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UK Launches Antitrust Probe Into Apple; Political Ads Return To Facebook

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Here’s today’s AdExchanger.com news round-up… Want it by email? Sign up here.

Bite Of The Apple

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Another day, another platform, another investigation. This time, Apple is under scrutiny by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), the UK’s antitrust regulator, over whether Apple “imposes unfair or anticompetitive conditions on app developers.” According to The Wall Street Journal, the investigation started after developers complained about Apple’s rules, such as requiring that all apps on iPhone and iPad devices must be distributed through Apple’s App Store. “At the core of the antitrust concerns is how much control and share of revenue technology giants should have in relation to popular apps,” the WSJ writes. Apple says it will work with the CMA and claims that its requirements for submitting apps are fair and also necessary in order to prevent malware and “rampant data collection without consent.” Relatedly, the EU had already started poking into Apple’s App Store policies last June, and there is definitely overlap between the two cases. Both complaints are meritless – in Apple’s view, of course.

Ban Lifted

With a new president in office, the elections over and the dust settling after January’s attack on the US Capitol, the coast appears clear for Facebook to lift its ban on political advertising. Starting Thursday, advertisers are able to buy new ads about social issues, elections or politics, The New York Times reports. Political advertising has been a massively hot potato and was much criticized during this election cycle for spreading misinformation, disseminating falsehoods and inflaming voters. Advertisers who want to run political or issue ads on Facebook must complete a series of identity checks before being authorized to place the ads. Each ad will appear with a small disclaimer stating that it has been “paid for by” a political organization. For those buying new ads, Facebook said it could take up to a week to clear the identity authorization and advertising review process. This news isn’t helpful, however, to former President Trump, whose Facebook account remains suspended indefinitely.

Bot Attack

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Fraudsters are at it again with their bot scams on CTV. Ad verification company DoubleVerify has uncovered yet another spoofing scheme, this one dubbed “SneakyTerra,” that tricked advertisers into paying for ads that were never actually seen in households. Specifically, the scam involved purchasing a real impression and then inserting impression trackers from multiple ads obtained through spoofed SSAI calls into one creative response. When an actual CTV device receives this response, pixels fire for all the impression trackers. This means that although only one ad is seen, impressions for multiple ads are generated. DoubleVerify said this particular scheme, which could have cost advertisers more than $5 million per month, was far more sophisticated than others. The use of purchased impressions stuffed with multiple fake ads that would never be seen by a real person made SneakyTerra more difficult to detect. The scammers also hijacked real CTV devices – which DoubleVerify said was a first. Read on. [Related in AdExchanger: “DoubleVerify Uncovers Largest CTV Ad Fraud Scheme To Date”]

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But Wait, There’s More!

Gannett has reached a deal with Snap to sell ads on Snapchat. The move comes as Gannett continues what it has described as a digital transformation of its business as it grapples with the industry-wide decline in print revenue. [USA Today]

LinkedIn shared a (very brief) update on its IDFA plans. [blog post]

Touchless commerce has normalized the QR code, and brands are giving it a second look. [Digiday]

Facebook has been trying to clean up the news feed for brands. Here’s why it’s taking so long. [Ad Age]

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Quantcast rolled out an intelligent audience platform powered by AI and machine learning technology. [release]

AT&T promised a TV revolution, but instead, got a giant mess. [The Verge]

StitcherAds is launching a set of tools to help retailers turn print coupons into data-powered social media ads, complete with personalized information about products, prices, sales and store location. [Street Fight]

Instagram is testing removing public “like” counts, and influencers say it would be good for the industry to do it. Here’s why. [Business Insider]

You’re Hired!

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Kantar has appointed Ted Prince Jr. to the newly created position of chief product officer. [release]

Facebook exec Matty de Castro is joining VidMob as VP of growth and operations. [release]

Amobee has added Tim Spengler as GM of advanced TV solutions and Valerie Bischak as GM and head of growth. [release]

Longtime Ogilvy exec Lou Aversano has moved to Cigna as SVP and global chief brand officer. [Medical Marketing & Media]

Initiative has elevated US CEO Amy Armstrong to a global remit, as the agency’s current leader Mat Baxter is set to take on a new leadership role at parent IPG. [CampaignUS]

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FACEBOOK

Facebook-Meta Earns the ‘Worst Company of 2021’ Title in This Survey

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Facebook has had its share of controversies this year. The company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents.

Facebook parent Meta has been named the Worst Company of the Year (2021) by Yahoo Finance respondents. According to the publication, an “open-ended” survey was published on Yahoo Finance on December 4 and 5, where 1,541 respondents participated. Facebook received 8 percent of the write-in vote, but respondents were seemingly mad about the Robinhood trading app as well. Electric truck startup Nikola, which was named last year’s worst company by the same publication also faced respondents ire.

Yahoo Finance notes, “Facebook has had its share of controversies this year.” Starting in January, Meta-owned WhatsApp got caught up in a huge controversy after the messaging app announced a new privacy policy (Terms of Service). WhatsApp said it would collect user information and share it with third-party apps for a better user experience. However, the app gave users no choice but later made modifications to the policy under pressure. Similarly, the company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents showing the company’s problematic practices. It was revealed that Meta-owned Instagram had a negative impact on teenage girls, but the company did almost nothing to rectify the problem.

Yahoo Finance even highlights, “At the same time, some critics, including conservatives, say Facebook over-policed the platform’s speech and stifled their voices.” Critics also blame Facebook and other social media platforms for not curbing hate speech that led to Capitol Building riots.

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However, around 30 percent of Yahoo Finance readers said that Facebook or Meta could redeem itself. One respondent suggested that the company could issue a formal apology for negligence and donate a sizable amount of its profits to a foundation to help reverse its harm.

On the other hand, respondents chose Microsoft as the Company of the Year (2021). The Satya Nadella-led company touched the trillion-mark this year and introduced notable upgrades. The most notable is the Windows 11 OS update that succeeds Windows 10.

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FACEBOOK

Facebook pays 1.7 Cr fine to Russia after failing to delete content Moscow deems illegal

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In the latest legal tussle with Russia over controversial social media regulation laws, Facebook paid 17 million roubles (Rs 1.7 Crore) for failing to remove content deemed illegal by Moscow. With a threat of potential larger fines looming, Facebook parent company Meta, owned by Mark Zuckerberg, is scheduled to face court next week over repeated violations of Russian legislation on content, Interfax News Agency reported. As per the latest updates, the social media giant could be fined a percentage of its annual revenue.

In October, Moscow sent state bailiffs to enforce the collection of 17 million roubles. Meanwhile, as per Interfax report citing a federal bailiffs’ database, on Sunday, there were more enforcement proceedings against the company. Apart from the popular social media app, Telegram has also paid 15 million roubles in fines for failing to comply with the Russian social media legislations that came into force in 2016.

Facebook pays $53k to Russia for refusing controversial social media laws

It is pertinent to mention that Facebook has locked horns with Moscow earlier in November, resulting in it paying 4 million roubles ($53,000) over its refusal to adhere to Russian data localisation laws, the Moscow Times reported. The Moscow court on November 25 had said that Facebook paid the fine levied in February, following which all proceedings against the US-based social media giant. The payment comes against the litigation filed against the company in 2018, alongside Twitter. The tech companies were also forced to pay an additional 3000 rubles ($40) for failing to comply with user data sharing rules as per the law. The Russian authorities have also previously blocked LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, for failing to abide by the laws.

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Russian social media laws

As per Moscow Times, under the Russian social media regulation laws, all foreign technology companies are required to store data related to Russian customers and users on servers located in Russia. Additionally, the Russian tech companies will also have to share encryption data with the federal authorities as well as record user calls, messages and civil society group conversation records. The apparatus is said to be a severe breach of privacy rights and unfettered back-door access to personal data that could be used to harass Kremlin critics.

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.

The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.

With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.

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Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.


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Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to tasneema@ndtv.com.

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