeem voor, waarin de platforms beeldmateriaal met mogelijk oorlogsmisdaden bij een onafhankelijke derde partij onder kunnen brengen. Dat systeem zou dan toegankelijk moeten zijn voor onderzoekers, justitie en andere belanghebbenden.

Daarnaast vindt HRW dat sociale media moeten voorkomen dat hun verwijderingssystemen te breed of te bevooroordeeld zijn ingesteld en moeten gebruikers in beroep kunnen gaan tegen verwijdering.

NOS Tech

Veteran journalist Maria Ressa, the founder of Filipino independent news site Rappler, was found guilty on Monday of cyber libel charges by a Manila court. She faces up to six years in prison. Critics of the charges, which include prominent human rights and press freedom advocates, say charges filed against Ressa and Reynaldo Santos Jr, a former Rappler researcher and editor, demonstrate how the government is cracking down on media freedom and the independent press in the Philippines.

After Ressa was arrested in February 2019, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a statement that said Ressa’s treatment “appears to be the latest element in a pattern of intimidation of a media outlet that has fiercely guarded its independence and its right to conduct in-depth investigations and to criticize the authorities.”

Both Ressa and the journalists of Rappler, which was founded in 2012, have written critically about the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte, conducting investigations into corruption charges.

Ressa and Santos were arrested in 2019 on cyber libel security charges related to an article published in 2012 that reported on the alleged ties between Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona, who was impeached in 2011, and wealthy businessmen including Wilfredo Keng.

Keng filed the cyber libel complaint against the two journalists in 2017. The five year gap between the article’s publication and Keng’s complaint was much longer than the one-year prescriptive period for ordinary libel in the Philippines’ penal code, and in order to charge Ressa and Santos, the Department of Justice extended that period to 12 years for cyber libel. Rappler’s legal counsel argued this could impact their constitutionally protected rights.

In today’s verdict, issued by Manila Regional Trial Court Judge Rainelda Estacio-Montesa, Rappler was found to have no liability, but Ressa and Santos were both found guilty and ordered to pay 200,000 pesos (about $ 3,978 U.S. dollars) in moral damages and another 200,000 pesos fine in exemplary damages. They are entitled to post-conviction bail and an appeal the verdict.

In a statement after the verdict, Amal Clooney, the head of Ressa’s legal defense team, said, “This conviction is an affront to the rule of law, a stark warning to the press, and a blow to democracy in the Philippines. I hope the appeals court will set the record straight in the case.”

Ressa said, “Freedom of the press is the foundation of every single right you hvae as a Filipino citizen. If we can’t hold power to account, we can’t do anything. Are we going to lose freedom of the press? Will it be death by a thousand cuts, or are we going to hold the line so that we protect the rights that are enshrined in our constitution?”


TechCrunch

The Gillmor Gang — Frank Radice, Michael Markman, Keith Teare, Denis Pombriant, Brent Leary, and Steve Gillmor . Recorded live Saturday, May 9, 2020. For more, subscribe to the Gillmor Gang Newsletter.

Produced and directed by Tina Chase Gillmor @tinagillmor

@fradice, @mickeleh, @denispombriant, @kteare, @brentleary, @stevegillmor, @gillmorgang

Liner Notes

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TechCrunch

In a memo titled “The Course Ahead,” Vice Media Group CEO Nancy Dubuc announced a large round of layoffs to staff. The number includes 155 workers — 55 of whom will lose their jobs today. The remaining 100, meanwhile, will be let go in the coming weeks. The figure comprises around 5% of the company’s overall headcount.

Dubuc cites “tough decisions” in the memo, noting that the company has “done absolutely everything we could to protect these positions for as long as possible, and your time and contributions will forever be part of who we are and who we will become.”

Vice’s Union confirmed the figure, noting that the 55 are coming from U.S.-based operations, while the other 100 will be pulled from the company’s international operations. The Union adds that, contrary to Dubuc’s claims, “Vice repeatedly refused to discuss workshare programs” that might have be used to lower the impact on job figures. The union for Vice Media-owned Refinery29 echoed the statements in its own tweet.

Nancy Dubuc

LAS VEGAS, NV – JANUARY 10: A+E Networks President and CEO Nancy Dubuc participates in a keynote panel on the future of video at CES 2018 at Park Theater at Monte Carlo Resort and Casino in Las Vegas on January 10, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. CES, the world’s largest annual consumer technology trade show, runs through January 12 and features about 3,900 exhibitors showing off their latest products and services to more than 170,000 attendees. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Vice is hardly alone, of course. Even as more people have their eyes glued to computer screens and news reports, revenue has declined during the COVID-19 crisis. Reporting on itself, The New York Times noted its own revenue struggles, even as digital subscriptions have climbed,

In keeping with a trend that has affected other news organizations during the pandemic, The Times attracted new readers while the money it brought in from advertising plummeted. Overall ad revenue fell more than 15 percent, to $ 106.1 million, in the quarter. Digital ad revenue declined 7.9 percent, while print ad revenue had a drop of 20.9 percent.

It’s a familiar and frustrating refrain across the board. Even with readership up for some, companies simply aren’t spending on ads during the pandemic. Times likes these, the ad revenue model feels like a precarious house of cards on top of which media empires have been built. Buzzfeed, Vox and Bustle have all announced either layoffs, pay cuts or employee furloughs in recent weeks, leaving many to ponder at the future of the already precarious world of digital media.

It’s true that publications suffer every time a slight gust of wind upsets the state of the economy, but the COVID-19 recession feels different in virtually every way. In addition to the 36 million Americans who have filed unemployment since the start of the crisis, the pandemic has had extraordinarily far reaching impacts on ever aspect of the economy. Not even ad giants like Facebook and Google are immune from the effects. A report from late March noted that the internet giants could see a combined loss of $ 44 billion in ad revenue before year’s end.

Digital media has felt like a precarious industry for some time. The effects of economic recessions and feelings of distrust against media sowed by the White House have made the last few years particularly difficult. The addition of the unprecedented uncertainty of COVID-19 is adding rocket fuel to that fire.

We’ve reached out to Vice for comment.


TechCrunch

Joichi Ito, the embattled director of the M.I.T. Media Lab, has stepped down according to a statement by MIT’s president, L. Rafael Reif. The news was first reported by The New York Times, which had received a copy of an email sent by Ito to university provost Martin A. Schmidt.

“After giving the matter a great deal of thought over the past several days and weeks,” the now-former director writes, “I think that it is best that I resign as director of the media lab and as a professor and employee of the Institute, effective immediately.”

In addition to resigning as director, Reif’s statement also confirmed that Ito resigned as a professor of the university.

The ‘matter’ to which the letter refers to is Ito’s reported connections to Jeffrey Epstein. The financier died in prison by hanging on August 10, following an arrest a month prior on federal charges of sex tracking minors.

Ito was among several high profile and powerful people whose alleged ties to the disgraced billionaire came into sharp focus following his arrest. In the immediate aftermath of that arrest, it came to light that the MIT Media Lab and Ito personally received funds from Epstein, to which Ito apologized in an August 15th letter.

The allegations against Ito intensified overnight following a report by Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker that Ito’s engagement of Epstein were far deeper than had been previously been acknowledged. According to emails and documents discovered by Farrow, Ito and MIT Media Lab’s head of development, Peter Cohen, worked in tandem to conceal Epstein’s contributions from MIT’s central fundraising office, such as by marking donations anonymous and keeping his name out of disclosure statements.

Ito has long stood firm that the facts of his relationship with Epstein have been misreported. In an email to the Times, Ito said that the New Yorker piece was “full of factual errors.”

In response to Farrow’s piece, M.I.T, president L. Rafael Reif in today’s statement said:

Because the accusations in the story are extremely serious, they demand an immediate, thorough and independent investigation. This morning, I asked MIT’s General Counsel to engage a prominent law firm to design and conduct this process. I expect the firm to conduct this review as swiftly as possible, and to report back to me and to the Executive Committee of the MIT Corporation, MIT’s governing board.

The MIT Media Lab is a storied research center with a long legacy of contributions to science, technology, and innovation. There are no indications yet on who might replace Ito.

In addition to the MIT Media Lab, Ito sits as a board director for The New York Times Company, where he sits on the company’s audit committee.

One can’t help but point out a perennial tweet that Ito wrote more than a decade ago about fundraising:


TechCrunch

Internet platforms like Google, Facebook, and Twitter are under incredible pressure to reduce the proliferation of illegal and abhorrent content on their services.

Interestingly, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg recently called for the establishment of “third-party bodies to set standards governing the distribution of harmful content and to measure companies against those standards.” In a follow-up conversation with Axios, Kevin Martin of Facebook “compared the proposed standard-setting body to the Motion Picture Association of America’s system for rating movies.”

The ratings group, whose official name is the Classification and Rating Administration (CARA), was established in 1968 to stave off government censorship by educating parents about the contents of films. It has been in place ever since – and as longtime filmmakers, we’ve interacted with the MPAA’s ratings system hundreds of times – working closely with them to maintain our filmmakers’ creative vision, while, at the same time, keeping parents informed so that they can decide if those movies are appropriate for their children.  

CARA is not a perfect system. Filmmakers do not always agree with the ratings given to their films, but the board strives to be transparent as to why each film receives the rating it does. The system allows filmmakers to determine if they want to make certain cuts in order to attract a wider audience. Additionally, there are occasions where parents may not agree with the ratings given to certain films based on their content. CARA strives to consistently strike the delicate balance between protecting a creative vision and informing people and families about the contents of a film.

 CARA’s effectiveness is reflected in the fact that other creative industries including televisionvideo games, and music have also adopted their own voluntary ratings systems. 

While the MPAA’s ratings system works very well for pre-release review of content from a professionally- produced and curated industry, including the MPAA member companies and independent distributors, we do not believe that the MPAA model can work for dominant internet platforms like Google, Facebook, and Twitter that rely primarily on post hoc review of user-generated content (UGC).

Image: Bryce Durbin / TechCrunch

 Here’s why: CARA is staffed by parents whose judgment is informed by their experiences raising families – and, most importantly, they rate most movies before they appear in theaters. Once rated by CARA, a movie’s rating will carry over to subsequent formats, such as DVD, cable, broadcast, or online streaming, assuming no other edits are made.

By contrast, large internet platforms like Facebook and Google’s YouTube primarily rely on user-generated content (UGC), which becomes available almost instantaneously to each platform’s billions of users with no prior review. UGC platforms generally do not pre-screen content – instead they typically rely on users and content moderators, sometimes complemented by AI tools, to flag potentially problematic content after it is posted online.

The numbers are also revealing. CARA rates about 600-900 feature films each year, which translates to approximately 1,500 hours of content annually. That’s the equivalent of the amount of new content made available on YouTube every three minutes. Each day, uploads to YouTube total about 720,000 hours – that is equivalent to the amount of content CARA would review in 480 years!

 Another key distinction: premium video companies are legally accountable for all the content they make available, and it is not uncommon for them to have to defend themselves against claims based on the content of material they disseminate.

By contrast, as CreativeFuture said in an April 2018 letter to Congress: “the failure of Facebook and others to take responsibility [for their content] is rooted in decades-old policies, including legal immunities and safe harbors, that actually absolve internet platforms of accountability [for the content they host.]”

In short, internet platforms whose offerings consist mostly of unscreened user-generated content are very different businesses from media outlets that deliver professionally-produced, heavily-vetted, and curated content for which they are legally accountable.

Given these realities, the creative content industries’ approach to self-regulation does not provide a useful model for UGC-reliant platforms, and it would be a mistake to describe any post hoc review process as being “like MPAA’s ratings system.” It can never play that role.

This doesn’t mean there are not areas where we can collaborate. Facebook and Google could work with us to address rampant piracy. Interestingly, the challenge of controlling illegal and abhorrent content on internet platforms is very similar to the challenge of controlling piracy on those platforms. In both cases, bad things happen – the platforms’ current review systems are too slow to stop them, and harm occurs before mitigation efforts are triggered. 

Also, as CreativeFuture has previously said, “unlike the complicated work of actually moderating people’s ‘harmful’ [content], this is cut and dried – it’s against the law. These companies could work with creatives like never before, fostering a new, global community of advocates who could speak to their good will.”

Be that as it may, as Congress and the current Administration continue to consider ways to address online harms, it is important that those discussions be informed by an understanding of the dramatic differences between UGC-reliant internet platforms and creative content industries. A content-reviewing body like the MPAA’s CARA is likely a non-starter for the reasons mentioned above – and policymakers should not be distracted from getting to work on meaningful solutions.


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