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Ukraine official Twitter-shaming firms to action over invasion

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Protesters hold a banner against Russian President Vladimir Putin during a demonstration in Sweden on March 2, 2022


Protesters hold a banner against Russian President Vladimir Putin during a demonstration in Sweden on March 2, 2022 – Copyright AFP CHARLY TRIBALLEAU

Joshua Melvin with Daniel Hoffman in Paris

Ukraine’s vice prime minister has been calling out big tech companies by name on Twitter to push them to penalize Russia over its invasion — and it’s having an impact.

Marshalling his government’s social media savvy and a deep international well of sympathy, Mykhailo Fedorov’s feed has become a list of firms willing to oppose Moscow or come to Ukraine’s aid.

“We need your support — in 2022 modern technology is perhaps the best answer to tanks, multiple rocket launchers and missiles,” he wrote in a letter he tweeted out Friday to Apple chief Tim Cook.

By Tuesday the iPhone maker had announced sales were halted in Russia, and Apple Pay services were limited.

The 31-year-old minister had also paid Cook a visit in the United States last year with the two discussing topics from training opportunities to Apple stores in Ukraine.

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Fedorov’s callouts only gathered pace after his tweet seeking Cook’s support, with subsequent ones noting Ukraine’s government had asked Google, Netflix, YouTube and Facebook to cut off Russia.

While those companies have not severed ties completely, all have announced actions ranging from restrictions on the spread of Russian state-owned media to resisting Kremlin requirements.

“You hold them accountable this way,” Larissa Doroshenko, a postdoctoral researcher at Boston’s Northeastern University said of the impact of calling out companies on Twitter.

“It’s a very savvy, very strategic way of social media because you can do it behind closed doors or… you can make it public,” she added.

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Fedorov, who is responsible for Ukraine’s digital matters, is part of a government that has built social media into its communication strategy from the start.

Doroshenko said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s campaign engaged with people on social media during the 2019 election, and his government has kept doing so once in power.

– ‘Gratitude from people of Ukraine ‘ –

Since Russia’s invasion last week, the 44-year-old president has used his eye for modern image management and the skills honed as an actor to deliver stirring messages on social media.

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“It has been adapted to these war times,” Doroshenko added.

Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine is one of the most dangerous global moments in decades, with spiking tensions as the West imposes unprecedented economic sanctions on Russia.

At the same time, support has poured in for embattled Ukraine and has ranged from kind words to flows of money, supplies and weapons.

“There are literally millions of people on the internet wanting to try and do something,” said Omar Wasow, an assistant professor of politics at Pomona College in California.

“So if he (Fedorov) does this callout of a particular company, and then thousands of people like and retweet what he’s doing that’s going to get the attention of those companies’ social media managers and ultimately CEOs,” he added.

Fedorov’s tweet with the appeal letter to Cook has gotten over 10,600 likes and retweets combined to date.

The tweet to Tesla boss Elon Musk asking for Starlink satellite internet service got over 200,000 likes and retweets.

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“While you try to colonize Mars — Russia try to occupy Ukraine!” the message began, with another more than 588,000 likes and retweets on Fedorov’s tweet showing the Starlink terminals had arrived.

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“In Ukraine, being the image of a younger democracy, we see social media used very similarly by regular people and by people in power,” Doroshenko added.

Fedorov has kept up his stream of callouts, urging video game developers like Riot Games to close any Russia operations. The company did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

He also tweeted letters sent to German software firm SAP and US tech giant Oracle urging them to cut any ties with Russia, noting “more sanctions imposed — faster peace restored in Ukraine!”

“Oracle Corporation has already suspended all operations in the Russian Federation”, the company replied, drawing this message from Fedorov: “With gratitude from all the free people of Ukraine!”



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Meta’s Adding More Ad Targeting Information to its Ad Library Listings

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Meta's Adding More Ad Targeting Information to its Ad Library Listings

In the wake of the Cambridge Analytics scandal, Meta has implemented a range of data protection measures to ensure that it limits access to users’ personal data and insight, while at the same time, it’s also been working to provide more transparency into how its systems are being used by different groups to target their messaging.

These conflicting approaches require a delicate balance, one which Meta has largely been able to maintain via its Ad Library, which enables anyone to see any ad being run by any Facebook Page in the recent past.

Now, Meta’s looking to add to that insight, with new information being added to the Ad Library on how Pages are using social issue, electoral or political ads in their process.

Meta ad targeting

As you can see here, the updated Ad Library overview will include more specific information on how each advertiser is using these more sensitive targeting options, which could help researchers detect misuse or report concerns.

As explained by Meta:

“At the end of this month, detailed targeting information for social issue, electoral or political ads will be made available to vetted academic researchers through the Facebook Open Research and Transparency (FORT) environment […] Coming in July, our publicly available Ad Library will also include a summary of targeting information for social issue, electoral or political ads run after launch. This update will include data on the total number of social issue, electoral and political ads a Page ran using each type of targeting (such as location, demographics and interests) and the percentage of social issue, electoral and political ad spend used to target those options.”

That’s a significant update for Meta’s ad transparency efforts, which will help researchers better understand key trends in ad usage, and how they relate to messaging resonance and response.

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Meta has come under scrutiny over such in the past, with independent investigations finding that housing ads, for example, were illegally using race-based exclusions in their ad targeting. That led to Meta changing its rules on how its exclusions can be used, and this new expansion could eventually lead to similar, by making discriminatory ad targeting easier to identify, with direct examples from Meta’s system.

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For regular advertisers, it could also give you some additional insight into your competitors’ tactics. You might find more detailed information on how other brands are honing in on specific audiences, which may not be discriminatory, but may highlight new angles for your own marketing efforts.

It’s a good transparency update, which should glean significant benefits for researchers trying to better understand how Meta’s intricate ad targeting system is being used in various ways.

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