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Twitter and Facebook Announce Over 6,000 Account Removals Related to Political Manipulation



As we head into the holiday break, both Twitter and Facebook have announced a raft of new profile and Page removals as part of each platform’s ongoing investigations into co-ordinated manipulation of their networks for political influence campaigns.

And the scope of these latest removals is significant – the largest action of its type yet reported by Twitter:

  • Twitter has removed 5,929 accounts originating from Saudi Arabia, which were part of a larger network of “88,000 accounts engaged in spammy behavior across a wide range of topics”.
  • Facebook has removed 39 Facebook accounts, 344 Pages, 13 Groups and 22 Instagram accounts which were part of a domestic-focused network that originated in the country of Georgia
  • Facebook has also removed 610 accounts, 89 Facebook Pages, 156 Groups and 72 Instagram accounts that originated in Vietnam and the US. The network of accounts focused primarily on the US and some on Vietnam, Spanish and Chinese-speaking audiences globally.

Of specific interest in this case is that, as reported by The New York Times, Facebook found that the latter instance – a network linked to Epoch Media Group – the Pages and profiles utilized “fake profile photos which had been generated with the help of artificial intelligence.”

Facebook AI profile pictures

That’s a particularly concerning development, which could point to the next phase of digital manipulation campaigns.

Twitter’s investigation focused on a Saudi marketing company called Smaat, which runs both political and commercial operations. Twitter says that while Smaat looks like a standard social media management agency on the surface, the company has links to the Saudi royal family, and recruited two Twitter employees “who searched internal databases for information about critics of the Saudi government”. 

Smaat-operated profiles have sent over 32 million tweets, and gained millions of followers – and while many of the tweets from these profiles appear innocent, there are propaganda messages mixed in.

These profiles also regularly asked users to “retweet” or “follow”, which lead to the creation of smaller sub-groups growing within the networks. Twitter also notes that there was “a substantial amount of automated “fluff” to make it hard to figure out what the accounts were focused on”.

The level of detail here is interesting, and provides some insights into the evolving tactics of such operations. Facebook has also provided specific examples of posts shared by the profiles it’s removed for coordinated inauthentic behavior.

Facebook fake story

​These new account removals add to the thousands of documented account/profile deletions for coordinated manipulation across the two social platforms this year.

Here’s a reminder of the scope of those activities – all from 2019:

  • Twitter removed 4779 accounts and their activity originating from Iran, while Facebook removed more than 800 Pages and 36 Facebook accounts, also linked to Iranian-backed organizations (initial action in January).
  • Facebook removed 265 Facebook and Instagram accounts, Pages, Groups and events linked to Israel.
  • Facebook removed 500 Facebook accounts, Pages and Groups linked to Russia (initial findings from January), while Twitter removed 4 accounts which were found to be connected with Russia’s Internet Research Agency (which has been linked to manipulation leading into the 2016 US Presidential Election)
  • Facebook removed 103 Pages, Groups and accounts on both Facebook and Instagram which had been found to be engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior as part of a network that originated in Pakistan
  • Facebook removed 687 Facebook Pages and accounts which had engaged in coordinated inauthentic behavior in India
  • Facebook took action against 420 Pages, Groups and accounts based in the Philippines which engaged in “coordinated inauthentic behavior” on Facebook and Instagram (initial action in January)
  • Facebook banned 2,632 Pages, Groups and accounts which were found to be connected to state-backed operations originating from Iran, Russia, Macedonia and Kosovo
  • Facebook removed 137 Facebook and Instagram accounts, Pages and Groups which were part of a domestic-focused network in the UK
  • Facebook took action against 4 Pages, 26 Facebook accounts, and 1 Group which originated from Romania
  • Twitter removed 130 accounts linked to Spain
  • Facebook removed 168 Facebook accounts, 28 Pages and eight Instagram accounts for engaging in “coordinated inauthentic behavior” targeting people in Moldova
  • Facebook removed 234 accounts, Pages and Groups from Facebook and Instagram as part of a domestic network in Indonesia
  • Twitter removed 33 accounts connected to Venezuela
  • Facebook removed 9 Facebook Pages and 6 Facebook accounts for engaging in “coordinated inauthentic behavior” originating from Bangladesh
  • Facebook also took increased action in Myanmar, including the removal of at least three co-ordinated misinformation networks.
  • Twitter and Facebook both removed networks of accounts sharing misinformation around the Hong Kong protests – Twitter removed 936 accounts, originating from within China, in August.

With the 2020 US Presidential election looming, you can bet that this will remain a key area of focus for both platforms, while, at some stage, there may also be a push for Facebook, in particular, to take stronger action against Pages which share false and misleading content.

At present, Facebook says that:

Pages that repeatedly publish or share misinformation will see their distribution reduced and their ability to monetize and advertise removed.”

The removal of monetization is significant, but at some stage, Facebook might also need to consider removing these Pages altogether, as a means to further reinforce the need for admins to better vet the content they share and/or create, in order to stop the spread of false reports. If there’s a risk of losing your Page entirely – as opposed to facing a temporary sanction – that could put more onus on Page managers to be more diligent, and not simply post whatever comes across their path, and aligns with their cognitive bias.

Of course, any measure of this type is more complex in practice, and Facebook doesn’t want to get into overt censorship. But if misinformation is once again a key driver of voter behavior in 2020, you can bet the calls for more action on such will only get louder. And Facebook, in particular, is at the core of such distribution.


Tarte Influencer Marketing Criticized 01/31/2023



Tarte Influencer Marketing Criticized 01/31/2023

With consumers obsessed over the price of a dozen eggs, could conspicuous consumption-driven influencer marketing falling out of favor? That is the question brands might be considering after the
backlash that cosmetics brand Tarte is receiving after a sponsored trip to Dubai. “Influencers were called out for appearing not …

Read the whole story at Marketing Brew »

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Twitter Applies for US Licenses to Facilitate In-App Payments



Twitter Applies for US Licenses to Facilitate In-App Payments

Twitter has taken its next steps towards facilitating payments in the app, with The Financial Times reporting that the company has begun applying for regulatory licenses in US states, the next legal requirement for providing payment services in the app.

Payments, which Elon Musk has a long history in, could be another way for Twitter to generate revenue, by enabling transactions between users, from which it would then take a small percentage. Musk has repeatedly flagged his vision for payments as part of his broader push to make Twitter into an ‘everything app’, which would provide more functionality and usage benefits.  

As reported by FT:

In November, Twitter registered with the US Treasury as a payments processor, according to a regulatory filing. It has now also begun to apply for some of the state licenses it would need in order to launch, these people said. The remainder would be filed shortly, in the hope that US licensing was completed within a year, one of the people said.”

From there, Twitter would also look to establish agreements with international regulators to enable payments in all regions.

As noted, payments are a part of Elon’s broader plans for a more functional app, which would replicate the utility of China’s WeChat, which is used by Chinese citizens for everything from ordering groceries, to buying public transport tickets, to paying bills, etc. WeChat has become such a crucial connective element, that it formed a key part of China’s COVID response, with authorities using the app as a means to manage COVID positive citizens and restrict their movement.

Musk isn’t ideally looking to use Twitter as a control device (I don’t think), but the broader concept is to add in more and more functionality, in order to both generate more income for the company, and make the app a more critical element in the interactive landscape.

Twitter’s already exploring several options on this front.

Several app researchers have uncovered mock-ups for Twitter Coins in the back-end of the app.

Via Twitter coins, users would be able to make donations to creators in the app, through on-profile tipping, but beyond that, Twitter’s also exploring options like unlockable tweets, paywalled video, and more, as it seeks to embed broader usage and adoption of in-app payments.

A big opportunity also exists to facilitate remittance, or sending money to family and friends, which is a key use case in many regions. Remittance payment services often charge processing fees, and various social apps have been trying to find new ways to facilitate such without the same costs, with the idea being that once people are moving their money in-app, they’ll then be more likely to spend it in the same place.

Thus far, social platforms that do offer payments haven’t been able to embed this as a use case – but maybe, with Musk’s experience, knowledge and connections, he might be able to make this work in tweets.

Elon, of course, got his start in payments, with his first company, an online bank called, being bought out by PayPal in 1999, his first big business win. And while his focus has since shifted to electric cars and rockets, Musk has keen understanding of the digital payments space, and how it can be adapted for varied usage.

According to reports, Musk told Twitter investors in May last year, that his aim was to see Twitter bring in about $1.3 billion in payment revenues by 2028.

That would give the company a sorely needed boost. After Musk’s cost-cutting efforts, which have resulted in the reduction of around 70% of Twitter staff, the company could be on track to potentially break even this year, or close, but a lot has to go right to get the platform back on track. And with advertisers continuing to back away from Twitter spend, it’s not looking good, while subscriptions to Twitter Blue are unlikely to provide much relief, at least at this stage.

As such, the shift into payments can’t come fast enough, though it’ll still be some time before we see the possibility of in-app payments.

Also, while Musk has made it clear fiat currency will be the main focus of this push in its initial phase, cryptocurrencies could also, eventually, be included. The price of Dogecoin, Musk’s favorite crypto offering, rose to a 24-hour high after news broke of Elon’s expanded payments plan.

Will payments be the answer to Twitter’s revenue woes? Maybe, if Elon’s vision for billions in payments revenue comes to fruition – and with his previous track record, you can’t dismiss the notion entirely.

But it’ll take time, many approvals, and many more steps before we reach the next stage.

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Social Responsibility And Ethics In Influencer Marketing



Social Responsibility And Ethics In Influencer Marketing

Chief Growth Officer (CGO) at HypeFactory, a global influencer marketing agency.

It’s no secret that influencer marketing popularity has skyrocketed over the past couple of years, and partnering with influencers isn’t a new concept. Just over the past year, the industry was valued at $16.4 billion and still keeps growing, with a whopping revenue forecast of $143.10 billion in 2030.

Since the beginning of influencer marketing, people have talked about how influencers and social responsibility fit together. It stands to reason that influential people would use their large fan bases to help others. However, when influencers and businesses collaborate, they each have specific responsibilities to the communities in which they operate.

Sponsorship Transparency And Gender Stereotypes

One of the most critical skills for an influencer is honesty. Influencers base their marketing strategy on being genuine and sharing personal tales and thoughts with their target audience. They are not celebrities living in a bubble of fame that very few of their followers will ever reach; instead, they live lifestyles that are reachable and use items that their viewers would find helpful. This approach has significantly contributed to their immense level of success.

However, many influencers don’t play by the rules, especially when it comes to impressing brands they’ve made deals with, even though transparency is essential to the sustainability of an influencer’s career. Because of this, many people would think that the most important ethical issue in influencer marketing is sponsorship disclosure.

The United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) in the United Kingdom have all put out rules about how influencers should be honest in their posts and about their relationships with brands. If you disobey the regulations, you risk facing penalties, fines and legal bills. You also risk losing the trust of your customers for good.

Moreover, when doing influencer marketing, it’s essential to consider gender stereotypes and how people usually think men and women will act in different situations. The Committee on Advertising Practice (CAP) has said that since June 2019, marketing materials could no longer show men and women in ways that are based on stereotypes. These rules state that ads “must not use gender stereotypes that are likely to hurt or offend a large number of people.” Great campaigns, like Nike’s “Dream Crazier,” have challenged gender preconceptions.

Improving Influencer Marketing’s Reliability And Authenticity

Authenticity is essential in influencer marketing. People listen to influencers who are honest and relatable. In addition to the moral problems I mentioned above, brands and influencers must also follow FTC rules, community guidelines and terms of service on social media platforms.

Based on my experience as a chief growth officer at a global influencer marketing agency, here are some things brands must consider for influencer partnerships that are authentic and reliable.

Outline—and stick to—the ethical principles that your brand stands for.

Before you can begin your search for the ideal influencers, you must first understand the core principles of representing your business. Most businesses start by determining their values and ethics early on. They then use these to build their brand identity. It’s up to each company’s brand to decide where they will draw the line and how they will show their core values on social media.

However, consumers place a high value on consistent honesty. Customers are likely to call out your company for being hypocritical if it says it wants to fight racism but then partners with an influencer who has a history of making small slights against people of color. Or if your company promotes equal pay yet pays female influencers less than it does male influencers, contributing to the continuation of the pay gap between male and female influencers.

As a result, you will likely lose the trust of these customers.

Collaborate with real influencers.

One of the most effective ways to stick to influencer marketing principles is by collaborating with real-life influencers. Choosing the right influencers is crucial for building consumer confidence in your product.

Determine which influencers are authentic and have credibility with your intended audience. Specifically, it would be best to look at how many people engage with their content and how good it is. Even though engagement numbers are essential, they only tell part of the story about an influencer’s reliability. Please pay close attention to their writing style, the brands they’ve worked with, the accuracy of their reviews, etc.

Develop a long-term partnership.

When you’ve found a group of genuine, influential people with whom you can collaborate successfully, it’s crucial to keep in touch with them over time. Even if they are paid to review a product, genuine influencers always give honest opinions. Because they follow all the rules, the spectator can have more faith in them.

Consequently, after a shortlist of influencers has been compiled, you should perform authenticity checks. Check their content feed for branded articles. Make sure that any disclaimers you find adhere to the first point’s disclosure guidelines. Consistently partnering with the same influencers demonstrates to customers that you value their brand’s success just as much as they do, which can increase consumer confidence in your business.


Authenticity serves as the cornerstone of the influencer marketing strategy. Influencers earn the trust of their followers and become successful when they always provide high-quality, authentic, relatable content.

In addition to the concerns over the morality of influencer marketing, brands and influencers must follow the criteria established by the FTC and the community guidelines and terms of service based on social media platforms. You can shield your brand from potential ethical and legal difficulties and still enjoy success with influencer marketing if you are aware of the expectations and follow certain best practices.

Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?

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