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Russia fines Google, Meta record $125 mn over banned content

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Russia fines Google, Meta record $125 mn over banned content


Photo: © AFP

Anastasia CLARK

A Moscow court on Friday slapped Google with an unprecedented fine of nearly $100 million, while Meta (formerly Facebook) received a fine of $27 million.

In recent years Russia has been piling pressure on Western social media giants, with President Vladimir Putin saying those companies were becoming as influential as elected governments.

Moscow has repeatedly taken legal action against them for allegedly not moderating their content properly and interfering in the country’s affairs.

But so far fines on Facebook parent company Meta and Google have stretched into the tens of millions of rubles, not billions.

However on Friday a Moscow court fined Google a record 7.2 billion rubles ($98 million), while Meta (formerly Facebook) received a fine of 1.9 billion rubles ($27 million) for repeatedly failing to delete illegal content.

“For the first time, a Russian court has imposed fines that make up a share of the annual revenue of these companies in Russia,” Russia’s state communications regulator Roskomnadzor said in a statement.

The regulator said that Google and Meta had “ignored multiple demands” to remove materials that incite religious hatred and promote views of “extremist and terrorist organisations”, among other violations.

Over the past few years, the Russian government has used the pretext of protecting minors and fighting extremism to crack down on dissent and control the Russian segment of the web.

It has also begun developing a so-called sovereign internet that can operate independently.

Kremlin critics have accused authorities of muzzling independent media, saying now the government is zeroing in on the internet, considered the last bastion of free speech in Russia.

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The Western media giants have denied any violations in the past.

“We’ll study the court documents and then decide on next steps,” Google’s press service told AFP on Friday. There was no immediate comment from Meta.

On Thursday, Twitter was handed its latest fine of three million rubles ($40,000) after authorities started throttling its services in the spring.

– Fines and threats –

Ahead of parliamentary elections in September, Russia’s media watchdog blocked dozes of websites linked to jailed Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny, whose organisations have been outlawed in Russia as “extremist”.

The regulator also ordered Google and Apple to remove an app dedicated to Navalny’s “Smart Voting” campaign which advised supporters who to vote for to unseat Kremlin-aligned politicians.

The Silicon Valley giants complied, with sources telling AFP the decisions came after authorities threatened to arrest local staff.

Russia’s media regulator has also blocked dozens of websites linked to Navalny.

During protests in support of Navalny last winter, Russian authorities accused platforms including Google’s YouTube and Twitter of meddling in Russia’s domestic affairs by not deleting posts calling for people to join the rallies.

Putin at the time complained that large technology companies were competing with states.

Russia has already blocked a number of websites that have refused to cooperate with authorities, such as the video platform Dailymotion and LinkedIn.

As part of broad efforts to bend foreign social media under its control, Russia in September banned six major VPN providers including Nord VPN and Express VPN.

Russia also introduced a new law demanding that smartphones, computers and other gadgets sold in the country come with pre-installed domestic software and apps.

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Google Proposes New ‘Topics’ Approach to Replace Cookie Tracking

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Google Proposes New 'Topics' Approach to Replace Cookie Tracking


As part of its ongoing effort to phase out third-party cookie tracking, and replace it with a new, privacy-friendly data insights process for web publishers, Google has today announced a shift in its approach, with a new topic-based structure now being proposed to both protect user privacy and facilitate publisher insight.

The new process will replace Google’s FLoC, or ‘Federated Learning of Cohorts’ process, which it had been working on to replace cookies.

As explained by Google:

With Topics, your browser determines a handful of topics, like “Fitness” or “Travel & Transportation,” that represent your top interests for that week based on your browsing history. Topics are kept for only three weeks and old topics are deleted. Topics are selected entirely on your device without involving any external servers, including Google servers. When you visit a participating site, Topics picks just three topics, one topic from each of the past three weeks, to share with the site and its advertising partners.”

So instead of providing more specific insight on individual user behaviors and interests, Google would enable advertisers and publishers to utilize topics for tracking, protecting user information while also catering to third-party data needs.

Which makes some sense, though there are some provisos that will need to be ironed out before Google takes its topics approach live.

For one, Google says that the topics list would be limited to around 350 topics “to reduce the risk of fingerprinting”. Which would indeed ensure enhanced privacy, but if Google was to increase the number of topics, that could become problematic, enabling more specific, and potentially discriminatory targeting based on these elements.

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For its part, Google says that its list of topics is thoughtfully curated to exclude sensitive categories, such as gender or race”. So it should cover off on any such concerns, but still, the more options available, the more specific targeting can get, which may not be a significant enough improvement on current data privacy processes.

Another key question, much like Apple’s ATT update, is whether Google itself will be bound by the same tracking limitations as its customers.

Evidence suggests that Apple is not limited by the same data-privacy requirements as the apps that utilize its network, and with Google having direct access to the raw response data, it too would be able to use that as a market advantage, improving its own position.

That’s the basis of several current legal challenges to Apple’s ATT update, and indeed Google’s own plans, with publishers claiming that the shift to phase out external data-tracking is in violation EU law, on antitrust grounds.

The legal technicalities could change the approach from both entirely, and it is interesting to note what limitations Google will or won’t put on itself as a result of this proposed change.

From a user standpoint, Google says that Topics would give people more control over their online experience, as it will be more transparent than cookies.

“And, by providing websites with your topics of interest, online businesses have an option that doesn’t involve covert tracking techniques, like browser fingerprinting, in order to continue serving relevant ads.

It is an interesting proposal, which does appear to cater to both users and publishers, and facilitate ongoing ad targeting in a post-cookie environment. But there are some intricacies that we’ll need to see more detail on before we can assess the full viability of the option.

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But ideally, eventually, the proposal will enable advertisers to continue using more advanced online targeting, as opposed to cutting them off completely, and reducing the effectiveness of digital ads.

You can read more about Google’s new Topics proposal here.



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Twitter Updates Video Playback in the New Version of TweetDeck

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Twitter Updates Video Playback in the New Version of TweetDeck


Twitter has added another element to the preview version of the next stage of TweetDeck, which will now enable users to expand and watch video clips from a TweetDeck column as they continue to use the app.

As you can see in this example, now, when you click to play a video clip, it will stay docked at the bottom of your window if you scroll past, so you can keep watching while you check out the latest tweets in your streams.

You’ll also be able to undock the video playback, pin it to another location or dismiss the video, while the playback will also continue even if you switch decks, or remove the column that it came from entirely.

It’s the latest addition to the growing feature base in the updated TweetDeck, which Twitter first launched last July, and is still in invite-only Preview mode.  Selected users in the US, Canada and Australia can access the new format, though you can also get a sense of the new functions by temporarily gaining access by editing the HTML code on the site.

The updated version of the tweet management platform includes improved column creation, ‘Decks’ for building multiple dashboards in the app, updated tweet presentation, so you can see how your tweets will look before they go live, list discovery, DM management and more.

It’s a better-looking, better functioning version of TweetDeck, and given it’s now been in testing for six months, it seems likely that it will soon become the default version of the platform, available to all users.

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Though Twitter could also look to monetize it.

I mean, Hootsuite has over 200,000 paying users, and how many of them are utilizing its platform just to schedule tweets? If Twitter went the same route, and charged businesses a small fee for access to TweetDeck, along with additional enhanced tools, and ideally, updated tweet analytics, I suspect many would indeed pay, adding another revenue pathway for the company.

And with Twitter still working on subscription models and other revenue generation options, it could be a more viable pathway than, say, Twitter Blue, which hasn’t become a major winner as yet.

To be clear, Twitter has directly suggested that it might look to monetize TweetDeck, as such, though Twitter Product Chief Kayvon Beykpour, did make this comment on the launch of the TweetDeck Preview test last July:

“Through these tests, we’re exploring how we can give people more customization and control using TweetDeck. We want to get feedback on how we can expand TweetDeck’s offerings for those who use it the most. We’ll take these lessons into account as we explore what TweetDeck could look like within Twitter’s subscription offerings later on. We’ll have more to share soon as we learn from these tests.”

So Twitter has, at the least, considered the potential in this respect, and if it is looking to significantly enhance the tool, and add in advanced analytics, especially following the removal of its Audience Insights element from Twitter Analytics in 2020, then again, I would suggest that many brands would indeed pay.

There are valuable tools that Twitter could build in, based on existing third-party tweet analytics options, which could make it worth any extra cost, and brands would be keen to track more data if it becomes available.

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There are no new analytics elements in the TweetDeck Preview as yet, but it does seem like an area of potential as Twitter continues to evolve the tool.





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Twitter Adds New Data Tracking Options to Ad Manager, New Overview of Tag Events

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Twitter Adds New Data Tracking Options to Ad Manager, New Overview of Tag Events


Twitter has announced some new updates to its ad platform which are designed to streamline ad targeting, while also providing more insights on campaign performance.

First off, Twitter’s changing the name of its ‘Website Clicks & Conversions’ objective to ‘Website Traffic’, a more generalized header, which will now also include a new ‘Site Visits Optimization’ goal within your available campaign objectives.

As you can see here, now, when setting up a Website Traffic campaign, you’ll be able to use ‘Site visits’ as the goal, which will then direct Twitter’s system to serve your ads to audiences most likely to visit your website.

“By enabling the Twitter Website Tag, Twitter is able to track actions that audiences take on an advertiser’s website and attribute them to their Twitter ads campaigns.”

That will then enable Twitter’s systems to better determine audience objectives, and present your ads to the right users. Twitter says that it’s seen strong results with site visits in testing, and it’ll be interesting to see whether the new goal generates better direct response to your promoted tweets.

In addition to this, Twitter’s also adding a new aggregated view of site metrics and conversion events within Twitter Ads Manager, which Twitter’s adding as a means to counter data loss as a result of Apple’s ATT update, and more users opting out of in-app tracking.

The process will utilize data gathered via Twitter’s website tag to provide a generalized estimate of key metrics, by Ad Group, at campaign level, by device type (iOS or Android), and placement-level, where possible.

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The data obviously won’t be as accurate as you would get from direct reporting via the Twitter tag on each user response, but by providing some insight into user actions, Twitter will be able to replace a level of indicative insight that’s been lost due to the iOS change.

And finally, Twitter’s adding a new ‘Events Manager’ dashboard to manage your Twitter Website Tag and its associated web-based conversion events.

Twitter ads update

As you can see here, the new Events Manager overview will provide in-depth insight on tag events, enabling you to better track and utilize the data being gathered from your site visitors.

These are handy updates, more focused on advanced Twitter marketers, but facilitating new levels of ad performance insight, which could help to maximize your ad results. And while aggregated data is no replacement for direct attribution, in the wake of Apple’s ATT update, marketers need to work with what they can, and these supplemental insights will help to provide more guidance in your approach.

You can read more about Twitter’s new ad platform updates here.





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