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Facebook eyes revealing political ad backers; Kremlin says Twitter biased
by Staff Writers
San Francisco (AFP) Oct 27, 2017

Twitter ban on RT and Sputnik ads driven by bias: Kremlin
Moscow (AFP) Oct 27, 2017 - The Kremlin said Friday that Twitter's decision to ban advertisements from Russian media outlets RT and Sputnik was driven by prejudice, as Moscow threatened retaliation.

Twitter announced Thursday it was banning advertisements from Russia's state-controlled RT and Sputnik in response to US intelligence findings that they sought to spread misinformation during the 2016 presidential election.

"We regret this primarily because the company is becoming a victim of deep prejudices towards our media," President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists.

"We also regret the fact that the company is de facto creating a precedent for unequal treatment of its clients, which could no doubt cause anxiety and fear of the social network's other users."

Peskov said the Kremlin hoped Twitter would reverse its decision.

"We hope that the company will find it necessary to solve the situation and, after all, come to the conclusion that in no way can the work of the free media, to which RT and Sputnik belong, be qualified as the interference in the electoral system of the USA or any other country," Peskov said.

Moscow on Thursday vowed to retaliate, without giving details.

RT editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan said the ban was part of a witch hunt against the organisation.

"It's a shame that American media in Russia will now, probably, feel the gentle nature of Russia's retaliatory measures in their entirety," she said on Twitter.

At a meeting of the Valdai discussion group last week Simonyan complained to Putin that RT and Sputnik had come under huge pressure in the United States.

Putin said that Moscow would retaliate following concrete measures in the United States.

"As soon we see concrete steps limiting the activities of our media, there will be a retaliatory response," he said without elaborating.

Facebook said Friday it would take steps to deliver on a promise to reveal backers of political advertisements to boost transparency in the wake of criticism of the social network's role in the 2016 US election.

The leading social platform said it will begin testing and refining political ad transparency tools next month in Canada, with a goal of having them in place in the US before elections next year.

Under the plan unveiled by Facebook vice president Rob Goldman, people will be able to click "view ads" on a page to determine the source.

"Transparency helps everyone, especially political watchdog groups and reporters, keep advertisers accountable for who they say they are and what they say to different groups," Goldman said in a blog post.

"People should be able to tell who the advertiser is and see the ads they're running, especially for political ads, That level of transparency is good for democracy and it's good for the electoral process."

Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said in a separate post this is more transparency than required for other media.

"We're making all ads more transparent, not just political ads," Zuckerberg said.

Additionally, he noted that political advertisers "will now have to provide more information to verify their identity."

Facebook in September announced a plan to increase "transparency" regarding political advertising and hire more than 1,000 people to thwart deceptive ads crafted to knock elections off course including "dark" messages crafted for specific demographic groups but invisible to others.

Facebook has turned over to Congress some 3,000 Russia-linked ads that appeared to use hot-button issues to turn people against one another ahead of last year's US election.

Facebook's second-ranking executive, Sheryl Sandberg, has acknowledged that "things happened on our platform in this election that should not have happened, especially foreign interference."

According to Facebook, some 10 million people may have viewed the ads placed by a Russian entity that appeared aimed at sowing division and mistrust.

Some 470 accounts spent a total of approximately $100,000 between June 2015 to May 2017 on ads that touted fake or misleading news, according to Facebook.

Goldman said Canada is a "natural choice" to test the new system.

"Testing in one market allows us to learn the various ways an entire population uses the feature at a scale that allows us to learn and iterate," Goldman said.

Twitter this week unveiled similar steps that will disclose the sources of political ads. The messaging platform separately said it would ban ads from Russia-based RT and Sputnik, accused of spreading disinformation during the 2016 campaign.

Wong joins Hong Kong protest day after release on bail
Hong Kong (AFP) Oct 25, 2017
Hong Kong activist Joshua Wong was back out protesting Wednesday, a day after his release from prison on bail for his role in the 2014 Umbrella Movement. Wong and fellow democracy campaigner Nathan Law were freed on bail Tuesday pending an appeal against their jail terms. The 21-year-old was among 200 protesters who gathered outside Hong Kong's Legislative Council building on Wednesday e ... read more

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