Tech News

Snapchat taps power users to explain the app to advertisers

July 26, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Getty Images for HBO

In a bid to increase advertiser spend, Snapchat is partnering businesses with its platform’s best content makers. The pilot program, titled ‘Snapchat Storytellers,’ will link companies with five popular creators, including Mplatco, Cyrene Q and Shonduras. They’ll either appear in ads or lend their wisdom to brands seeking insight for their creative campaigns, and get paid for doing so.

The creators can make tens of thousands of dollars per deal, which isn’t a surprise for creative consulting, according to TechCrunch. But Snapchat supposedly isn’t taking a cut from the agreements, which is an interesting move given its lower-than-expected revenue in a recent quarterly report. Apparently forging a stronger relationship between the platform’s power users and businesses is too important to Snap’s strategic plan to interrupt.

Tech News

Facebook deal with Washington ends ad filtering for ethnicity

July 24, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Thomas White/Reuters

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced today that Facebook has signed an agreement that will prevent advertisers promoting housing, credit, employment, insurance or businesses open to the public from excluding individuals from seeing their ads based on that person’s race, creed, color, national origin, veteran or military status, sexual orientation or disability status. The agreement concludes a 20-month investigation conducted by the state’s attorney general’s office. While the deal makes these changes legally binding in the state of Washington, Facebook already implemented them broadly back in April.

“In response to the feedback we’ve received, we’ve removed thousands of categories from exclusion targeting,” Facebook said in an April announcement. “We focused mainly on topics that relate to potentially sensitive personal attributes, such as race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religion.” It also began requiring advertisers that offer housing, employment and credit to state that they are complying with its anti-discrimination policy as well as anti-discrimination laws.

This issue came to light in 2016 when ProPublica reported that it was able to buy housing ads that excluded African American, Asian American and Hispanic individuals from viewing them, a practice that the Congressional Black Caucus pointed out to Facebook was a “direct violation of the Fair Housing Act of 1968.” The social media giant later said it would disable settings that allow advertisers promoting housing, employment and credit to exclude racial and ethnic groups.

But last November, ProPublica found that it could still buy rental housing ads that discriminated against ethnic and religious groups. Facebook then said that it would temporarily disable the feature until it could “better ensure that our tools will not be used inappropriately.” Since the initial ProPublica report, the Washington attorney general’s office has continued to investigate the discriminatory ad feature and it successfully created 20 ads that excluded one or more ethnic minorities from seeing promotions of nightclubs, restaurants, lending, insurance, employment and apartment rentals.

While Facebook has agreed to change the feature, it maintains that its platform has complied with all laws. It signed an assurance of discontinuance that makes the agreement permanent and legally binding in the state of Washington and has agreed to pay the attorney general’s office $90,000 in costs and fees.

In March, the National Fair Housing Alliance filed a lawsuit against Facebook over the advertising practice.

“We appreciate Attorney General Ferguson’s attention to this important matter and are pleased to have reached an agreement with his office,” Will Castleberry, who leads Facebook’s state and local policy efforts, told Engadget in a statement. “We’ve worked closely with them to address the issues they’ve raised. Discriminatory advertising has no place on our platform, and we’ll continue to improve our ad products so they’re relevant, effective and safe for everyone.”

Tech News

Twitter adds advertising to its Explore tab

July 12, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Brendan McDermid / Reuters

One of Twitter’s biggest challenges (besides bots, abuse and Nazis) has been figuring out how to monetize the platform. Promoted tweets haven’t always been especially effective, after all. That’s why Twitter is currently eyeing its Explore feature as a way to make some cash. According to TechCrunch, the platform will begin allowing advertisers to take over the tab.

Explore was born out of Moments, which was Twitter’s push to highlight the biggest news and trending topics across the platform. Now, this tab will have Promoted Trend Spotlight ads, which will consist of a large visual banner above the regular explore content. These will appear the first two times per day you visit the tab, and then disappear after that.

TechCrunch reports that the first Explore tab takeover will be from Disney. The company will be promoting the upcoming movie Christopher Robin.

No one likes inserted advertising into organic experiences, but Twitter is free to use. It’s understandable that the company is searching for additional (and better) ways to monetize the service. The last quarter of 2017 was the first time that Twitter reported profitability; that continued in Q1 of 2018. Let’s just hope these ads doesn’t disrupt the user experience too much.

Tech News

Facebook is bringing augmented reality ads to the News Feed

July 10, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Facebook is now testing augmented reality ads in its News Feed, the company announced today at an event in New York City. The new feature, which is limited to users in the US at launch, will let you virtually try on items including fashion accessories, cosmetics, furniture and more. The goal here, of course, is to help you visualize what a product looks like on you, or around your physical environment, before you buy it. Michael Kors is the first brand to have AR Ads in the News Feed, where it is going to allow people to browse different sunglasses, use the camera to “put them on” and then buy a pair if they like it — all within an ad.

Ty Ahmad-Taylor, Facebook’s VP of product marketing, said that the idea with AR Ads is to have new ways to take shoppers from product discovery to shopping instantly.


Tech News

Facebook is showing users all the ads a Page could serve

June 28, 2018 — by Engadget.com0


A day after it was reported that Facebook was getting ready to launch new ad transparency tools globally, the company is now making a major change to Pages. Starting today, people will be able to see any active ads running on a Page across Facebook, Instagram and Messenger, even if they’re not being served to them specifically. On Facebook’s site, you can go to a Page and you’ll see a new “Info and Ads” button, which you can click to get information like when it was created, name history and see all the ads it has served since day one. If you notice anything suspicious, like a dubious political ad, you can then report it. Facebook says it’ll be adding more Page information in the coming weeks.

In addition to these transparency tools, Facebook is also bringing its new political ad disclosures to Brazil ahead of the country’s general election in July. The company launched this “Paid for by” tool in May and will make anyone running political ads register their content, which will then be labeled and put into a digital archive that users can search. They’ll get details about the ad including budget and audience demographics, such as age, gender and location, among other key information.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s chief operating officer, said that the company has realized it underinvested in being more transparent, after its site was exploited by bad actors looking to interfere in elections in the US and other parts of the world. She said that, for the past 10-12 years, Facebook was mostly focused on on building social experiences, but now the goal is to work on better transparency across the board. Not just when it comes to ads on Facebook, but also by sharing numbers on diversity and other important matters like response rate to government requests. “What transparency does is hold us accountable,” Sandberg told a group of reporters on Thursday.

Of course, Facebook isn’t the only social media giant trying to accomplish this. Earlier today, Twitter announced its Ad Transparency Center, which shows users who pays for ads on the site and lets them search it for anyone who’s distributing paid content, political or otherwise. For Facebook, Sandberg said the changes to Pages and Active ads are just the latest steps it’s taking to let people known exactly what they’re being exposed to, and there will be more to come in the near future.

Tech News

Facebook lifts its ban on crypotcurrency ads

June 26, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Denes Farkas via Getty Images

At the end of January, Facebook banned any advertisements promoting cryptocurrencies because they are “frequently associated with misleading or deceptive promotional practices,” the company wrote in a blog post. Now the platform has softened its position and will permit ads involving cryptocurrencies, but only from advertisers who have been approved by Facebook after a vetting process. Even then, ads about binary options an initial coin offerings are still prohibited, at least for now.

Prospective advertisers must submit an application (available here), including disclosing any licenses they have, whether they’re traded on a public stock exchange and other background info that might be relevant to posting cryptocurrency ads. But this, too, may change based on feedback Facebook receives, the company’s product management director Rob Leathern wrote in a blog post.

When reached for comment, Facebook confirmed to Engadget that this was not a ‘reversal’ but an update to its January ad policy change, which it promised to revisit at the time. But it also reflects a mellower mood on cryptocurrency than at the beginning of the year, when bitcoin was in the middle of a free-fall from its December high water valuation over $19,000. Now it’s rested at just over $6,000 (as of this writing), and in the interim, Facebook even started considering its own coin. It remains to be seen whether Twitter and Google will also relax their stances on banning cryptocurrency ads.

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Privacy browser Brave pays 'crypto tokens' for watching its ads

June 20, 2018 — by Engadget.com0


Ad-blocking browser Brave is getting ready to test its Basic Attention Token (BAT) platform, which has been designed to reward users for looking at adverts. The company, founded by Mozilla’s controversial former CEO Brendan Eich, launched the first phase of its model last year, allowing users to anonymously distribute contributions to their favorite creators. Now, it’s testing a version of the browser that shows around 250 prepackaged adverts to users that sign up for early access — a move that’s angered newspaper giants that claim the feature is a violation of copyright.

The key difference between Brave’s preselected ads and conventional ads is that Brave’s are selected by the browser based on its observation of your viewing habits, but no data is shared outside the browser. Traditional adverts are generated by companies that track your activity from one site to another, building a profile of your interests out of your control.

Eventually, users opting in to what Brave calls its “consent-based digital advertising model” will be paid in the company’s crypto-tokens every time they look at or interact with one of these pre-determined adverts. It’s not clear how much you’ll stand to gain, but a blog post from the company claims users will receive 70 percent of the gross ad revenue. That’s not cold hard cash, though. BATs — which Brave has been throwing around in a bid to get people on board with the model — can really only be used to donate to your favorite content creators, although Brave says you’ll eventually be able to use the tokens to unlock premium, paid-for content.

There’s clearly an appetite for this kind of browser. Brave raised $35 million in 30 seconds in a funding round last year, and that was before the Cambridge Analytica scandal threw data privacy and online tracking into the spotlight. The browser is controversial — the “reward” is lacklustre and publishers will undoubtedly put up a fight — but it addresses a growing security concern among consumers, and could well represent the beginning of a shift in the long-established online advertising model.

Tech News

YouTube ran ads on AIDS conspiracy theory videos

June 14, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Dado Ruvic / Reuters

YouTube has run into issues in the past for showing ads before inappropriate videos. In some cases it has caused companies to pull their ads from the platform and at least one firm has put together its own algorithm to identify YouTube channels on which it’s safe to advertise. However, though YouTube has changed its guidelines and hired more human moderators, advertisements are still showing up alongside questionable content. Now, Adweek reports, ads from major companies are appearing before videos featuring fake medical news such as AIDS conspiracy theories.

Undark reported recently that a commercial for a Toyota Corolla appeared before a video denouncing HIV tests and treatments while one for Mercedes-Benz aired before a video titled “The AIDS Myth Unraveled.” Adweek also spotted ads for the website building platform Wix, mattress company Saatva and insurance company Lemonade when viewing AIDS and HIV conspiracy theory videos claiming HIV isn’t dangerous, that it doesn’t cause AIDS and that antiretroviral medications are more dangerous than HIV. None of these claims are backed by the scientific or medical communities and all available evidence supports the contrary. Further, these sorts of videos stand to cause real harm to those with HIV or those at risk of contracting the virus.

Previously, YouTube has come under fire for airing ads alongside videos depicting extremist content, exploiting children and spreading hate speech. Among those that have pulled ads from YouTube at one point or another are AT&T, Verizon and the UK government.

“This should not have happened and we apologize for the mistake,” YouTube said in a statement to Adweek. “The flagged videos earned less than $100 in total over the last 60 days. We immediately removed ads on violating videos and credited advertisers. While our system and controls work as intended 99 percent of the time, there are a small number of instances where they do not and we are committed to closing that gap even further.”

This latest misstep shows that YouTube still has some work to do when it comes to determining which videos should be eligible for ad revenue and as more of these sorts of issues come to light, they’re sure to concern some advertisers going forward. “We make every effort to target our advertising based on demographics of viewers and to prevent advertising on channels that do not share our values,” Wix told Adweek. “Unfortunately, we’re usually made aware of these instances when they are brought to our attention from viewers. It is clear that the platforms themselves must provide better tools to advertisers to limit this sort of activity.”

Tech News

Google is helping users limit targeted ads

June 14, 2018 — by Engadget.com0


Facebook isn’t the only one offering tighter controls over ad privacy. Google has introduced a revamped Ad Settings that should make it easier to both learn how ads target you and, more importantly, to reduce that targeting. You now see all the ad targeting factors in one view, with both explanations of their presence and options to either turn them off or tweak the settings. You can’t completely disable ad targeting, but there’s enough here that you can limit it to highly generic factors like the site you’re visiting and the time of day.

When ads do pop up, you’ll also have a better explanation for their presence. The “why this ad?” link is now available on every service that shows Google ads, as well as ‘almost all” of the sites and apps that partner with Google on ads. If you’re scratching your head at a YouTube promo, you’ll know the reasoning behind its appearance and will have a quick way to tweak your settings if you’d rather not see that ad again.

The rework could be a helpful addition if you’re worried that Google’s ad targeting is a little too on the nose. It’s also a hedge against mounting pressure for Google to do more. The company has come under scrutiny multiple times for its approach to privacy as of late, and this could prove that it’s making a serious effort to address your concerns.

Tech News

Facebook won't exempt publishers from new political ad policy

June 13, 2018 — by Engadget.com0

Joel Saget/AFP/Getty Images

If publishers think Facebook would give them an exemption from its new political ad disclosure policy, they have another thing coming. The social network’s Campbell Brown has rejected calls for publisher exemptions to the “paid for” label in a blog post, arguing that equal treatment is necessary to ensure the policy works. It would “go against our transparency efforts,” Brown said, and would be ripe for abuse. A “bad actor” could hide its identity by claiming to be a publisher, and news outlets can take definite political stances.

Brown also denied allegations that this was a “criticism or judgment” of publishers. It’s just meant to encourage “more informed consumption,” he said.

This isn’t likely to satisfy publishers who’ve seen their ads and promoted posts vanish and have sometimes turned to registering as political advertisers to get news stories into people’s feeds. However, they might get Facebook to change its mind regardless of how much they push for a special exemption. The company is determined to prevent election meddling, and has been willing to take drastic steps (such as blocking all foreign ads during Ireland’s referendum) to avoid even a hint of impropriety. The new disclosure policy is consistent with that take-no-chances attitude.