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Big tech draws record revenue, harsh criticism with election ads

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The campaigns for President Donald Trump and Joe Biden spent a combined $192.3 million on Facebook advertising in the first 10 months of 2020, with over a quarter of that coming in October alone, according to data from Facebook.

The presidential campaigns for each party more than doubled their ad spending on the social network compared with the presidential candidates in the 2016 race, when experts agreed that Trump outmanoeuvred Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton online.

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Biden spent slightly more on Facebook than Trump this year, at $99.8 million compared with $92.5 million, though the president poured more into Alphabet’s Google, where the two campaigns have spent a combined $215.5 million on ads on Google since May 2018. That spending came largely on YouTube, including a wave of Trump ads on the video site’s homepage this week.

But even as candidates pour tens of millions of dollars into advertising on the platforms, there is widespread discontent both about the rules the companies have set around the election and the manner in which they’ve enforced them. Case in point is a policy that Facebook announced in September to ban new political ads in the week before the election.

The ban didn’t actually keep campaigns from running ads during that period, only from introducing new ads that could introduce misleading messaging into the campaign’s final days. The logic of the move was lost on Gautam Hans, a professor at Vanderbilt Law School focused on the First Amendment. “If we’re worried about political ads and their effect on voting, voting is well underway,” he said, noting the wave of early voting that began before the moratorium took effect.

There have also been issues with execution. Facebook blocked thousands of ads, citing “a number of unanticipated issues affecting campaigns of both political parties.” The Biden campaign was affected even though it posted the ads before the cutoff date. The campaign said the disruption, which Facebook attributed to a technical glitch, had likely cost them over $500 000 in donations. The company said it has not been able to resolve issues with some of the ads, and is unlikely to be able to do so during the restricted period. Rob Flaherty, Biden’s digital director, said the incident made it “abundantly clear that Facebook was wholly unprepared to handle this election despite having four years to prepare.”

The Trump campaign was also affected by the glitch. The campaign had already been trying to get around the policy by doing a limited run of new ads the day before the ban went into effect. These ads included language like, “Vote today!” and “Election day is today,” presumably with the intention of promoting them more heavily when those statements actually made sense.

Facebook blocked the ads, citing a policy that forbids paid messaging that misleads people about the electoral process. But it allowed other ads claiming record economic growth in the U.S. days before the statistics were actually published. Samantha Zager, a spokeswoman for Trump’s campaign, accused Facebook of making rules and selectively enforcing them because the company was “working against President Trump.”

Daniel Kreiss, an associate professor at the University of North Carolina who tracks political communication, said the platforms have failed to create predictable guardrails for political actors. “We still see way too much uneven enforcement policies, and way too much changing of those policies months or weeks out from a presidential election,” he said, adding that Facebook’s performance has been particularly bad. “It never ceases to amaze me that a company with so many billions in market cap can’t figure this out.”

Facebook, Google, and Twitter Inc. all found themselves at the centre of a political firestorm for their handling of the 2016 election. The following year, federal lawmakers made a high-profile push to create new rules for online political advertising, but it failed, leaving platforms to develop safeguards on their own. All three companies created databases where people could track political spending, and began developing other policies.

Last October, Twitter announced it would ban political ads altogether. Facebook and Google also considered bans, at least for the final days or weeks before an election. Sridhar Ramaswamy, a Google executive who ran its advertising operations until 2018, said he advocated internally for dropping political ads altogether. Google also considered a pre-election moratorium on political ads on YouTube’s homepage, some of the most expensive real estate on the internet. Instead, it sold the space to the Trump campaign, Bloomberg reported in February.

Shirin Raza, a former lawyer for YouTube, believes that Trump’s ads have been particularly damaging to the democratic process, and said the company itself bears part of the responsibility. “They say they care about election integrity. They say they care about Covid misinformation. But they continue to elevate someone who violates both those principles,” she said. “Doesn’t that make you complicit?”

A Google spokeswoman said it welcomes ads from all political advertisers as long as they comply with the company’s policies. It has restricted targeting on election ads, barring campaigns from mixing public voter records with information like searches, web browsing, and YouTube viewing histories. Facebook didn’t limit targeting, and has also infuriated Democrats with its policy of declining to fact-check political ads. (Republicans have subsequently attacked the company each time it put labels on misleading posts from President Trump.) Both companies have said they’ll stop allowing political ads in the days after the election, in an attempt to stem attempts to confuse people about the outcome of the voting.

Not everyone who is skeptical of social media companies’ handling of political ads has supported restrictions on targeting or outright bans. People who run down-ballot campaigns have expressed concern that restrictions on targeting make it harder for them to afford ads tailored to their constituents. Some campaigns felt that the restrictions on targeting kept them from the kind of granular messaging on Facebook and Google that worked so well in 2016. “It changed buying to actually look more like TV,” said Reid Vineis, a vice president for Majority Strategies, a political ad firm.

Some people who study political speech also say a political ad ban would undermine the electoral process. “I think political advertising is important,” said Kreiss of UNC. “Most ads are mobilisational—how else do you get people to turn out to vote?”

© 2020 Bloomberg

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Riot police squads intervene as pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters clash in Montreal

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People wave flags atop cars in traffic during a demonstration to voice support for the people of Palestine, at Toronto City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 15 May 2021.


People wave flags atop cars in traffic during a demonstration to voice support for the people of Palestine, at Toronto City Hall in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 15 May 2021.

  • Violence
    between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine protesters in Montreal was condemned by
    Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
  • Montreal’s
    city police force intervened and declared the protests illegal after tensions
    heightened and clashes broke out.
  • Israeli
    strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
    toll in almost a week of clashes.

Montreal
– Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Sunday condemned the violence and
“despicable rhetoric” that marked several weekend protests throughout
the country, after clashes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters in
Montreal.

The
worst violence in years, sparked by unrest in Jerusalem, is raging between the
Jewish state and Islamist militants.

Israeli
strikes killed 42 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Sunday, the worst daily
toll in almost a week of deadly clashes.

Speaking
after protests in Montreal, Trudeau condemned what he said was “despicable
rhetoric and violence we saw on display in some protests this weekend”.

While
insisting on the “right to assemble peacefully and express themselves
freely in Canada”, Trudeau stressed in a tweet that there was no tolerance
for “antisemitism, Islamophobia, or hate of any kind”.

Earlier
on Sunday, Montreal police used tear gas following clashes between pro-Israel
and pro-Palestinian protesters.

Several
hundred demonstrators, draped in Israeli flags, had gathered in a central
Montreal square to express solidarity with the Jewish state.

‘Protesting is a right’

Although
the protest started peacefully, tensions ratcheted up with the arrival of
pro-Palestinian demonstrators and clashes soon broke out.

The
SPVM, Montreal’s city police force, declared the protests illegal, and squads
of riot police intervened, using tear gas to separate and disperse the two
groups, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.

The
police spent much of the afternoon in pursuit of the pro-Palestinian
protesters, who spread out and regrouped in commercial streets in the city centre.

Following
the clashes, Montreal Mayor Valerie Plante said on Twitter that
“protesting is a right”, but that “intolerance, violence and
anti-Semitism have no place here”.

She said:

Montreal is a city of peace.

Several
thousand pro-Palestinian demonstrators had gathered on Saturday in central
Montreal to denounce what they said were Israeli repression and “war
crimes” in Gaza.

“Terrorist
Israel”, some protesters chanted, while others held up a banner that read,
“Stop the genocide of Palestinian children”.

Pro-Palestinian
protests happened the same day in multiple Canadian cities, including Toronto,
Ottawa and Vancouver.


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Peter Thiel Helps Fund an App That Tells You What to Do

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“How would you feel about being able to pay to control multiple aspects of another person’s life?” asks the BBC.

“A new app is offering you the chance to do just that.”

When writer Brandon Wong recently couldn’t decide what takeaway to order one evening, he asked his followers on social media app NewNew to choose for him. Those that wanted to get involved in the 24-year-old’s dinner dilemma paid $5 (£3.50) to vote in a poll, and the majority verdict was that he should go for Korean food, so that was what he bought…

NewNew is the brainchild of Los Angeles-based entrepreneur Courtne Smith. The app, which is still in its “beta” or pre-full release stage, describes itself as “a human stock market where you buy shares in the lives of real people, in order to control their decisions and watch the outcome”. For many of us that sounds a bit ominous, but the reality is actually far less alarming. It is aimed at what it calls “creators” — writers, painters, musicians, fashion designers, bloggers etc. It is designed as a way for them to connect far more closely with their fans or followers than on other social media services and, importantly, monetise that connection…

Whenever a vote is cast the creator gets the money minus NewNew’s undisclosed commission… In addition to voting, followers can also pay extra — from $20 — to ask a NewNew creator to do something of their choosing, such as naming a character in a book after them. But the creator can reject all of these “bids”, and if they do so then the follower doesn’t have to part with the money…

Co-founder and chief executive Ms Smith, a 33-year-old Canadian, has big plans for NewNew, and has some heavyweight backers. Investors include Peter Thiel, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal, and the first outside person to put money into Facebook. Others with a stake in the business include leading US tech investment fund Andreessen Horowitz, and Hollywood actor Will Smith (no relation to Courtne). Snapchat has also given technical support.

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Sandpapergate will haunt Australia cricket forever: ex-bowling coach

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Cameron Bancroft. (Photo by Brenton Geach - Gallo Images/Getty Images)


Cameron Bancroft. (Photo by Brenton Geach – Gallo Images/Getty Images)

The 2018 ball-tampering scandal will haunt Australian cricket forever, much like the infamous underarm delivery of 40 years ago, the team’s former bowling coach David Saker said on Monday.

Saker was responding to opening batsman Cameron Bancroft suggesting that Australia’s bowlers knew about the plan in Cape Town to alter the ball which earned him a nine-month ban and rocked the game.

Saker was Australia’s bowling coach when Bancroft was caught trying to rough up the ball with sandpaper during the third Test against South Africa.

While refusing to be drawn on who knew what, Saker said “the finger-pointing is going to go on and on and on”.

“It’s like the underarm, it’s never going to go away,” he told Fairfax Media, referring to a 1981 incident when Trevor Chappell bowled underarm to ensure New Zealand lost a one-day match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

The notorious delivery is still cited in New Zealand and in cricketing circles as a prime example of unsporting conduct.

However, the ball-tampering scandal – dubbed “sandpapergate” – had a greater impact on Australian cricket, with the then-captain Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner suspended for a year from all cricket and stripped of their leadership roles.

Darren Lehmann also quit as coach and all the top brass from Cricket Australia left after a scathing review blasted their “arrogant and controlling” win-at-all-costs culture.

No one else among the team or coaching staff was held to account but Bancroft’s remarks in an interview with The Guardian newspaper hinted that the team’s bowlers at least knew about the plan.

“Obviously what I did benefits bowlers and the awareness around that, probably, is self-explanatory,” he said.

Saker added: “There was a lot of people to blame. It could have been me to blame, it could have been someone else. It could have been stopped and it wasn’t, which is unfortunate.

“Cameron’s a very nice guy. He’s just doing it to get something off his chest … He’s not going to be the last.”

In response, Cricket Australia said that if anyone had new information, they would look into it.

Saker said he was not opposed to a fresh investigation but added “I just don’t know what they’re going to find out.”

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Mexico’s Andrea Meza crowned Miss Universe

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Miss Universe Andrea Meza


Miss Universe Andrea Meza

UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 IS ANDREA MEZA FROM MEXICO:


UPDATE:

THE MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 TOP 5:

1. Mexico

2. India

3. Brazil

4. Dominican Republic

5. Peru


UPDATE:

HERE ARE THE MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021 TOP 10 CONTESTANTS:

1. Jamaica 

2. Dominican Republic 

3. India

4. Peru 

5. Australia 

6. Puerto Rico

7. Thailand

8. Costa Rica

9. Mexico

10. Brazil


UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE TOP 21 IN SWIMWEAR:


UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE TOP 21: 

1. Columbia

2. Peru 

3. Australia 

4. France

5. Myanmar

6. Jamaica 

7. Mexico 

8. Dominican Republic 

9. USA

10. Indonesia 

11. Argentina 

12. India

13. Curaçao

14. Puerto Rico

15. Phillipines 

16. Brazil

17. Great Britain

18. Nicaragua

19. Thailand 

20. Costa Rica

21. Vietnam


 UPDATE:

MISS UNIVERSE SOUTH AFRICA NATASHA JOUBERT WALKS THE STAGE AT MISS UNIVERSE 2020/2021:


74 contestants will compete for the title of Miss Universe on 16 May in Hollywood, Florida. 

The Miss Universe pageant takes place on 16 May in the US (02:00 to 05:00 on 17 May SA time). The show will be broadcast live on 1 Magic (DStv Channel 103) with a repeat at 21:30. 

Reigning Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa will crown her successor at the end of the event.

Representing South Africa is Natasha Joubert, and South Africans are hoping for the “magic double” – back-to-back consecutive wins, which has only happened once before in the pageant’s history.

Natasha wowed crowds at the national costume competition last week and on Friday impressed during the preliminary round

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Miss Mexico crowned Miss Universe 2021

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By AFP Time of article published 16m ago

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Washington – Miss Mexico was crowned Miss Universe on Sunday in Florida, after fellow contestant Miss Myanmar used her stage time to draw attention to the bloody military coup in her country.

Sunday night marked the Miss Universe competition’s return to television, after the pageant was cancelled in 2020 for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Andrea Meza, 26, finished first ahead of the Brazilian and Peruvian finalists in a flashy televised event, hosted by American actor Mario Lopez and television personality Olivia Culpo.

Former Miss Universe contestants Cheslie Kryst, Paulina Vega and Demi-Leigh Tebow (who won the title in 2017) served as competition analysts and commentators, and a panel of eight women determined the winner.

Dressed in a sparkling red evening gown, Meza tearfully walked the catwalk as Miss Universe for the first time, before rushing back for a group hug with the other competitors.

Meza beat more than 70 contestants from around the globe in the 69th installment of Miss Universe, which was held at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida.

In the days leading up to the final competition, Miss Myanmar Thuzar Wint Lwin, who made the top 21, made waves when she used her time in the spotlight to bring attention to the coup in her country.

“Our people are dying and being shot by the military every day,” she said during her biographical video, which showed photos of her taking part in the anti-coup protests. “Therefore I would like to urge everyone to speak out about Myanmar.”

Natasha Joubert, Miss Universe South Africa 2020 competes on stage in Ema Savahl swimwear during the MISS UNIVERSE® Preliminary Competition.

She also won the award for best national costume: during that competition segment on Thursday, she wore an outfit beaded in traditional Burmese patterns and held up a sign that said, “Pray for Myanmar.”

Myanmar has been in uproar since February 1, when the army ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

At least 796 people have been killed by security forces since then, according to a local monitoring group, while nearly 4 000 people are behind bars.

Miss Singapore Bernadette Belle Ong – who did not make the top 21 – also used the national costume portion to make a political statement.

Dressed in a glittering red bodysuit and matching thigh-high boots, she turned around to reveal her cape – in the colours of the Singaporean flag – was painted with the words “Stop Asian Hate.”

“What is this platform for if I can’t use it to send a strong message of resistance against prejudice and violence?” she wrote on Instagram alongside pictures of her outfit.

The United States in particular has seen a surge in anti-Asian violence in the past year, which activists have blamed on former president Donald Trump’s rhetoric, especially his repeated description of Covid-19 as the “China virus.”

The pageant has also drawn criticism in the past for objectifying the contestants.

In recent years, the competition has shifted image, focusing more on female empowerment and activism.

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