SRAX Recap: Amazon and Bloomberg scandal, UK tax tech giants, Zuckerberg summoned to hearing

In this week’s digital news, Amazon pulls ad spending from Bloomberg amidst scandal, the UK announces tax on tech companies, Mark Zuckerberg is summoned to UK & Canadian hearing, and more.

Amazon and Bloomberg disagree over potential scandal

In October, Bloomberg published a story alleging that the Chinese government hacked into Amazon and Apple’s hardware by embedding microchips into motherboards. Both companies have denied the story, but the news organization has held its ground. In response, Amazon’s media buyer reportedly pulled the brand’s ad spend on Bloomberg. Some ads are still running on the publisher’s site, but it’s the result of programmatic ad buying, not direct purchase. If the report is false, this move shows how advertisers are working harder to hold publications accountable. If it’s true, Amazon has a lot of explaining to do.

UK to tax profitable tech companies

The UK government announced a new 2% ‘digital services tax’ on the revenue of internet giants. These companies often book massive profits in low-tax countries, which the UK sees as an injustice. The tax would only apply to firms with global revenues of at least $640 million, and wouldn’t discourage smaller businesses. “The [tax] rules have simply not kept pace with changing business models,” he said. “It is clearly not sustainable or fair that digital platform businesses can generate substantial value in the UK without paying tax here.” Facebook, Google, Twitter, Apple and Amazon are expected to be some of the first companies impacted, although the tax isn’t set to come into force until April 2020.

Facebook CEO summoned to UK & Canada joint hearing

U.K. MP Damian Collins and Canadian MP Bob Zimmer asked Zuckerberg this week to testify in front of a joint hearing held by the U.K. and Canadian House of Commons. The hearing will take place in late November, and will focus on the platform’s relationship to misinformation and fake news. The letter says that other countries’ parliaments could join in in the hearing if they wish to. Both reps head committees overseeing digital policies, and neither have met with Zuckerberg since the 2016 election. If the joint approach is successful in getting Zuckerberg to show up, it could be critical in setting a precedent for how countries other than the U.S. attempt to deal with Facebook going forward.

Facebook, Disney, Lyft face devastating ad fraud

A new report exposed a network of shell companies known as MegaCast. The network reportedly bought up Android apps and then monetized them using bots. The scheme employed shell companies, fake email ids and websites, and malware to siphon millions in ad revenue. Essentially the bad actors purchased android apps with cash up-front, and then used them to monitor user behavior. They sold in-app ads, and mixed bots in with real users to increase impressions. In the end, MegaCast brought in millions in ad revenue from advertisers. The scheme is comprised of 125 Android apps and websites, all of which are connected to a network of shell companies based in Cyprus, Malta, British Virgin Islands, Croatia, Bulgaria, and elsewhere.

Twitter expands tweet reporting efforts

It’s no secret that Twitter has been cracking down on spam and bots over the past year. The newest update from the platform is that tweet reporting options have expanded. Users can now specify that the account tweeting is fake, for example. Another rule targets tweets that include links to potentially harmful, malicious, or phishing sites. Twitter’s efforts to clean up the platform over the past year have been frequent. They implemented rules to reduce hateful content, then they put in place reach restrictions on tweets distorting the public conversation. They’ve also added new identification requirements when signing up for accounts, and implemented new API restrictions to limit the ability for spammers to flood the network. As social media has become an increasing threat to discourse and public figures, the company will need to keep the health of the platform top of mind.

Published on November 2, 2018

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