Hillicon Valley: Facebook claims it 'does not profit from hate' in open letter | Analysis finds most of Facebook's top advertisers have not joined boycott | Research finds Uighurs targeted by Chinese spyware as part of surveillance campaign

Hillicon Valley: Facebook claims it 'does not profit from hate' in open letter | Analysis finds most of Facebook's top advertisers have not joined boycott | Research finds Uighurs targeted by Chinese spyware as part of surveillance campaign
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WE’RE INNOCENT: Facebook published an open letter Wednesday saying it does not benefit from hateful content as a campaign for advertisers to boycott the platform for its failure to moderate racist, sexist and otherwise objectionable content builds steam.

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"I want to be unambiguous: Facebook does not profit from hate," Nick Clegg, the company's vice president of global affairs and communications, wrote in the letter. "Billions of people use Facebook and Instagram because they have good experiences — they don’t want to see hateful content, our advertisers don’t want to see it, and we don’t want to see it. There is no incentive for us to do anything but remove it."

Clegg said that more than 100 billion messages are sent on the company's platforms every day, making it difficult to catch all the content that violates its policies.

"Unfortunately, zero tolerance doesn’t mean zero incidences," he wrote. "With so much content posted every day, rooting out the hate is like looking for a needle in a haystack."

The letter says that enforcement has gotten better while acknowledging that further changes are needed.

"We may never be able to prevent hate from appearing on Facebook entirely, but we are getting better at stopping it all the time," Clegg concluded.

The public defense of Facebook's content moderation comes as the platform begins to make changes in response to an advertising boycott that has ballooned to more than 400 brands.

CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergWhy bursting the tech salary bubble is a good thing House Democrat calls on Facebook to take down doctored Pelosi video Five takeaways from Big Tech's blowout earnings MORE has agreed to meet with the heads of the civil rights groups organizing the campaign, which calls on companies to pull their ad dollars from the platform for at least the month of July.

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Read more about the controversy here. 

 

BOYCOTT NOT MAKING WAVES: Most of Facebook’s top 100 advertisers have not joined the boycott against the social media website and its sibling website Instagram, according to a CNN Business analysis released Wednesday.

Hundreds of companies have pledged to stop advertising on Facebook and Instagram for a month-long boycott as a protest of how the social media company has handled hate speech and misinformation. 

But CNN Business’s analysis based on data from market research firm Pathmatics found most of Facebook’s top 100 advertisers – including Walmart, American Express and Home Depot – have not joined the boycott set to begin Wednesday. 

Out of the 25 biggest advertisers on Facebook, only three — Microsoft, Starbucks and Pfizer — have publicly announced their pledge to stop marketing on the platform. Those top 25 advertisers spend about $2 billion, or about 3 percent of Facebook’s 2019 revenues.

CNN Business noted the data found the overall boycott is likely to only have a limited impact on Facebook’s revenue since all of its 100 top advertisers make up only 6 percent of its advertising revenue. Most of its almost $70 billion in advertising revenue last year came from small and medium-sized businesses, according to financial statements. 

Facebook’s top 100 advertisers include AT&T, Walmart, Wells Fargo, Uber, Netflix, Domino’s and American Express.

Home Depot, Facebook’s largest advertiser that spent $178.5 million last year, told CNN Business that it is “watching … very closely” the actions that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said last week the company would take.

Read more about the ongoing ad boycott here. 

 

UIGHURS TARGETED BY CHINESE SPYWARE: The Uighur Muslim population has been the target of a Chinese campaign that used mobile spyware to conduct surveillance since at least 2013, a report released Wednesday found. 

The Lookout Threat Intelligence Team found evidence of four Android surveillance malware tools which largely targeted the Uighur population, likely as part of the Chinese government’s crackdown on the ethnic minority group. 

The spyware apps were able to gather and steal personal information off the devices and send it back to attackers, who according to Lookout were based in China. The company noted in its report that it believed the malware was downloaded to devices through phishing emails and third-party Android app stores, which are not secure. 

Lookout researchers also found evidence of the malicious spyware tools being used against Tibetans, Uighur Muslims living outside China, and Muslims in other parts of the world. 

The researchers observed a surge in creation of the surveillance malware that coincided with the beginning of China’s crackdown on the Uighur population in 2014, actions that have been harshly condemned by the international community for human rights violations. 

“The development timeline and targeting of these families also appear to align with Chinese national security directives and ‘counter-terrorism’ efforts as defined by the Chinese government,” Lookout researchers wrote. 

The study was released the same day the Departments of Commerce, Homeland Security, State, and the Treasury released an advisory warning American businesses against operating in China’s Xinjiang region due to concerns over human rights abuses against Uighurs. 

Read more about Chinese surveillance efforts here. 

 

CHINA HITS BACK AFTER HUAWEI, ZTE DESIGNATIONS: Chinese officials on Wednesday lashed out at the Trump administration over actions the U.S. has taken against two Chinese companies accused of close relationships with China's military.

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The Associated Press reported that a spokesperson for China's foreign ministry accused the Trump administration of “abusing state power” to slander Chinese the Chinese companies Huawei and ZTE “without any evidence.”

“We once again urge the United States to stop abusing the concept of national security, deliberately discrediting China and unreasonably oppressing Chinese companies,” said the spokesperson, according to the AP.

Beijing's latest statement comes as the Federal Communication Commission took action this week to block Chinese firms from receiving U.S. government subsidies, and follows the body formally designating ZTE and Huawei companies as national security threats on Tuesday.

“Both companies have close ties to the Chinese Communist Party and China’s military apparatus, and both companies are broadly subject to Chinese law obligating them to cooperate with the country’s intelligence services,” said FCC chairman Ajit Pai. “We cannot and will not allow the Chinese Communist Party to exploit network vulnerabilities and compromise our critical communications infrastructure.”

Read more about the issue here. 

 

BIG DAY FOR TRADE: The group that represents top technology executives in Washington lauded the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) on Wednesday as the new North American trade deal came into force.

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“The USMCA is a rare, bipartisan triumph, but the real winners today as the agreement is implemented are American consumers and employees," said TechNet president and CEO Linda Moore.

"More than 12 million U.S. jobs are supported by trade, and having an agreement with our top two trading partners that reflects today’s economy with a first-of-its-kind digital trade chapter is long overdue," added Moore.

The USMCA, a replacement for the quarter-century-old North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), formally entered into force Wednesday.

The new deal includes regulations on digital commerce, a major gap in NAFTA, which was negotiated in the early 1990s.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Trump camp considering White House South Lawn for convention speech: reports Longtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary MORE campaigned against NAFTA, which he repeatedly called "the worst trade deal ever," and successfully pushed Mexico and Canada to negotiate the USMCA amid threats of leaving the old deal without a replacement.

Congress passed the USMCA in a bipartisan manner, although progressives fretted about enforcement of the deal's labor chapter — another novelty vis a vis NAFTA — and there was controversy over the deal's potential effects on pricing for pharmaceutical drugs.

Read more about the trade deal here. 

  

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NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

A wall of silence holding back racial progress in tech: NDAs (Protocol / Emily Birnbaum) 

Lawmakers call for more transparency in health agency’s pandemic data collection practices (The Washington Post / Reed Albergotti) 

Amazon delivery drivers are overwhelmed and overworked by the COVID-19 surge (Vice Motherboard / Lauren Kaori Gurley) 

Schools already struggled with cybersecurity. Then came COVID-19 (Wired / Lily Hay Newman)