Social media and other tech companies are finally considering their approach to political ads and political content. In the past, Twitter and TikTok stated that they won’t host political ads, while Facebook defended the move in front of the US Congress.
The newest entrant to this club is Google. The company, it seems, has finally put restraints on political ads targeting voters based on age, gender, and location. Advertisers will not get any access to users’ political leanings or their public voting records.
US Election 2020, Vote Rigging And Tampering
The US Presidential Election 2020 will be the testbed for political content on social media platforms and its effects on voting patterns. Google, Twitter and Facebook have all been accused of influencing the 2016 elections and held responsible for bringing President Donald Trump to power.
The effect of all such policies will only be known post this election. One thing is certain, whether tech companies abstain or get involved in political content, their effect on any election globally cannot be denied.
“Given recent concerns and debates about political advertising, and the importance of shared trust in the democratic process, we want to improve voters’ confidence in the political ads they may see on our ad platforms,” Scott Spencer, VP, Product Management, Google Ads stated on the Google Blog on Wednesday.
The strategy will be tried out in the impending UK elections, the upcoming EU elections and in all other countries by January 6, 2020.
While all tech companies are taking steps to stay away from politics, Facebook seems to be the odd one out. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended political ads in front of the US Congress. However, even its subsidiary WhatsApp has not left things as they were.Related Stories
ZDNet reported on Thursday that WhatsApp banned nearly half a million accounts spreading misinformation in the Brazilian elections. Whether it impacted voting in any way is not yet known, but a massive crackdown on automated and bulk messaging was done. The interesting thing is that it was criticised by the winning party when it took the step.
Don Jr accuses Instagram of Anti-Trump conspiracy, campaign//Crimson Tazvinzwa
ROME (Reuters) – Accounts tagged ‘hatetrump’ and ‘ihatetrump’ are part of a coordinated campaign to undermine U.S. President Donald Trump that has emerged on social media site Instagram, an independent study has revealed.
The photo-sharing app Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, said it was investigating the report and had already removed some of the profiles it highlighted.
Malign online attacks against Trump’s opponents have been well documented, most notably in the 2016 presidential election campaign, when Russian trolls allegedly flooded social media sites to undermine the Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton.
Italian analytics firm Ghost Data says here the U.S. president is now facing similar illicit tactics, albeit on a limited scale, with false profiles being created and coordinated online attacks organised to spread a virulent anti-Trump message.
“We have uncovered a small operation that is very likely part of something bigger,” said Andrea Stroppa, the head of research at Ghost Data, which has previously published reports on online counterfeiting and malicious botnets.
Huawei is one of a number of phone manufacturers who use the Google-developed Android operating systems on its phones and tablets.
The Verge has reported that Google has cut off Huawei’s licence – meaning it will no longer be able to use apps like Maps and Gmail and will not have access to security updates.
Existing customers will be able to update their phones and apps, but will not be able to update to a newer version of the Android operating system if one becomes available.
Android said it had taken steps to “comply with the recent US government actions”.
This could be a reference to US president Donald Trump’s executive order apparently aimed at banning Huawei’s equipment from US networks and said it was subjecting the Chinese company to strict export controls.
The order – which empowers the US government to ban the technology and services of “foreign adversaries” deemed to pose “unacceptable risks” to national security – did not name specific countries or companies.
Meanwhile, retired brigadier general Robert Spalding, the former senior director for strategy at the National Security Council, wrote in the Daily Telegraph that the UK “must recognise” the strength of US feeling on Huawei.
He wrote: “Other nations must not make the mistake of thinking President Trump’s recent executive order banning companies like Huawei from US networks is merely an afterthought of the trade war.
“The severity of President Trump’s declaration underscores just how seriously the US views this issue, and the UK must recognise this strength of feeling.
“To miss the significance of his actions would be a grave misjudgment of how seriously we take our security in an ever-more dangerous world.”
Microsoft has announced the launch of a specially curated online Artificial Intelligence (AI) program aimed at enabling the developer community and workforces across organizations across India to harness the power of AI.
The five-day programme from May 27-31 would be addressed by data scientists and tech leaders from Microsoft, Flipkart, Reliance Jio and InMobi, the company said in a statement.
“With these virtual sessions, we aim to address the existing gap related to AI skills in Indian businesses. With experts from Microsoft and other industry leaders coming together, we are hopeful of imparting AI and ML skills to a larger talent pool,” said Dr. Rohini Srivathsa National Technology Officer – Microsoft India.
The programme will have a series of workshops to help participants build their skills and expertise in cloud computing, data sciences, AI and Internet of things (IoT).
On Monday WhatsApp urged all of its 1.5bn users to update their apps as an added precaution.
The attack was first discovered earlier this month.
How was the security flaw used?
It involved attackers using WhatsApp’s voice calling function to ring a target’s device. Even if the call was not picked up, the surveillance software would be installed, and, the FT reported, the call would often disappear from the device’s call log.
WhatsApp told the BBC its security team was the first to identify the flaw, and shared that information with human rights groups, selected security vendors and the US Department of Justice earlier this month.
“The attack has all the hallmarks of a private company reportedly that works with governments to deliver spyware that takes over the functions of mobile phone operating systems,” the company said on Monday in a briefing document note for journalists.
The firm also published an advisory to security specialists, in which it described the flaw as: “A buffer overflow vulnerability in WhatsApp VOIP stack allowed remote code execution via specially crafted series of SRTCP packets sent to a target phone number.”
The NSO Group is an Israeli company that has been referred to in the past as a “cyber arms dealer”.
Its flagship software, Pegasus, has the ability to collect intimate data from a target device, including capturing data through the microphone and camera, and gathering location data.
In a statement, the group said: “NSO’s technology is licensed to authorised government agencies for the sole purpose of fighting crime and terror.
“The company does not operate the system, and after a rigorous licensing and vetting process, intelligence and law enforcement determine how to use the technology to support their public safety missions. We investigate any credible allegations of misuse and if necessary, we take action, including shutting down the system.
“Under no circumstances would NSO be involved in the operating or identifying of targets of its technology, which is solely operated by intelligence and law enforcement agencies. NSO would not or could not use its technology in its own right to target any person or organisation.”
Who has been targeted?
WhatsApp said it was too early to know how many users had been affected by the vulnerability, although it added that suspected attacks were highly-targeted.
According to Facebook’s latest figures, WhatsApp has around 1.5bn users worldwide.
Amnesty International, which said it had been targeted by tools created by the NSO Group in the past, said this attack was one human rights groups had long feared was possible.
“They’re able to infect your phone without you actually taking an action,” said Danna Ingleton, deputy programme director for Amnesty Tech. She said there was mounting evidence that the tools were being used by regimes to keep prominent activists and journalists under surveillance.
“There needs to be some accountability for this, it can’t just continue to be a wild west, secretive industry.”
On Tuesday, a Tel Aviv court will hear a petition led by Amnesty International that calls for Israel’s Ministry of Defence to revoke the NSO Group’s licence to export its products.