Archives for October 2017

The Solution to Too Much Facebook Isn’t More Facebook

The moment I first realized that everything had changed for Facebook was right after the 2016 US presidential election with one of the first of many Zuckerbergian mea culpas. Not that first post-election post, his horribly disingenuous dodge that improbably asserted that Facebook could not have influenced the election. This, despite a Facebook political advertising sales force, now numbering probably in the hundreds, that had spent the past year claiming the contrary to every candidate with a marketing budget. No, it was Zuck’s second post, more circumspect and clearly more scripted, that described a concrete series of steps to counteract the influence he’d previously declared nonexistent. There, buried in the reassuring lingo of corporate comms-speak (“easy reporting”, “disrupting fake news economics”), lay some hidden bombs, or perhaps for the company, land mines. Not only would Facebook deign to rely on outside third-party sources, a sort of of Facebook. It would consult with newspapers (!) on how to fact-check content itself.

To anyone (like this former Facebook employee) steeped in the company’s usual MO, this was astonishing. For the past two decades of consumer internet life, the great media intermediators had hidden behind what I’ll call the Algorithmic Pass. This was the not-altogether-wrong assertion that their companies merely optimized around user demand—providing the needy user whatever they wanted, by whatever metric—and were completely agnostic to truth, aesthetics, or political virtue. To every public clamor or brouhaha (and there were many), the answer was always, “It’s just math,” and they’d point at the roomful of geeks, replete with Nerf guns and beanbag chairs, as proof.



Antonio García Martínez (@antoniogm) was the first ads targeting product manager on the Facebook Ads team, and author of the memoir Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley. He wrote about the internet in Cuba in WIRED’s July issue.

More than a mere corporate cover-your-ass maneuver, the Algorithmic Pass heralded a monumental shift in how modern, media-saturated humans learned about the world. No longer would handpicked mandarins at recognized media establishments—the editors and curators of our literary and political world—anoint one or another piece of content with the always malleable imprimatur of “true” or even “good.” No. Whatever piece of content, however brilliant or vile, that received an escalating chain reaction of user engagement would receive instantaneous, worldwide distribution. Having “gone viral” became a greater trophy than appearing “above the fold” (now a ludicrous concept). Vox populi, vox culturae.

And then the 2016 election happened.

Suddenly we’re all rescinding Facebook’s Algorithmic Pass, hounding the uncharacteristically beleaguered company to take some responsibility for what appears on its blue-framed pages. What’s most ironic about the hubbub is this: people fear Facebook’s power, so they ask Facebook to take on even more power by taking a very direct hand in what appears there, rather than a very second-order mathematical one. As Facebook’s power grows and our trust erodes, we somehow overcompensate by rushing to entrust them with even more.

Contemplate this unsettling vision: Mark Zuckerberg, or more likely one of his deputies, sitting in the equivalent of the afternoon editorial meeting at The New York Times, where the day’s news—which stories will appear, and which won’t—are decided: this news source discarded as fake or spammy, this one included and effectively boosted in the newsfeed. As much as I grew to admire some of the company’s culture as an employee, I realize as much as anyone how they can (and do) descend into groupthink and biases of various flavors. Do we really want Zuck as global news editor versus a disinterested algorithm that merely optimizes toward some objective and picks the day’s news winners and losers? The editor is dead; long live the editor, only now with editor-in-chief Zuckerberg.

Oddly enough, it’s a job he and the company don’t want. “We’re a technology company, not a media company,” has been the constant refrain, along with invocations of the Algorithmic Pass, for engineering-centric companies like Facebook. MOVE FAST AND BREAK THINGS and DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT were the Facebook mantras (as immortalized on their many in-office posters), not ALL THE NEWS THAT’S FIT TO PRINT and DEMOCRACY DIES IN DARKNESS.

And it shows.

Around 2015, as Facebook’s Trending Topics product dithered in embarrassing irrelevance (a shameless rip of Twitter’s Trending feature, it appears on the right-hand side during most Facebook sessions), the company stooped to hiring humans—HUMANS!—to fix its deficient software product. Within 18 months or so, all had been fired and the human effort shuttered, but not before, in an absolute and unusual violation of Facebook’s typically ironclad OPSEC, some of them spilled the beans about how horrible working at Facebook had been, with some even suggesting they’d been pushed to bias the news. A half-trillion-dollar company armed with some of the best technical minds in the world couldn’t manage a dozen or so wet-behind-the-ears journalism grads, something the Sacramento Bee manages annually without much ado. That’s how good Facebook is at being a media company.

But if there’s anything I grew to respect while working at Facebook, it was the company’s unnatural ability to pivot in a completely new direction and iterate rapidly toward excellence there, no matter how originally foreign the territory. With the feds breathing down their neck (Facebook is testifying before Congress this week) and Zuckerberg issuing public apologies during the Jewish Day of Atonement, the company has been shaken like nothing I’ve ever seen as employee or outside observer. If the world wants Facebook as editor, they’ll sure get it, for better or worse.

What’s that mean in practice? From the company’s hints, it will involve the aforementioned third-party fact-checking services, a sort of Snopes-ification of the Facebook experience. Based on both that and user input, content will first be conspicuously flagged as false and then effectively disappeared from newsfeed distribution, as porn or other terms-of-service-violating content is now. In addition, based on its short-lived experiments in human editing around Trending Topics, Facebook will almost certainly draw up a list of acceptable news outlets of passable truthiness, boosting their distribution at the expense of second-tier (or no-tier) content producers.

There’ll be some clear downsides though.

The death-by-algorithm of the media gatekeepers meant that many new voices rose to the fore that would never have jumped through the arbitrary hoops of conventional publication. XKCD, The Oatmeal, Stratechery, Slate Star Codex, Ribbonfarm, Wait But Why—all those weird but clever bloggers or cartoonists who joked, scribbled, or illustrated their way to online fame, viral post after viral post—the new crop of those will find it very hard to hustle themselves an audience. The lone, nonconforming online genius may just be muted along with that Russian political ad farm. Your byline isn’t on Slate or The Washington Post? Too bad, lone content creator.

Which brings us to the other ironic thing about all of this: In order to preserve our political democracy, which elevates the most popular among us (though perhaps not the finest) to power, we’ll seemingly abandon a total democracy of thought, which does the same for ideas. You can judge a people by how much freedom they can tolerate without destroying themselves. It seems the power for anyone to go viral and attain a global audience, through articulate reasoning or just clickbait-y libel, was a just bit too much freedom for us to bear.


The Value of Digital Transformation – What Is or Isn't "Tech"

What’s the value of your digital transformation?

This is a question that most large companies struggle with, beyond just the challenge of building a financial model or P&L projection around your changing business.

At a more fundamental level, how will the market value your changing business, given the competitive environment and your new more “digital” self.

When approaching these questions, there’s a tendency to look at tech companies as comparables, particularly fast-growing startups in your industry. In doing so, a lot of vastly different business models often get lumped together, especially if they’re all backed by Silicon Valley.

But public markets tend to see through these superficial comparisons.

The Curious Case of Two IPOs

Two recent IPOs tell an interesting story.

One of the two companies is Blue Apron. Blue Apron was considered a tech company while private, raising money as a startup from Silicon Valley VC’s at valuations that were typical for other tech companies and receiving lots of hype and praise from the traditional tech press.

But when Blue Apron IPO’d last June, public markets told a very different tale. The company is currently trading at a revenue multiple of about 1, with a market cap just under $ 1 billion dollars. Rather than being valued like a tech company, it turns out that public markets value Blue Apron much the same way they would a typical chain of grocery stores.

And if you think about it, that’s really what Blue Apron is: a grocery store with a different user interface and delivery mechanism. Nothing about Blue Apron’s business model really shifts the fundamental economics of the grocery business, which are typically very low.

Now, let’s look at company number two. That company is CarGurus.

This little-known company went public in early October. Cargurus’ revenue was about $ 143 million for the first half of 2017, compared to Blue Apron’s nearly $ 500 million.

Yet Cargurus was valued at a revenue multiple greater than ten. What’s the difference? Cargurus is a platform – a product marketplace to be more precise. Blue Apron is just a digital interface slapped on top of a traditional linear business.

Despite all the hype around Blue Apron ($ 199m raised before IPO) and the lack of it around Cargurus – which had previously raised only one small round of funding – public markets instantly saw the value of Cargurus’ platform business model.

Platform Innovation Creates the Most Value

This comparison is only one example. In our research for Modern Monopolies, we found a similar disparity between linear businesses and platforms when looking at both public companies and startups. But it’s becoming even more clear that simply adding digital or tech to your business will not automatically mean a higher valuation.

For large companies looking at digital transformation, the lesson should be clear. Simply slapping digital on top of your core business is not enough to significantly increase the value of your business. Software alone doesn’t build a defensible moat, and investors know it.

The real value is in creating and growing an external network and building a platform business. Platform innovation is by far the most valuable type of digital transformation.

However, it’s also likely the most difficult. It requires looking at your industry with fresh eyes and understanding how a network can help you build a better and more defensible business than your traditional supply chain.

This is a hard lesson for many big companies to learn. It involves going against much of what has made them successful in the past.

Yet for those who are able to take the leap – as Walmart has done in the last year – platform innovation can pay big dividends.


Be Greedy When Others Are Fearful, Buy This 6% Dividend Champion With Me

I think most investors and analysts are bearish when it comes to Tanger Factory Outlet Centers (SKT). Seeking Alpha happens to have a group of analysts who don’t share this majority view. I wrote an article on the dividend champion selling at an insane discount. I’ve been asked numerous questions since the article, so let me answer some of them for you. But before we start, check out SKT trading at more… of a discount:

I love a discount. I added to my position this morning.

The market is stricken with fear. Zombies have taken over mall REITs. Mall REITs are no longer inhabitable and will soon cease to exist. I may have embellished on why the market is stricken with fear. However, the market is pricing mall REITs at insanely low prices. My main coverage is on mortgage REITs and equity REITs. When it comes to mortgage REITs, the sector is overpriced (started to come down after Q3 2017 earnings releases). When it comes to equity REITs, there are enormous discounts for mall/shopping REITs. Let that sink in for a moment. While you’re thinking, recall this quote:

Instead of using this logic, we are seeing something else entirely. Analysts are noticing some equity REITs surrounded by fear and then looking for information to defend their“analysis”. Which in turn, perpetuates the fear that mall REITs are going to somehow cease existing.

Why the recent price drop

The “Amazon (AMZN) effect” is weighing on mall REITs. Amazon smashed estimates. Amazon beat on earnings and thoroughly beat on revenues. The growth was heavily influenced by Amazon Web Services and Whole Foods Market. That’s ironic. Amazon saw a strong quarter by owning physical retail stores.

Another factor was J.C. Penney (JCP) slashing their outlook. The company adjusted guidance for the year. For the year, guidance for EPS is now $ 0.02 to $ 0.08 instead of $ 0.40 to $ 0.65. After the news, JCP went down 21%.

These two factors led the market to drop prices on mall REITs. Perhaps, the big question is what are REITs to do about JCP going down? The answer is simple: replace them.

SKT is already done with that job. They finished it early by simply not having any JCP stores. From the Q2 earnings call:

“Teavana is the latest to announce closing and we have no Teavana locations in our Tanger portfolio. We also have no Sears, K-Mart, JC Penney, hhgregg, or GameStop stores.”

Why SKT is a buy today

SKT is trading at a mere 9.5x AFFO guidance for the year. SKT maintains a conservative balance sheet which prevents them from having any difficulty with their debts.

The dividend yield is nearly 6% and is easily covered by AFFO. The excess AFFO is available for reinvesting into the portfolio or repurchasing shares.

In the second quarter, management was actively buying back stock because it is immediately accretive to AFFO per share. SKT has a couple new properties opening up which should increase net operating income and AFFO per share.

Following those openings, SKT has relatively few capital expenditures coming up over the next couple of years. This makes it easier for them to grow the dividend and gives them the option of repurchasing stock faster than most REITs.

Serious problem

SKT offers both FFO and AFFO for investors. It’s even in their presentations:

One issue is that websites offer inaccurate information. For analysts who are trying to figure out mortgage REITs and equity REITs, this can be a serious problem.

I’ve taken a look at the sites which give out FFO and AFFO numbers in the REIT sector. They are often inaccurate. The test is rather simple. Investors should check the websites calculations to verify that they are accurate. When you do this test and find the numbers don’t match, dig deeper. Check the numbers against the press releases for Realty Income (O), National Retail Properties (NNN), and a few other large REITs. If you find frequent contradictions, that’s a problem. Make sure to insert mall REITs, such as Macerich (MAC), as well since they have more complicated statements due to the impact of JVs.

JVs (joint ventures)

In my view, GAAP creates the problem by not forcing standardized reporting of JV interests on a pro-rata basis.

Joint ventures can obfuscate what’s really going on. For instance, NNN is top notch for transparency and accounting quality. It starts to get mixed up when the company has major positions in JVs. Proportional consolidation would fix the problem, but we usually get “one line consolidation” which makes the statements ugly. Assuming the company owns positions in unconsolidated JVs, the depreciation related to those positions does not show up directly in any of the financial statements. To find it, you would need to look for a reconciliation on FFO or NOI. Quite simply, it wouldn’t be possible to correctly automate FFO in these situations unless the tool could pull data that is not in the income statement, balance sheet, cash flows, or changes in shareholder’s equity.

This is one of the reasons I find JV accounting so annoying. I really wanted a tool that would work, but without a standardized method that requires all JVs to be reported the same way, it can’t happen. When we go to AFFO, it is critical for an analyst to use judgment on which adjustments are reasonable. I agree with most of the major REITs, but a few of the smaller ones created silly adjusted metrics that were just useless.


When looking through a third party’s statements on a company, I suggest checking the actual company’s press release for each quarter.

I think SKT is still at attractive prices and the same goes for Simon Property Group (SPG). I would be interested in buying some MAC, but the price came back up materially over the last few weeks. I would prefer to align my portfolio more defensively given the high valuation on domestic equity markets. Credit spreads on rated bonds are also absurdly thin. The entire situation encourages me to be more defensive. However, I see quite a few Mall REITs trading around 30% to 70% of their net asset value per share. Some of those REITs are running high quality properties. I wouldn’t mind being part of a group purchasing the physical real estate. The stock price will fluctuate much more, but I get great liquidity and a huge discount on buying in.

Reconciliations and adjustments can be confusing

I’ve become accustomed to spinning through reconciliations and knowing what adjustments to keep or throw out. It took a while and a significant amount of time spent looking through both good and bad REITs to reach a conclusion. In my opinion, if you want to see an example of where lots of adjustments are garbage, look at Wheeler (WHLR). If you go back in time to Q2 2016, the Resource Capital Corporation (RSO) adjustments under old management were hilarious since it was an mREIT trying to use equity REIT adjustments. RSO’s adjustments under new management are reasonable.

O and NNN are always great. SPG is very high quality for a mall REIT while attempting to tackle the JV issue, but they have JVs and own a huge stake in a European mall REIT.

Final thoughts

Mall REITs have become out of favor. The current prices aren’t built around fundamentals or guidance. The prices are built around fear of malls dying. They will not die. The space the malls currently own definitely will not die. Whatever the better malls transition into will continue to use the space they own. I’m going to stake my money against the market’s fear by owning several mall REITs. I started buying in earlier this summer and will be adding more as I find great values. Often it is great values on great companies.

I do believe the sector is largely undervalued. However, I would not invest using an index. I have enough capital to diversify and can research each stock separately to ensure I am buying exactly what I want at the price I want to pay. Using an index works for investors who want the extra diversification, but for the ideal entry price, I would much rather pick individually.

If prices keep going down, I have the capital and stomach to buy more. Remember, when others are fearful… perhaps it is time to be greedy.

Click The REIT Forum to sign up for:

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Disclosure: I am/we are long SPG, SKT.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Additional disclosure: No financial advice. Investors are expected to do their own due diligence and consult with a professional who knows their objectives and constraints. CWMF actively trades in preferred shares and may buy or sell anything in the sector without prior notice. Tipranks: Buy SKT.

Editor’s Note: This article covers one or more stocks trading at less than $ 1 per share and/or with less than a $ 100 million market cap. Please be aware of the risks associated with these stocks.


Hate Pages Banned as Reddit Tightens Rules on Violent Content

But broadened rules might be hard for the small company to enforce.

Reddit, a large internet community that has sometimes been accused of incubating hate groups, announced on Wednesday that its content policy would become more restrictive. Several pages dedicated to hateful speech or ideologies were quickly banned.

Reddit’s new policy was outlined in statements on the site’s Help page and on a message board for the volunteer moderators of the site’s thousands of community pages, known as subreddits. The change expands a prior ban on “inciting” violence to include “any content that encourages, glorifies, incites, or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or group of people” or against animals.

The broadened restrictions seem intended, in part, to tamp down on hate groups and racist ideology on the site. The New York Times reported that at least three subreddits were swiftly banned after the announced changes: r/NationalSocialism, r/Nazi, and r/Far_Right.

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Reddit has previously banned a number of subreddits, particularly those glorifying or enabling sexual crimes or targeted harassment. But the latest wave of shutdowns comes amid a broader move away from free-speech absolutism on platforms including Twitter and Facebook, both of which have announced plans to further restrict content considered hateful.

Those efforts have shown mixed results, and Reddit’s new approach is likely to be even more constrained, simply because of the company’s size. Reddit was recently valued at $ 1.8 billion, compared to around $ 16 billion for Twitter and $ 516 billion for Facebook. Facebook employs thousands of content screeners, while Reddit’s entire staff numbers fewer than 300.


Solve These Tough Data Problems and Watch Job Offers Roll In

Late in 2015, Gilberto Titericz, an electrical engineer at Brazil’s state oil company Petrobras, told his boss he planned to resign, after seven years maintaining sensors and other hardware in oil plants. By devoting hundreds of hours of leisure time to the obscure world of competitive data analysis, Titericz had recently become the world’s top-ranked data scientist, by one reckoning. Silicon Valley was calling. “Only when I wanted to quit did they realize they had the number-one data scientist,” he says.

Petrobras held on to its champ for a time by moving Titericz into a position that used his data skills. But since topping the rankings that October he’d received a stream of emails from recruiters around the globe, including representatives of Tesla and Google. This past February, another well-known tech company hired him, and moved his family to the Bay Area this summer. Titericz described his unlikely journey recently over colorful plates of Nigerian food at the headquarters of his new employer, Airbnb.

Titericz earned, and holds, his number-one rank on a website called Kaggle that has turned data analysis into a kind of sport, and transformed the lives of some competitors. Companies, government agencies, and researchers post datasets on the platform and invite Kaggle’s more than one million members to discern patterns and solve problems. Winners get glory, points toward Kaggle’s rankings of its top 66,000 data scientists, and sometimes cash prizes.

Ryan Young for Wired

Alone and in small teams with fellow Kagglers, Titericz estimates he has won around $ 100,000 in contests that included predicting seizures from brainwaves for the National Institutes of Health, the price of metal tubes for Caterpillar, and rental property values for Deloitte. The TSA and real-estate site Zillow are each running competitions offering prize money in excess of $ 1 million.

Veteran Kagglers say the opportunities that flow from a good ranking are generally more bankable than the prizes. Participants say they learn new data-analysis and machine-learning skills. Plus, the best performers like the 95 “grandmasters” that top Kaggle’s rankings are highly sought talents in an occupation crucial to today’s data-centric economy. Glassdoor has declared data scientist the best job in America for the past two years, based on the thousands of vacancies, good salaries, and high job satisfaction. Companies large and small recruit from Kaggle’s fertile field of problem solvers.

In March, Google came calling and acquired Kaggle itself. It has been integrated into the company’s cloud-computing division, and begun to emphasize features that let people and companies share and test data and code outside of competitions, too. Google hopes other companies will come to Kaggle for the people, code, and data they need for new projects involving machine learning—and run them in Google’s cloud.

Kaggle grandmasters say they’re driven as much by a compulsion to learn as to win. The best take extreme lengths to do both. Marios Michailidis, a previous number one now ranked third, got the data-science bug after hearing a talk on entrepreneurship from a man who got rich analyzing trends in horseraces. To Michailidis, the money was not the most interesting part. “This ability to explore and predict the future seemed like a superpower to me,” he says. Michailidis taught himself to code, joined Kaggle, and before long was spending what he estimates was 60 hours a week on contests—in addition to a day job. “It was very enjoyable because I was learning a lot,” he says.

Michailidis has since cut back to roughly 30 hours a week, in part due to the toll on his body. Titericz says his own push to top the Kaggle rankings, made not long after the birth of his second daughter, caused some friction with his wife. “She’d get mad with me every time I touched the computer,” he says.

Entrepreneur SriSatish Ambati has made Kagglers a core strategy of his startup, H2O, which makes data-science tools for customers including eBay and Capital One. Ambati hired Michailidis and three other grandmasters after he noticed a surge in downloads when H2O’s software was used to win a Kaggle contest. Victors typically share their methods in the site’s busy forums to help others improve their technique.

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H2O’s data celebrities work on the company’s products, providing both expertise and a marketing boost akin to a sports star endorsing a sneaker. “When we send a grandmaster to a customer call their entire data-science team wants to be there,” Ambati says. “Steve Jobs had a gut feel for products; grandmasters have that for data.” Jeremy Achin, cofounder of startup DataRobot, which competes with H2O and also has hired grandmasters, says high Kaggle rankings also help weed out poseurs trying to exploit the data-skills shortage. “There are many people calling themselves data scientists who are not capable of delivering actual work,” he says.

Competition between people like Ambati and Achin helps make it lucrative to earn the rank of grandmaster. Michailidis, who works for Mountain View, California-based H2O from his home in London, says his salary has tripled in three years. Before joining H2O, he worked for customer analytics company Dunnhumby, a subsidiary of supermarket Tesco.

Large companies like Kaggle champs, too. An Intel job ad posted this month seeking a machine-learning researcher lists experience winning Kaggle contests as a requirement. Yelp and Facebook have run Kaggle contests that dangle a chance to interview for a job as a prize for a good finish. The winner of Facebook’s most recent contest last summer was Tom Van de Wiele, an engineer for Eastman Chemical in Ghent, Belgium, who was seeking a career change. Six months later, he started a job at Alphabet’s artificial-intelligence research group DeepMind.

H2O is trying to bottle some of the lightning that sparks from Kaggle grandmasters. Select customers are testing a service called Driverless AI that automates some of a data scientist’s work, probing a dataset and developing models to predict trends. More than 6,000 companies and people are on the waitlist to try Driverless. Ambati says that reflects the demand for data-science skills, as information piles up faster than companies can analyze it. But no one at H2O expects Driverless to challenge Titericz or other Kaggle leaders anytime soon. For all the data-crunching power of computers, they lack the creative spark that makes a true grandmaster.

“If you work on a data problem in a company you need to talk with managers, and clients,” says Stanislav Semenov, a grandmaster and former number one in Moscow, who is now ranked second. He likes to celebrate Kaggle wins with a good steak. “Competitions are only about building the best models, it’s pure and I love it.” On Kaggle, data analysis is not just a sport, but an art.


Facebook, in reversal, to publish cache of political ads

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Facebook Inc (FB.O) announced a plan to increase transparency about its role in political advertising on Friday, ahead of congressional hearings next week on social media companies and Russia’s meddling in last year’s U.S. presidential election.

FILE PHOTO: Facebook logo is seen at a start-up companies gathering at Paris’ Station F in Paris, France on January 17, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

Rob Goldman, Facebook’s vice president for ads, said in a blog post that the company would launch a publicly searchable archive next year containing details about the advertisements it runs related to U.S. federal elections.

Details will include the size of spending and the demographics of the audience the ads reached, Goldman said. The archive, beginning with ads carried in 2018, will cover a rolling four-year period, he said.

Internet political ads have boomed in recent years as U.S. politicians looked for different ways to reach potential supporters, and as companies including Facebook have created tools to allow targeted marketing.

Online ads, though, are generally viewable only to the intended audience, raising concerns among transparency advocates, researchers and lawmakers about how to hold politicians accountable for what they say.

The planned archive reflects a change in corporate policy for the world’s largest social network, which had previously resisted the idea.

In June, Facebook told Reuters that it would go on treating political ads like all others and that creating an online repository would violate the confidentiality of those advertisers.

Since then, Facebook, Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) and Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google have all said that Russia-based operatives bought ads and used fake names on their services to spread politically divisive messages in the months before and after the 2016 U.S. election.

Moscow has denied interfering in the election.

Next week, general counsels for Facebook, Google and Twitter will testify before public hearings of three U.S. congressional committees about the alleged interference and proposed legislation to require them to disclose election-related ads.

Goldman wrote in his post: “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.”

Facebook said its archive will eventually expand beyond the United States and show ads from elections in other countries and jurisdictions.

In the future, advertisers on Facebook will also be required to include a disclosure in election-related ads, to read: “Paid for by,” the company said.

The announcement fleshes out ideas that Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg outlined in September, as criticism of California-based Facebook built inside the United States over the Russian ads.

The changes will test in Canada before being brought to the United States ahead of November 2018 elections, Facebook said.

Twitter took similar steps this week, saying it would add labels to election-related ads and say who is behind them, and it barred two Russian media outlets from running ads.

Reporting by David Ingram in San Francisco; Additional reporting by Laharee Chatterjee and Sonam Rai in Bengaluru; Editing by Sai Sachin Ravikumar and Tom Brown

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


Online Game “Blue Whale” Blamed for Suicides Amongst Players

The Indian Supreme Court says online portals must spread awareness about the deadly game.

India’s Supreme Court is holding hearings by advocates who want the online game “Blue Whale” banned after blaming it for 100 suicides throughout the country, according to The Indian Express.

The game issues various challenges to participants over a 50-day period; on the final day, players are instructed to complete the game by committing suicide.

The phenomenon has recently been in the spotlight in Iran too, after two girls attempted to kill themselves by jumping off a bridge (one died, the other was critically injured). Authorities later found an audio message recorded by the girls, bidding goodbye to their parents and proclaiming they would “take their lives to complete the Blue Whale game”, according to local news agency Mizan Online.

Read: Facebook Takes Steps to Prevent Suicide

The game revolves around an anonymous “master” who assigns various self-harming activities that become incrementally more dangerous, with acts ranging from watching horror movies to self-mutilation. Users are encouraged throughout to post photos of their daily challenges online.

Read: What Twitter’s Future Could Depend On

Blue Whale appears to have origins in the Russian social-networking site VKontakte, and was criticized for the same deadly impact on Russian teens earlier in 2017, according to RFERL.


Former FireEye CEO joins cyber venture fund Allegis

(Reuters) – Technology executive Dave DeWalt has joined early-stage cyber-security venture capital firm Allegis Capital as a managing director, the fund said on Thursday, as it looks to invest more in companies closer to going public.

With the appointment DeWalt, a former CEO of FireEye Inc and McAfee before it was acquired by Intel Corp, is moving directly into the world of venture capital after years of running companies.

“His experience, and the networks that come with it, will be a tremendous asset to our firm and our portfolio companies as they grow from solution innovators to market leaders,” Allegis founder Bob Ackerman said in a statement.

Allegis is looking to raise between $ 200 million and $ 400 million to invest in series C funding rounds, a source with knowledge of the plans said. Such rounds typically involve the last private cash injected into a company before it goes public.

San Francisco-based Allegis also said it would change its name to AllegisCyber and open an office in the Washington area to tap into the region’s high density of cyber engineers and robust investment opportunities.

Allegis said that DeWalt had previously consulted on several investments, including a stake they took in Callsign, where DeWalt sits on the board.

DeWalt has this year joined the boards of a string of cyber security companies including ForgeRock, Optiv, Phantom and Claroty. He has sat on the board of Delta Air Lines Inc since late 2011.

Allegis’ existing cyber security investments include Area 1, Bracket Computing, CyberGRX, E8 Security, Shape Security, Signifyd, Synack, and vArmour.

Reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Jim Finkle and Diane Craft

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Former FireEye CEO joins cyber venture fund Allegis

(Reuters) – Technology executive Dave DeWalt has joined early-stage cyber-security venture capital firm Allegis Capital as a managing director, the fund said on Thursday, as it looks to invest more in companies closer to going public.

With the appointment DeWalt, a former CEO of FireEye Inc and McAfee before it was acquired by Intel Corp, is moving directly into the world of venture capital after years of running companies.

“His experience, and the networks that come with it, will be a tremendous asset to our firm and our portfolio companies as they grow from solution innovators to market leaders,” Allegis founder Bob Ackerman said in a statement.

Allegis is looking to raise between $ 200 million and $ 400 million to invest in series C funding rounds, a source with knowledge of the plans said. Such rounds typically involve the last private cash injected into a company before it goes public.

San Francisco-based Allegis also said it would change its name to AllegisCyber and open an office in the Washington area to tap into the region’s high density of cyber engineers and robust investment opportunities.

Allegis said that DeWalt had previously consulted on several investments, including a stake they took in Callsign, where DeWalt sits on the board.

DeWalt has this year joined the boards of a string of cyber security companies including ForgeRock, Optiv, Phantom and Claroty. He has sat on the board of Delta Air Lines Inc since late 2011.

Allegis’ existing cyber security investments include Area 1, Bracket Computing, CyberGRX, E8 Security, Shape Security, Signifyd, Synack, and vArmour.

Reporting by Alastair Sharp; Editing by Jim Finkle and Diane Craft

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Nokia still reviewing options for undersea cables unit: CEO

HELSINKI (Reuters) – Nokia is still reviewing its options for its undersea cables unit, a business that underpins the global Internet, chief executive Rajeev Suri said on Thursday.

Rajeev Suri, Nokia’s President and Chief Executive Officer, walks on stage to deliver his keynote at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, March 1, 2017. REUTERS/Paul Hanna

Reuters reported in May that Nokia was planning to sell the ASN division, which is one of the top suppliers of undersea cable networks in the world and is valued at 800 million euros ($ 944 million).

“We are still in the middle of our strategic review which we have set for ASN, so there’s no update,” Suri told a conference call.

Some analysts had expected a decision on the unit alongside the release of Nokia’s interim report released on Thursday.

The unit was bought by Nokia last year as part of its 15.6 billion-euro ($ 17 billion) acquisition of Franco-American rival Alcatel-Lucent.

($ 1 = 0.8471 euros)

Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl, editing by Terje Solsvik

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