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Amazon Sues Administrators of More Than 10,000 Facebook Groups Over Fake Reviews

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Amazon on Monday filed legal action against the administrators of more than 10,000 Facebook groups that attempt to orchestrate fake reviews on Amazon in exchange for money or free products, according to the company. These groups are set up to recruit individuals willing to post incentivized and misleading reviews on Amazon’s stores in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Japan. The e-commerce giant said it will use information discovered in the legal action to identify bad actors and remove fake reviews commissioned by these fraudsters that haven’t already been detected by Amazon’s technology, expert investigators, and continuous monitoring.

“Our teams stop millions of suspicious reviews before they’re ever seen by customers, and this lawsuit goes a step further to uncover perpetrators operating on social media,” said Dharmesh Mehta, Amazon’s vice president of Selling Partner Services in a press release. “Proactive legal action targeting bad actors is one of many ways we protect customers by holding bad actors accountable.”

The fraudsters behind such groups solicit fake reviews for hundreds of products available for sale on Amazon, including car stereos and camera tripods, according to the firm. One of the groups identified in the lawsuit is “Amazon Product Review,” which had more than 43,000 members until Meta took down the group earlier this year. Amazon’s investigations revealed that the group’s administrators attempted to hide their activity and evade Facebook’s detection, in part by obfuscating letters from problematic phrases.

Amazon strictly prohibits fake reviews and has more than 12,000 employees around the world dedicated to protecting its stores from fraud and abuse, including fake reviews. A dedicated team investigates fake review schemes on social media sites, including Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter, and regularly reports the abusive groups to those companies. Since 2020, Amazon has reported more than 10,000 fake review groups to Meta. Of these, Meta has taken down more than half of the groups for policy violations and continues to investigate others.

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Amazon introduced product reviews in 1995 to help customers make more informed shopping decisions. The company said that it aims to ensure every review that appears in its stores is trustworthy and reflects an actual customer experience. Amazon’s expert investigators use industry-leading tools to detect and block fake reviews. As a result, it has proactively stopped more than 200 million suspected fake reviews in 2020 alone, according to the firm.

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Today’s legal action is the latest step by the company aimed at stopping fraudsters who attempt to post fake reviews in Amazon’s stores. In the past year, legal action has shut down multiple major review brokers targeting customers in the US, the UK, Germany, France, Italy, and Spain.

According to Amazon, the nefarious business of brokering fake reviews remains an industry-wide problem, and civil litigation is only one step. Permanently ridding fake reviews across retail, travel, and other sectors will require greater public-private partnership, including collaboration between the affected companies, social media sites, and law enforcement, all focused on a goal of greater consumer protection, the company said.


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Musk Bid for More Data on Twitter Bot Accounts Denied by Judge

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Elon Musk was denied access to additional documents about Twitter’s internal measure of robot and spam accounts after a judge concluded the company already disclosed enough of the information as part of the billionaire’s legal fight over a scuttled takeover. Twitter has “done enough” in handing over documents about the so-called mDAU — a metric used to survey human users of the social media platform, Delaware Chancery Judge Kathaleen St. J. McCormick ruled Friday. Musk had sought more information to bolster his bid to cancel a $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3.5 lakh crore) buyout of the company.

Musk and his lawyers repeatedly accused Twitter of seeking to hide crucial documents and witnesses as they ramp up for an October 17 trial on whether the world’s richest person can legitimately walk away from the deal.

The billionaire claims the company hadn’t levelled with him about the number of spam and bot accounts among its more than 230 million users. Twitter says Musk has buyer’s remorse and his concerns are a pretext to get out of a deal.

McCormick also denied Musk’s request Twitter officials conduct further searches of the files under the terms “user-active minutes,” (UAM) or “stickiness,” two ways of measuring how long users stay on the platform.

Both sides have issued a fusillade of subpoenas and deposition requests to banks, investors and advisers involved in the teetering transaction. McCormick has been forced to rule on about a half-dozen disputes over document disclosures and other discovery issues.

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Meanwhile, the judge also appointed Chris Sontchi, a retired bankruptcy judge, to serve as a special master to oversee discovery disputes. The Wilmington, Delaware-based Sontchi now works as a mediator and also serves as a judge on the Singapore International Commercial Court.

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© 2022 Bloomberg L.P.


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Ten Things Elon Musk’s Texts Reveal About the Twitter Deal

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A new trove of text messages between Elon Musk and Twitter executives, close friends, potential investors and Silicon Valley bros sheds light on how a $44 billion (nearly Rs. 3,58,100 crore) deal by the world’s richest person to buy the social media company came about — and ended up in court.

The texts show who wanted to be part of the buyout and reveal the inner circle’s musings on who should run the company if Musk did come to own it. They were disclosed as part of Twitter‘s lawsuit to make Musk follow through on his $54.20 (nearly Rs. 4,400)-per-share offer, which is slated to go to trial in Delaware Chancery Court next month.

Among the many texts, Musk discloses that he “has a minor case of COVID” in late March, is usually “up until ~3 am” and no longer has a personal assistant.

Here are 10 glimpses behind the scenes.

1. Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s former Chief Executive Officer, worked to get Musk to join the board shortly after activist investors starting agitating for change at the company in 2020.

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“I tried my hardest to get you on our board, and the board said no,” Dorsey wrote. “That’s about the time I decided I need to work to leave, as hard as it was for me.”

Dorsey is “jack jack” on Elon’s phone.

2. Musk’s relations with Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal went from friendly to frosty within a week. On April 5, Agrawal tweeted that Musk was being appointed to Twitter’s board — and got Musk’s approval for the language of the tweet.

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But by April 9, the tone had shifted dramatically. Agrawal upbraided Musk over his tweets disparaging the company.

“You are free to tweet ‘is Twitter dying’ or anything else about Twitter — but it’s my responsibility to tell you that it’s not helping me make Twitter better in the current context. I’d like to provide your perspective on the level of internal distraction right now and how it [sic] hurting our ability to do work.”

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“What did you get done this week?” Musk snapped back.

“I’m not joining the board. This is a waste of time,” he texted 40 seconds later.

“Will make an offer to take Twitter private,” he texted 15 seconds after that.

3. A few minutes later, Musk texted with Chair Bret Taylor about fixing Twitter. The texts suggest he already knew about Twitter’s bot problem, which he would later cite as a reason to abandon the deal.

“This is hard to do as a public company, as purging fake users will make the numbers look terrible, so restructuring should be done as a private company,” Musk wrote. “This is Jack’s opinion too.”

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4. On April 20, Musk texted Oracle‘s Larry Ellison.

“Any interest in participating in the Twitter deal?” he asked. Ellison said yes. Musk asked how much.

“A billion … or whatever you recommend,” Ellison replied. Musk recommended $2 billion (nearly Rs. 16,300 crore). On April 24, Ellison said, “Since you think I should come in for at least $2 billion. I’m in for $2 billion.”

5. Several of Musk’s friends had ideas on whom Musk should hire. Investor Bill Lee suggested Bill Gurley of Benchmark Capital. Jason Calacanis noted that “Twitter CEO is my dream job.”

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6. Joe Rogan was a fan of the deal. “I REALLY hope you get Twitter,” the outsize podcaster texted. “If you do, we should throw a hell of a party.”

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7. Steve Jurvetson suggested Musk hire Emil Michael, the former chief business officer of Uber Technologies, and texted Michael’s LinkedIn account over.

“I don’t have a LinkedIn account,” Musk responded.

8. Gayle King of CBS asked Musk in April for an interview, saying buying Twitter was what the kids call a “gangsta move” and suggesting that Oprah Winfrey might want to join the board. King said she’d like a Twitter edit button.

“Twitter edit button is coming,” Musk responded.

9. Musk warned Calacanis against offering investment in the deal to “randos.”

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It “makes it seem like I’m desperate,” he said.

Calacanis said he only wanted to be supportive: “You know I’m ride or die brother.”

10. In March, Sam Bankman-Fried, the crypto billionaire, tried to get in touch with Musk through an associate to discuss joining in a deal for Twitter. Musk appeared uninterested — and unaware of Bankman-Fried’s wealth, asking, “Does he have huge amounts of money?”

Eventually he warmed to the idea, “so long as I don’t have to have a laborious blockchain debate.”

It’s unclear if they met.

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Meta Unveils ‘Make-A-Video’ AI Text-To-Video Generator: All Details

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Meta has unveiled a new artificial intelligence system called ‘Make-A-Video’ that will allow users to generate short video clips by entering a text description of the desired scene. The announcement follows the company’s recent advancements in generative technology research, which seeks to give creators more creative control over artificially intelligent image generation. With the announcement, Meta has taken the technology a step further by including text-to-video generation capabilities apart from text-to-image. However, the company is yet to release access to users for the model.

The prompt-generated videos are five seconds or shorter and would contain no audio. However, Meta claims that a wide range of prompts is supported by the model.

Meta, while making the announcement through a blog post, stated that in a commitment to ‘open science’ it will be sharing details of the research behind the latest artificial intelligence generative technology while also confirming its plans to release a demo experience for users.

Generative AI research is pushing creative expression forward by giving people tools to quickly and easily create new content,” said Meta in a blog post announcing the work. “With just a few words or lines of text, Make-A-Video can bring imagination to life and create one-of-a-kind videos full of vivid colors and landscapes,” added the parent company to Facebook and Instagram.

In the research paper describing the model at work, the company notes that ‘Make-A-Video’ demo model utilises pairs of images, captions, and unlabeled video footage sourced from WebVid-10M and HD-VILA-100M datasets that includes stock video footage created by sites like Shutterstock and scraped from the web that together spans hundreds of thousands of hours of footage.

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Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg took to Facebook to describe the work as “amazing progress,” while adding that “it’s much harder to generate video than photos, because beyond correctly generating each pixel, the system also has to predict how they’ll change over time.”

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However, there have been concerning issues raised around AI generative media, with some suggesting that it could lead to a rise in misinformation, propaganda, and non-consensual pornography, as seen in the case of AI image generative systems and deepfakes, according to a report by The Washington Post. Meta says it wants to be “thoughtful” about how they build such generative models and hence plans to limit access to them. However, a timeline on the demo experience and clarity on how access would be limited is yet to be known.


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