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FCC Commissioner Calls for TikTok to be Removed From US App Stores

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TikTok Expands Test of Downvotes for Video Replies, Adds New Prompts to Highlight its Safety Tools

Could TikTok be in for another legal challenge in order to remain in operation in the US?

It seems that the heat could be rising for the app once again, with FCC Commissioner Brendan Carr publishing an open letter that calls upon both Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores due to TikTok’s ‘pattern of surreptitious data practices’, which specifically relates to how it shares data with its Chinese parent company.

As per Carr:

“TikTok is not what it appears to be on the surface. It’s not just an app for sharing funny videos or memes. That’s the sheep’s clothing. At its core, TikTok functions as a sophisticated surveillance tool that harvests extensive amounts of personal and sensitive data.”

Care notes that TikTok tracks a range of data inputs, including search and browsing histories, keystroke patterns, biometric identifiers, draft messages and other metadata, while it can also access text, images, and videos that are stored on a device’s clipboard.

Or it could. Back in 2020, with the introduction of iOS 14, TikTok users noted that the app was tracking their Clipboard content, with the new iOS notifiers showing that TikTok was accessing the Clipboard every few seconds. Amid various questions around why it would need to do so, TikTok then said that it would remove from this element from the app – but still, the fact that TikTok was disingenuously sucking in more user data underlined concerns that it is indeed being used to glean maximum insight on its users. And with parent company ByteDance beholden to the CCP, under China’s controversial cybersecurity policies, the concern remains that TikTok could inadvertently be used as a surveillance tool in every market that it operates.

Carr further notes that bipartisan leaders in both the Senate and House have flagged concerns about the app at different times, and says that the case against the app is compelling enough to remove it from the US entirely, either via policy ruling or by Apple and Google cutting it off from their platforms.

The policy route has already been tested, with former President Donald Trump issuing an Executive Order in 2020 that would have forced the sale of the app into US ownership, to alleviate data sharing concerns. Though the legal grounding for that push was never established, and shortly after the 2020 election, incoming President Joe Biden advised his staff to step back from the long-running TikTok challenge – though even then, Biden noted that he held concerns about the app and its systems.

Could those issues be reignited as a result of Carr’s letter?

It definitely seems like the key concerns remain, though TikTok would no doubt have hoped that it had side-stepped this issue by moving its US user data to Oracle servers, which it advised had been completed earlier this month.

Will that be enough to fend off another challenge?

As Trump’s original EO outlined, the key concern is TikTok’s Chinese-ownership, and so long as it remains in its current state, it also remains a security threat, at least to some degree.

This latest push may be just noise, as Carr is calling on others to take action. But it reawakens the looming specter of Chinese spying, which Meta and many others have been pushing as a key reason to rid the US of the app.

I suspect that, with China-US relations remaining tenuous, the Biden administration will be hesitant to take action. But maybe that, in itself, will lead to louder calls to pull the plug on the app.



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Israeli president tells Musk he has ‘huge role’ in anti-Semitism

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Elon Musk, the world's richest person, said in video remaks that Hamas militants 'have been fed propaganda'

Elon Musk, the world’s richest person, said in video remaks that Hamas militants ‘have been fed propaganda’ – Copyright POOL/AFP Leon Neal

Israel’s president told Elon Musk on Monday that the tech mogul has “a huge role to play” to combat anti-Semitism, which his social media platform is accused of spreading.

The meeting came after the world’s richest person visited a kibbutz community devastated in attacks by Hamas militants on October 7, and met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and defence officials.

Musk has been criticised over what critics say is a proliferation of hate speech on X, formerly Twitter, since his takeover of the social media site in October 2022.

He has been accused by the White House of “abhorrent promotion” of anti-Semitism after endorsing a conspiracy theory seen as accusing Jews of trying to weaken white majorities.

Israel’s figurehead President Isaac Herzog told him: “Unfortunately, we are inundated by anti-Semitism, which is Jew hatred.

“You have a huge role to play,” he said. “And I think we need to fight it together because on the platforms which you lead, unfortunately, there’s a harbouring of a lot of… anti-Semitism.”

Musk did not mention anti-Semitism in his video remarks released by Herzog’s office, but said Hamas militants “have been fed propaganda since they were children”.

“It’s remarkable what humans are capable of if they’re fed falsehoods, from when they are children; they will think that the murder of innocent people is a good thing.”

On October 7 Hamas militants broke through Gaza’s militarised border into southern Israel to kill around 1,200 people and seize about 240 hostages, according to Israeli officials, in the worst-ever attack since the nation’s founding.

Vowing to destroy Hamas in response, Israel has carried out a relentless bombardment of targets in Gaza, alongside a ground invasion, that the Hamas government says has killed almost 15,000.

A temporary truce has been in effect since Friday.

– Talk of satellites –

Earlier Monday, Netanyahu and Musk discussed “security aspects of artificial intelligence” with senior defence officials, the Prime Minister’s Office said.

Musk and Netanyahu held a conversation on X following their tour of Kfar Aza, one of the communities attacked by Hamas.

“We have to demilitarise Gaza after the destruction of Hamas,” Netanyahu said, calling for a campaign to “deradicalise” the Palestinian territory.

“Then we also have to rebuild Gaza, and I hope to have our Arab friends help in that context.”

Netanyahu told Musk he hoped to resume United States-mediated normalisation talks with Saudi Arabia after Hamas’s defeat and “expand the circle of peace beyond anything imaginable”.

The war stalled progress towards a Saudi-Israel normalisation deal, and in early November Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler denounced the conduct of Israeli forces fighting Hamas in Gaza.

Israel’s Communications Minister Shlomo Karhi said his country had reached an understanding in principle on the use of Starlink satellites, operated by Musk’s company SpaceX, in Israel and the Gaza Strip “with the approval of the Israeli Ministry of Communications”.

Starlink is a network of satellites in low Earth orbit that can provide internet to remote locations, or areas that have had normal communications infrastructure disabled.

In September, Netanyahu urged Musk “to stop not only anti-Semitism, or rolling it back as best you can, but any collective hatred” on X.

Musk said at the time that while his platform could not stop all hate speech before it was posted, he was “generally against attacking any group, no matter who it is”.

X Corp is currently suing nonprofit Media Matters on the grounds that it has driven away advertisers by portraying the site as rife with anti-Semitic content.

Musk has also threatened to file suit against the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy group, over its claims that problematic and racist speech has soared on the site since he completed his $44-billion takeover.

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Is this X’s (formerly Twitter) final goodbye to big advertisers? It looks like it

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Is this X's (formerly Twitter) final goodbye to big advertisers? It looks like it

It looks like big advertisers are leaving X (formerly Twitter) for good and its owner Elon Musk couldn’t care less.

In the packed DealBook conference in New York on Wednesday, he bluntly told them to shove it. 

This response came after another round of advertisers including IBM, Apple, CNN and Disney bailed on his social network after Musk seemingly supported an antisemitic conspiracy theory last month by responding to an X user’s post — a move he’s since admitted was silly and apologized for. Musk was less remorseful over the uproar caused among advertisers, telling the room: “This advertising boycott is going to kill the company… let’s see how Earth responds to that.”

For many large marketers, this marks the end of a drawn-out farewell (lasting a whopping 13 months) to advertising on X since Musk took over. Surprisingly, even some of X’s own staff members are now calling it quits. Freelance journalist Claire Atkinson reported a “wave of resignations” from CEO Linda Yaccarino’s sales team, including a few of the remaining ad executives who were there before she officially joined in June. Musk’s actions are essentially reversing any recent progress made in reviving X’s advertising business.

Lou Paskalis, CEO and founder of AJL Advisory confirmed that Musk’s comments were indeed another extra nail in the already well sealed coffin because it reaffirmed what most large advertisers already know — Musk resents having to be beholden to them.

“He is trying to position their legitimate brand suitability concerns, largely precipitated by his ongoing antics on X, as a vast, left-wing conspiracy among advertisers to ‘blackmail’ him into constraining his right to free speech,” Paskalis said. “As someone who spent over three decades in the ad buying business, it’s laughable to think that we could all act with that level of coordination, presumably in secret.”

This event highlights how out of touch Musk is with what keeps his company running. He takes an ad boycott as a personal insult when, truthfully, it’s just part and parcel of managing a platform these days. Look at how often YouTube and Meta have dealt with similar issues over the years. The difference? The bigwigs at those companies prioritized protecting their businesses, not their public personas, and were willing to make compromises to win back advertisers. Not that it took much to win back those ad dollars — advertisers rely on those platforms as much as the platforms rely on them.

“It’s just a very sensible decision not to continue advertising on that platform which poses such a strong brand safety risk,” said Ebiquity’s chief strategy officer Ruben Schreurs. “To do all this on stage is unheard of, I’ve never seen anything like it before.”

The largest advertisers seem to agree. Unlike their previous boycotts of advertising on X, this one is permanent for many of them. Some of the most active accounts like Disney, Paramount, Liongsate and Sony Pictures haven’t posted in nearly two weeks. This chimes with what one senior ad exec, who had been in touch with a number of X’s advertisers over the past year, told Digiday last month. Advertisers who had continued to spend on the platform only paid a fraction of what they used to prior to Musk, out of fear of getting called out by Musk if they didn’t.

“It’s easier to pull advertising than it is to return, and what makes the X ad boycott unique is that it isn’t primarily about content adjacency or moderation,” said Jasmine Enberg, principal analyst, social media at Insider Intelligence. “Advertisers are concerned about the reputational damage and the uncertainty of doing business with Musk, and yesterday’s comments will deepen the rift between them.”

An impossible job has now become even more challenging for Yaccarino. Ad dollars weren’t exactly flowing into the social network before Musk’s latest rant. X has averaged a 55% year-over-year revenue decline, according to Guideline. This figure increased to 61% YOY between May and August 2023 — despite Yaccarino joining the company during the summer. 

“The hill she [Yaccarino] must climb to rekindle advertiser demand for the platform just went from steep to vertical,” said Paskalis. “I don’t know how anyone could overcome a direct verbal assault of the magnitude that Musk delivered at the DealBook conference against a customer base already alarmed by his previous rage inducing, divisive and dog whistle laden tweets. None of this will cause Linda to leave, in my opinion, as she sees quitting as failure and failure is not an option in her calculus, no matter what damage may be done to her reputation.”

X did not respond to Digiday’s request for comment.



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YouTube Adds New Analytics Cards, Simplifies its ‘Product Drops’ Feature

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YouTube Adds New Analytics Cards, Simplifies its ‘Product Drops’ Feature

YouTube’s making some updates to its Product Drops feature within live streams, while it’s also adding some new analytics cards, and testing a new format for its TV app.

First off, on Product Drops. YouTube’s changing the requirements for Product Drops in live streams so that more creators will be able to include drops to highlight their items.

Up till now, Product Drops have only been available to creators who’ve connected their Shopify stores, or have access to Google Merchant Center, while creators have also had to plan Product Drops in advance, and schedule them via Live Control Room. But now, YouTube’s giving more creators more ways to access the feature.

As per YouTube:

“Any creators who have connected to their first party stores, or are participating in the YouTube Affiliate Program can set up Product Drops in the live control room on YouTube. This means that more creators will be able to use Product Drops to boost sales and engagement on their live streams.”

YouTube will also now enable creators to implement Product Drops at any time during a live stream, eliminating the pre-planned requirement.

“This will give creators more flexibility to react to the moment, and drive excitement in real time.”

YouTube says that many creators have seen good response to their Product Drops, with the interactive, engaging process helping to drive hype, and spark more response from viewers.

Product Drops are available via the Live Control Room in YouTube Studio. You can read more about how they work here.

YouTube’s also updating its Community Posts creation flow, in order to simplify the process, and ideally get more channels posting text-based updated in the app.

Community Posts remain a lesser element, though YouTube’s been working to make them a bigger focus throughout the year, by adding additional engagement elements like pollsquizzesdisappearing updates, and more.

Simplifying the creation process is another step in boosting awareness, and potentially driving more interaction with you YouTube audience.

YouTube’s also adding some new revenue analytics cards, including “Total Members” insights (which includes subscriber data) and “Where Members Joined From”, which will provide more insight into what’s driving channel growth.

YouTube’s also adding new data on why users have canceled their membership within the insights tab in YouTube Analytics.

YouTube analytics cards

As you can see in this example, the new card will show the reasons why people have opted to stop their subscription to your channel, based on responses provided in the cancellation flow.

Finally, YouTube’s also experimenting with a new format for its TV app, which will make it easier to access different elements.

YouTube TV app

As you can see in this example, shared by 9t05Google, the new format will include bigger buttons to access different elements, and further customize your YouTube experience on the bigger screen.

Connected TV is the fastest growing viewer segment for YouTube, with more and more people now looking to consume YouTube content on their home TV set. As such, it makes sense for YouTube to roll out more updates aligned with big screen viewing in order to feed into this usage.

Some handy updates, across various elements, which are worth noting as you go about managing your YouTube presence.

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