tag:econsultancy.com,2008:/topics/legal-and-regulations Latest Legal content from Econsultancy 2017-05-05T14:17:29+01:00 tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/68865 2017-05-05T14:17:29+01:00 2017-05-05T14:17:29+01:00 Will bad PR lead Uber to destruction? Patricio Robles <p>Since the beginning of the year, the eight-year-old transportation company that investors have reportedly valued at more than $60bn has seen its name dragged through the mud:</p> <ul> <li>On February 19, a former Uber engineer, Susan Fowler, published <a href="https://www.susanjfowler.com/blog/2017/2/19/reflecting-on-one-very-strange-year-at-uber">a blog post</a> detailing a culture of sexism at the company, sparking outrage and forcing the company's founder and CEO, Travis Kalanick, to announce an independent review.</li> <li>Shortly thereafter, Uber's SVP of engineering, Amit Singhal, <a href="http://www.recode.net/2017/2/27/14745360/amit-singhal-google-uber">left the company</a> after it was revealed that he had left his former employer, Google, following an allegation of sexual harassment that the search giant had found to be "credible."</li> <li>Around the same time, a video recorded by an Uber driver revealed a conversation the driver had with Kalanick who, when pressed about driver pay, responded, "You know what, some people don't like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!" Kalanick apologized for his behavior and <a href="https://newsroom.uber.com/a-profound-apology/">in a statement</a> said "This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it."</li> <li>In late February, Susan Fowler tweeted that "research for the smear campaign has begun. If you are contacted by anyone asking for personal and intimate info about me, please report asap" and shortly thereafter announced that she had hired a law firm. Uber <a href="http://www.recode.net/2017/2/24/14728660/uber-says-its-not-behind-the-phone-calls-to-investigate-susan-fowlers-personal-life">responded and stated</a> that it was not behind any investigations of Fowler's personal life.</li> <li>Google parent company Alphabet, on behalf of its self-driving car unit Waymo, <a href="https://medium.com/waymo/a-note-on-our-lawsuit-against-otto-and-uber-86f4f98902a1#.v5sjnsfbq">filed a lawsuit</a> against Uber and Otto alleging that former Waymo employees engaged in a "concerted plan to steal Waymo’s trade secrets and intellectual property." Otto is a self-driving car startup Uber purchased in 2016. That lawsuit <a href="https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/25/uber-must-turn-over-information-about-its-acquisition-of-otto-to-waymo-court-rules/">does not appear to be going well</a> for Uber and might be why the head of Uber's Advantage Technology Group, who is at the center of the lawsuit, just <a href="https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/27/ubers-anthony-levandowki-out-as-advanced-technologies-lead-amid-legal-fight/">stepped aside</a>.</li> <li>In early March, Uber was forced to respond to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/03/technology/uber-greyball-program-evade-authorities.html">reports that it had built a "greyballing" system</a> so that it could evade law enforcement and regulators in markets where it was not permitted by law to operate.</li> <li>Also in early March, another former female Uber engineer <a href="https://medium.com/@contactkeala/sexism-at-uber-from-female-management-uberstory-238874075bbb">spoke out</a> about her last days at the company, which she claimed were filled with "disrespect, condescending managers, and sexism."</li> <li>Uber's president, Jeff Jones, who was previously the CMO of retail giant Target, resigned from the company after just six months on the job. Jones <a href="http://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/Amid-turbulence-at-Uber-company-s-president-11013195.php">said that</a>, "The beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber and I could no longer continue as president of the ridesharing business."</li> <li>In late March, <a href="http://www.theverge.com/2017/3/25/15061270/uber-employee-company-trip-south-korean-escort-bar">a report was published</a> claiming that Uber's Kalanick and five other employees visited an escort karaoke bar in Seoul, Korea in 2014, which resulted in a complaint to Uber human resources by a female employee who was present. According to the report, Kalanick's girlfriend was later asked by Uber’s senior VP of business to lie if questioned about the incident.</li> <li>Earlier this month, it <a href="https://www.theinformation.com/ubers-top-secret-hell-program-exploited-lyfts-vulnerability">was revealed</a> that between 2014 and early 2016 Uber had a software program called "Hell" which was used to track drivers driving for Lyft, the company's chief rival. As part of this program, which relied on fake Lyft rider accounts and a flaw in Lyft's technology, Uber tracked drivers who worked for both Uber and Lyft with the goal of luring them to work for Uber instead. Now, an ex-Lyft driver <a href="https://www.cnet.com/news/former-lyft-driver-sues-uber-for-hell-tracking-program/">is suing Uber for $5m</a> alleging that the program violated the Federal Wiretap Act and California's Invasion of Privacy Act. The lawyers representing the ex-Lyft driver are seeking class action status.</li> </ul> <p>Given Uber's ubiquity and dominance in key markets, one might assume that the company will no doubt weather all of these scandals with minimal long-term damage, but is that really a valid assumption?</p> <h3>Lyft pounces</h3> <p>If Lyft's fortunes are any indication, Uber might have reason to worry.</p> <p>While Uber has been dealing with bad headline after bad headline, Lyft has been courting riders and polishing its image. For example, when Uber was facing a #DeleteUber campaign over CEO Kalanick's participation in a business advisory council for US President Donald Trump, Lyft was responding to Trump's temporary travel ban targeting seven Muslim countries by announcing that it would be donating $1m to the American Civil Liberties Union.</p> <p>Is Lyft's cleaner image winning over consumers?</p> <p><a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-04-27/lyft-bookings-and-ridership-soar-while-losses-shrink"> According to</a> Bloomberg, Lyft's ridership and bookings "surged" in the first quarter of the year and according to fundraising documents Bloomberg obtained, the company is beating its internal targets. The documents revealed that Lyft's gross bookings in Q1 grew to $800m, more than double what they were in Q1 2016, and total ridership in February was 137% higher than February 2016.</p> <p>Obviously, there's no way to know just how much of Lyft's gains, if any, have come at Uber's expense, but it's difficult to ignore the fact that Lyft's momentum seems to be accelerating at the very same time its larger rival is under constant media fire.</p> <h3>The big problem with Uber's bad PR</h3> <p>Many companies face scandal at some point or another, and Uber is no stranger to bad press. From reports that the company <a href="https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/06/uber-hired-investigators-to-impersonate-journalists-to-target-lawsuit-plaintiff/">impersonated journalists</a> as part of a lawsuit reponse to <a href="http://bgr.com/2016/12/13/uber-privacy-and-security/">claims it has spied on users for years and lied about it</a>, Uber is at this point fairly well-versed in crisis PR. And on the surface, the company's response to the latest string of bad headlines has followed best practice.</p> <p>High-profile claims of a rampant sexual harassment? Denounce the behavior and announce an investigation to be led by the former US Attorney General. CEO gets caught on camera treating a driver poorly? Have the CEO issue a heartfelt apology and promise to get help. And so on and so forth.</p> <p>But something <em>feels</em> different about the latest crises. When the relatively new president of the company quits after only six months and points to the "beliefs and approach to leadership" as the reason, it suggests there's a bigger problem, as do the views of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/mar/07/uber-work-culture-travis-kalanick-susan-fowler-controversy">current, former and prospective employees, as well as recruiters</a>.</p> <p>To be sure, companies <em>can</em> recover from <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/6119-bp-s-internet-response-the-good-the-bad-the-ugly/">huge mistakes that create PR messes of significant proportions</a>, but what happens when a brand burdens itself with a culture in which mistakes that wreak PR havoc are inevitable? And what happens if a company comes to be seen by the public as rotten at its core?</p> <p>While the thought of the $60bn-plus upstart imploding seems like a far-fetched proposition, Uber appears to be testing just how far the limits of bad PR can be pushed in a way that is perhaps unprecedented.</p> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/69006 2017-04-20T15:00:00+01:00 2017-04-20T15:00:00+01:00 What publishers and advertisers need to know about Princeton and Stanford's new super ad blocker Patricio Robles <h4>1. It uses "perceptual ad blocking"</h4> <p>Most ad blockers in use today look for the footprints of digital ads. For example, they scan the contents of a page, identifying snippets of code and URLs that are commonly associated with ads and ad networks. This approach is very effective at blocking ads served by major ad players like Google, but it's far less effective at weeding out ads that are served by publishers themselves, including native ads.</p> <p>The university researchers' ad blocker uses computer vision technology to analyze the contents of a web page much the same way a human would. As Vice's Jason Koebler <a href="https://motherboard.vice.com/en_us/article/princetons-ad-blocking-superweapon-may-put-an-end-to-the-ad-blocking-arms-race">explained</a>...</p> <blockquote> <p>...it uses optical character recognition, design techniques, and container searches (the boxes that ads are commonly put in on a page) to detect words like "sponsored" or "close ad" that are required to appear on every ad, which is what allows it to detect and block Facebook ads.</p> </blockquote> <h4>2. It could be 100% effective at blocking ads</h4> <p><a href="http://randomwalker.info/publications/ad-blocking-framework-techniques.pdf">According to</a> a paper published by the Princeton and Stanford researchers who created the new ad blocker, so long as advertisers and publishers adhere to the disclosure standards promulgated by regulatory agencies like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), "a perceptual ad blocker will have a 100% recall at identifying ads governed by that standard."</p> <h4>3. The ad blocker is difficult if not impossible to detect</h4> <p>The new computer vision-based approach allows the Princeton and Stanford ad blocker to more stealthily block ads by taking advantage of techniques normally employed by malware. In fact, when tested on 50 websites employing anti ad-blocking scripts, the university's ad blocker was able to block ads without being detected 100% of the time. </p> <p>Because it stealthily blocks ads, the super ad blocker is able to avoid detection by <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/66606-here-come-the-ad-blocker-blockers">anti ad-blocking techniques</a> that publishers commonly use to thwart users who browse their sites with ad blockers.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0008/1281/netflixad.png" alt="" width="590" height="226"></p> <p>That's obviously not going to be good news for the growing number of publishers that are using anti ad-blockers to cut off access to people using the technology, and could encourage some of them to erect more restrictive paywalls.</p> <h4>4. The technology is currently available in a proof-of-concept that doesn't block ads</h4> <p>While it's probably only a matter of time before perceptual ad blocking technology makes its full debut, for now, the Princeton and Stanford researchers decided to release a limited proof-of-concept in the form of <a href="https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/perceptual-ad-blocker/mahgiflleahghaapkboihnbhdplhnchp?hl=en">a Chrome extension</a> that doesn't actually block ads. Instead, the extension highlights the ads it identifies.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0008/5479/adblocker.png" alt="" width="644" height="404"></p> <h4>5. Perceptual ad blocking isn't the only new approach to ad blocking that could have a big impact</h4> <p>While it would appear that perceptual ad blocking has the potential to end the ad blocking wars, handing victory to consumers and defeat to publishers and advertisers, this new approach to ad blocking isn't the only one that publishers and advertisers need to worry about. </p> <p>In a paper detailing their perceptual ad blocking tech, the Princeton and Stanford researchers also presented another technique that could make ad blocking more effective. Under this approach, a browser extension would create two copies of a page, blocking ads in the one displayed to users. The end result would be that publishers would again have no way to identify users who are blocking ads.</p> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/68953 2017-04-04T15:30:00+01:00 2017-04-04T15:30:00+01:00 Can pharma companies effectively use influencer marketing? Patricio Robles <p>As Digiday's Yuyu Chen <a href="http://digiday.com/marketing/inside-influencer-marketing-weigh-loss-supplements/">recently detailed</a>, a weight-loss supplement company turned to <a href="https://econsultancy.com/reports/the-voice-of-the-influencer/">influencer marketing</a> to help it "restore its image" as it battled legal issues related to product recalls.</p> <p>Unlike most influencer campaigns, Collective Bias, the firm it worked with, needed extra time to find influencers in the supplement company's target market – overweight female adults over the age of 40. And because the content the influencers created needed to be compliant with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules, legal reviews were required before content could be published.</p> <p>All told, the campaign, which involved a relatively small number of influencers – less than two dozen – took two months to execute. Normally, Collective Bias says campaigns take three to four weeks.</p> <p>Another firm, Talent Resources, which has created influencer marketing campaigns for weight loss companies SlimFast and Hydroxycut, confirmed that pharma campaigns are a different beast. According to the firm's CEO, Michael Heller, with pharma campaigns it normally takes two months to find the right influencers.</p> <p>One of the big challenges is finding influencers who will commit to campaigns that are longer than usual because pharma companies frequently need influencers to publish content about their progress using a product over an extended period of time.</p> <p>Campaign execution brings its own challenges. Because of the amount of disclosure required by the FDA, the content published by influencers often looks more "heavily branded."</p> <p>Of course, not complying with the rules is a no-no. Last year, one of social media's highest paid influencers, Kim Kardashian, published a sponsored Instagram post for Diclegis, a morning sickness drug marketed by pharma company Duchesnay.</p> <p>The post racked up nearly half a million likes and boosted social media conversation about the drug by 500% according to one social media analytics firm, but because the post didn't abide by the FDA's rules, the regulator sent Duchesnay a warning letter and demanded corrective action. That <a href="https://consumerist.com/2015/08/31/after-fda-warning-kim-kardashian-posts-corrected-endorsement-of-morning-sickness-pill/">resulted in</a> a follow-up post by Kardashian in which she was forced to tell her followers that her post didn't meet FDA requirements.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0008/5145/kimk.png" alt="" width="680" height="346"></p> <h3>A subtler way to use influencer marketing?</h3> <p>While there's no direct evidence that the FDA's action had a chilling effect on other pharma companies, the unique rules that pharma companies have to deal with will likely limit their use of influencer marketing and encourage them to think differently about how they can take advantage of it.</p> <p>One approach pharma companies seem to be embracing as an alternative to traditional campaigns in which an influencer directly pitches a product or service is to enlist influencers to drive awareness of a medical condition the pharma companies' drugs treat.</p> <p>Last year, pharma giant <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/68403-pharma-company-novartis-taps-facebook-live-event-to-promote-heart-failure-drugs">Novartis partnered with actress/singer Queen Latifah</a> as part of a <em>Rise Above Heart Failure</em> initiative designed to call attention to heart failure, a condition that the company's drug Entresto treats. Novartis involved Queen Latifah because her mother, Rita Owens, had previously experienced heart failure, so the campaign was something that she was ostensibly eager to be involved with.</p> <p>As part of its initiative, Queen Latifah participated in a Facebook Live event.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0008/0425/Screen_Shot_2016-10-17_at_17.13.28.png" alt="" width="500" height="453"></p> <p>Other pharma companies appear to be mirroring Novartis's approach. For example, <a href="http://www.mmm-online.com/campaigns/agn-eye-care-campaign-diabetes-marketing-pharma/article/636563/">Allergan is participating in a <em>See America</em> campaign</a> that aims to put an end to preventable blindness. The awareness-building portion of the campaign will have Allergan "working with influencers in various areas, including art, fashion, sports, and music, to reach people across the country."</p> <p>Obviously, tapping influencers to promote a condition or cause might not seem as desirable as tapping them to promote a product directly, but for pharma companies already hampered by reputational woes, it's not only likely to be the best way to minimize the regulatory red tape associated with their campaigns, it's probably the best way to ensure that the goodwill of the influencers they work with doesn't go to waste or worse, is put in jeopardy. </p> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/68945 2017-04-03T14:01:17+01:00 2017-04-03T14:01:17+01:00 Thanks to politicians, ISPs could soon become the dominant digital ad players in the US Patricio Robles <p>One of the obvious goals of these acquisitions is to stake out a better position in the booming digital advertising market, which surpassed television ad spending last year in the US and is now worth more than $70bn annually.</p> <p>But now, ISPs may have an even easier time realizing their digital advertising dreams thanks to the US House of Representatives and Senate voting to pass S.J. Res. 34, a measure that kills consumer broadband privacy rules that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) <a href="https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-adopts-broadband-consumer-privacy-rules">enacted last October</a> which required ISPs to get consumers to give them permission to collect sensitive data, including their browsing histories, geolocation data, and financial information. Additionally, the rules required ISPs to be more transparent about their data collection and sales practices.</p> <p>US President Donald Trump is expected to sign S.J. Res. 34.</p> <p>Once that happens, as DSLReport's Karl Bode <a href="http://www.dslreports.com/shownews/The-GOP-Just-Killed-Consumer-Broadband-Privacy-Protections-139244">notes</a>, "there's arguably little to prevent ISPs from doing whatever they'd like with your personal information, including selling it to [third-party] companies."</p> <h3>Disappointment and outrage</h3> <p>Not surprisingly, many observers expressed disappointment and even outrage at the vote, which saw S.J. Res. 34 pass in both the House and Senate by a slim margin along party lines. <a href="https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2017/03/congress-sides-cable-and-telephone-industry">According to</a> the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), once President Trump signs S.J. Res. 34 the internet is going to become a less friendly and potentially downright scary place for US consumers:</p> <blockquote> <p>...big Internet providers will be given new powers to harvest your personal information in extraordinarily creepy ways. They will watch your every action online and create highly personalized and sensitive profiles for the highest bidder. All without your consent.</p> <p>This breaks with the decades long legal tradition that your communications provider is never allowed to monetize your personal information without asking for your permission first. This will harm our cybersecurity as these companies become giant repositories of personal data.</p> <p>It won't be long before the government begins demanding access to the treasure trove of private information Internet providers will collect and store.</p> </blockquote> <p>While such dire predictions are not guaranteed to come true, most tech industry observers and experts have expressed significant concerns that the elimination of the FCC's privacy rules would leave consumers vulnerable. Indeed, it would appear that, absent a regulatory change of heart, ISPs will now be free to collect data, and sell and use it, without many restrictions.</p> <p>So what happened? Members of the House and Senate recognized what was at stake. Democratic critics of S.J. Res. 34 <a href="https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2017/03/for-sale-your-private-browsing-history/">warned</a> that the measure would make ISPs "more powerful than Amazon and Google." And they raised the privacy implications. "Just last week I bought underwear on the Internet. Why should you know what size I take or the color?" Rep. Michael Capuano asked his colleagues during debate.</p> <p>But Republicans who voted for S.J. Res. 34 expressed concern that the FCC's privacy rules "arbitrarily [treat] Internet service providers differently from the rest of the Internet" and thus represent "government intervention in the free market." They argued that this benefited search engines and social networks, namely Google and Facebook, who use their massive data troves with minimal restriction to dominate the digital ad market.</p> <p>Of course, users can more easily choose not to use Google and Facebook than they can not to use an ISP, and there are steps they can take to limit tracking when they use internet services. On the other hand, ISPs have the unique ability to track every single site a customer visits, which is why there is so much disappointment and outrage over S.J. Res. 34.</p> <p>The unfettered ability to use and sell that browsing history data will put ISPs in position to make big moves in the digital advertising market and for better or worse, nobody should expect them to delay.</p> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/68940 2017-03-29T13:39:29+01:00 2017-03-29T13:39:29+01:00 Banks are using data access to disrupt their disruptors Patricio Robles <p>As The New York Times <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/23/business/dealbook/banks-and-tech-firms-battle-over-something-akin-to-gold-your-data.html">detailed</a> last week, major banks like JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo are demanding new terms from tech companies that want to be able to pull data for their banking customers.</p> <p>Many fintechs rely on their users providing access to the data from their bank accounts, and use third-party intermediaries like Envestnet Yodlee and Intuit to access that data. Those third-parties have direct relationships with some banks and use scraping technologies to access data from others when users provide the credentials to their accounts.</p> <p>To date, there have been few rules and standards as to how the data pulled is used and big banks want to change that. According to Jason Kratovil, a VP at bank lobbying organization Financial Services Roundtable, "When you think about millions of customers handing over their bank-account credentials to third parties, who currently have no real oversight or examination of their security controls, you start to understand why our members get pretty nervous."</p> <p>But many fintech execs believe the concerns over security are an excuse to thwart companies banks see as a threat. Personal Capital CEO William Harris told The New York Times, "It’s pretty clear the real intent of the banks is to limit this data because it puts their business model at risk."</p> <p>Personal Capital, which was founded in 2009, is an upstart wealth manager. It offers free analytics tools that it says more than 1.3m users take advantage of to track their personal finances. If those users were unable to give Personal Capital access to their bank accounts, it wouldn't be able to pull in the data it needs to provide such tools.</p> <h3>Banks get aggressive</h3> <p>According to The New York Times, big banks are getting increasingly aggressive in their dealings with the third-party platforms that many companies use to access bank account data. In January, JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo struck a deal with Intuit "that will give Intuit more streamlined access to data from the banks, in exchange for new rules about how Intuit uses the data."</p> <p>Wells Fargo also demanded compensation "to help the bank cover the additional infrastructure costs involved in providing real-time access to data."</p> <p>Envestnet Yodlee, which competes with Intuit, has reportedly not yet come to an agreement with the banks and The New York Times says that the company is trying to push back on the banks' demands. As Steve Boms, Envestnet Yodlee's VP of government affairs sees it, "with data limitations, you are hindering the ability of millions of consumers to save more and optimize their finances." </p> <p>But it's not clear just how much push back is possible. Several banks have warned Envestnet Yodlee that if it doesn't agree to their terms, it could lose access to some of the data it is currently able to retrieve from them. </p> <h3>Ambiguous regulation and an uncertain regulatory environment</h3> <p>Unfortunately, the negotiations are high stakes in large part because it's not clear what banks are required to do or what consumers are entitled to.</p> <p>As The New York Times notes, in Europe regulators have basically decided that consumers, not banks, own the data from their accounts. In the US, Section 1033 of Dodd-Frank states that covered financial institutions, including banks, "shall make available to a consumer, upon request, information in the control or possession of the covered person concerning the consumer financial product or service that the consumer obtained from such covered person, including information relating to any transaction, series of transactions, or to the account including costs, charges and usage data. The information shall be made available in an electronic form usable by consumers."</p> <p>But the "electronic form usable by consumers" is ambiguous, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that Dodd-Frank created, despite its push for greater openness on the part of banks, hasn't issued a mandate regarding this.</p> <p>What's more, new US president Donald Trump <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/68779-how-will-donald-trump-s-policies-affect-fintech/">has directed his Treasury secretary to review Dodd–Frank</a>, and spoke of repealing it during his campaign.</p> <p>Is the more aggressive negotiating stance that big banks are taking a result of the perceived favor they have with the new administration? If it is, fintechs should expect big banks to get even more aggressive if and when Dodd-Frank is dismantled and/or repealed.</p> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/68779 2017-02-06T14:15:37+00:00 2017-02-06T14:15:37+00:00 How will Donald Trump's policies affect fintech? Patricio Robles <p>While preventing another major financial crisis is a sensible goal, Dodd-Frank has been a source of controversy. At more than 2,000 pages, Dodd-Frank is, as one might expect, incredibly complex, and since it became law, it has been blamed for a number of trends, ranging from a decline in community banks to a decline in business lending by banks.</p> <p>During his campaign, then-candidate Trump promised to do away with Dodd-Frank and his directive last week is the first step in delivering on that promise. While this will almost certainly be a complex process that takes time, it's not too early for companies in the financial sector to start evaluating how the elimination of Dodd-Frank could affect their businesses.</p> <p>Specifically, the eventual death of Dodd-Frank could have a significant impact on fintechs, which <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/68159-five-ways-fintech-upstarts-are-disrupting-established-financial-institutions/">have been distrupting established financial services institutions</a>. Here's what it could mean for these financial service upstarts.</p> <h3>The good</h3> <p>Dodd-Frank created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which has broad regulatory powers over a number of consumer finance markets. While the CFPB has been largely supportive of innovation in financial services, it has also taken action against fintechs.</p> <p>For example, it fined both startup payment provider Dwolla over its data security practices and subprime consumer lending startup LendUp for "failing to deliver the promised benefits of its products."</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0008/3699/donald_trump.jpg" alt="" width="726" height="482"></p> <p>To be sure, few would argue that fintechs shouldn't be regulated and held to the same standard as established financial institutions. But if given the choice, most fintechs (and their investors) would probably opt for less regulation instead of more regulation, so to the extent that the repeal of Dodd-Frank results in less regulation, players in the fintech market would probably welcome it.</p> <p>In addition to the possibility that fintechs will have to deal with less regulation, if big banks are relieved of many of the regulatory burdens that Dodd-Frank has imposed on them, it could conceivably encourage them to more aggressively acquire, invest in or partner with fintechs.</p> <p>Already, large banks <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/68350-digital-transformation-in-a-b2b-giant-jp-morgan-ge/">like JP Morgan</a> have made an effort to work with startups as part of their <a href="https://econsultancy.com/training/digital-transformation/">digital transformations</a>, and they could get much closer to those startups if regulatory concerns diminish.</p> <h3>The bad</h3> <p>On the other hand, regulatory relief for big banks could put them in a better position to compete with fintechs. This effect could be particularly pronounced in the consumer and business lending markets, as Dodd-Frank has been blamed for significantly decreased bank lending. </p> <p>The void in the lending markets fueled the rise of non-bank lenders, which include <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/68549-how-will-fintech-lenders-cope-with-an-economic-downturn/">online lenders</a>. If big banks aggressively re-enter the lending markets, the increased competition could make it much more difficult for fintech lenders to generate business.</p> <p>Other changes could harm a number of wealth management startups that have promoted the use of robo-advisors. President Trump wants to end the so-called fiduciary rule, which requires retirement account advisers to work in the best interests of their clients.</p> <p>Throwing out the fiduciary rule "will shrink the market for robo-investing" <a href="https://www.wired.com/2017/02/trumps-gifts-wall-street-threaten-retirees-robots/">according to</a> one industry executive, which explains why fintech startup Betterment went so far as to take out ads in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal with open letters urging Trump not to undo the rule.</p> <h3>The ugly</h3> <p>While reduced regulation would probably be welcomed by fintechs, there is one part of Dodd-Frank that many fintechs rely heavily on. <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/fintech-startups-want-to-save-one-key-page-of-dodd-frank-1486035001">Section 1033</a> of the bill essentially establishes that consumers have the right to their financial data.</p> <p>Using third-party platforms offered by companies like Yodlee, Intuit and Plaid, many fintech startups make it easy for their customers to connect to their bank and credit accounts to retrieve data. This is used for everything from spending analyses to underwriting of loans.</p> <p>If Section 1033 is eliminated, large financial institutions, namely banks, would conceivably have the ability to block third-parties from accessing data from customer accounts. If this happens, some fintechs could find it difficult to survive as they would no longer have a viable way to obtain the data they need from their customers' bank accounts in a quick, secure and automated fashion.</p> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/68693 2017-01-11T14:46:00+00:00 2017-01-11T14:46:00+00:00 The importance of the blockchain: The second generation of the internet Nick Hammond <p>The profile of bitcoin (powered by a blockchain network) has often masked the <a href="https://www.businessesgrow.com/2016/07/20/blockchain-101/">rising importance and relevance of the underlying blockchain technology</a>, but this is changing rapidly.</p> <p>One perspective is that the blockchain is the ‘second generation of the internet’.</p> <p>According to an article <a href="http://raconteur.net/business/the-future-of-blockchain-in-8-charts">published on Raconteur</a>, ‘The first generation brought us the internet of information. The second generation, powered by blockchain, is bringing us the internet of value; a new, distributed platform that can help us reshape the world of business and transform the old order of human affairs for the better. But like the internet in the late-1980s and early-1990s, this is still early days.’<a href="http://raconteur.net/business/the-future-of-blockchain-in-8-charts?utm_source=pardot&amp;utm_campaign=wed50117&amp;utm_medium=email"><br></a></p> <p>The initial paper regarding bitcoin (and blockchain) entitled <a href="https://bitcoin.org/bitcoin.pdf">Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System (2008)</a> was authored by a mysterious individual, likely a pseudonym, going under the name of Satoshi Nakamoto.</p> <p>While the original paper was written with financial transactions in mind, blockchain has far wider potential. Time will tell, but it may be that Nakamoto’s paper will have ramifications on a par with Tim Berners-Lee’s innocuously titled 1989 paper <a href="http://info.cern.ch/Proposal.html">Information Management: A Proposal</a>.</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Gc2en3nHxA4?wmode=transparent" width="560" height="315"></iframe></p> <p>In December 2015, the UK government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Mark Waldport, stated in his report <a href="https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/492972/gs-16-1-distributed-ledger-technology.pdf">Distributed Ledger Technology: beyond blockchain</a>, that: ‘The technology [blockchain] offers the potential, according to the circumstances, for individual consumers to control access to personal records and to know who has accessed them.’  </p> <p>Canadian writers and researchers, Alex and Don Tapscott, authors of the recent book <a href="https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Blockchain-Revolution-Technology-Behind-Bitcoin-Changing-Business/1101980133">Blockchain Revolution</a>, believe that the blockchain goes way beyond the second coming of the internet. The pair, like so many others, stumbled across blockchain via the bitcoin association, quickly realising the genie is out of the bottle. </p> <p>Alex Tapscott observes, ‘With blockchain technology, a world of possibilities has opened and we now have a true peer-to-peer platform that enables personal economic empowerment. We can own our identities and our personal data; we can do transactions, creating and exchanging value without powerful intermediaries acting as the arbiters of money and information.’</p> <p>The blockchain, essentially a database and a giant network, known as a distributed ledger, records ownership and value, and allows anyone with access to view and take part. The asset database can be shared across a network of multiple sites, geographies or institutions. All participants within a network can have their own identical copy of the ledger. Any changes to the ledger are reflected in all copies, like a Google doc. </p> <p>The blockchain is currently having its biggest impact in financial services, with the largest changes caused by infrastructures using blockchain APIs, which are delivering in the areas of speed in data processing, transparency (amongst the right people) and security. </p> <p>But what does the blockchain mean for businesses outside of the financial sector? The answer lies in the areas of - privacy/information control, disintermediation, and business processes. </p> <p>As mentioned above, the blockchain offers consumers opportunity to achieve greater control over their information. This will impact on most organisations, as they increasingly rely on the acquisition and application of customer data.</p> <p>The importance of privacy is obviously a sensitive issue. One current solution for consumers is the selection of ephemeral applications like Snapchat and encrypted messaging, but the future might lie in the anonymity of blockchain technologies. </p> <p>Another change will affect business sectors where there are many intermediaries, for example travel and tourism. Here, the blockchain’s ability to simplify and speed up interactions, will likely lead to a process of dis-intermediation.</p> <p>Current examples of businesses and categories active in the blockchain include: Peer-to-peer payments (Abra, BTC Jam), <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/68612-how-the-internet-of-things-will-fundamentally-change-marketing/">internet of things</a> (Chimera-Inc, Filament), collaborative transport (La’Zooz, Arcade City) and online gaming (Auckur, SatoshiDice).</p> <p>As the number of applications that utilize blockchain technology increases, so will its relevance. Not only will we be selling products through the blockchain, but marketing companies that run off it as well.</p> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/68547 2016-11-21T15:30:00+00:00 2016-11-21T15:30:00+00:00 How advertisers are being exploited by fake news sites Patricio Robles <p>In many cases, these fake news sites were not intended to sway public opinion but instead to generate ad revenue for their creators.</p> <p><a href="https://www.buzzfeed.com/craigsilverman/how-macedonia-became-a-global-hub-for-pro-trump-misinfo">According to</a> BuzzFeed News, teens in a small town in Macedonia were behind more than 100 pro-Trump sites that were set up to capitalize on interest in Trump to, in some cases, generate thousands of dollars a month in revenue from advertising.</p> <p>And <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2016/11/17/facebook-fake-news-writer-i-think-donald-trump-is-in-the-white-house-because-of-me/">according to</a> a Washington Post report, one fake news site owner, Paul Horner, makes $10,000 per month from AdSense. One of Horner's sites, abcnews.com.co, features articles with the following headlines:</p> <ul> <li>Obama Signs Executive Order Declaring Investigation Into Election Results; Revote Planned For Dec. 19th</li> <li>Fireman Suspended &amp; Jailed By Atheist Mayor For Praying At Scene Of Fire</li> <li>Drug Kingpin Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman Escapes Mexican Prison For The Third Time</li> <li>Obama Signs Executive Order Banning The National Anthem At All Sporting Events</li> <li>World’s Biggest Starbucks Opening In Phoenix AZ: Roller Coaster, Underground Water Slide &amp; Robot Baristas</li> </ul> <p>While Horner says that he "like[s] getting lumped in with the Onion" and that there is "purpose and meaning behind" what he does, unlike the Onion, abcnews.com.co is arguably not a parody site.</p> <p>The domain and logo are clearly intended to play off of the brand of the real ABC News, and articles begin with AP, an obvious false reference to the Associated Press, which of course has nothing to do with the content on Horner's site. </p> <p>Despite the fact that Horner's site violates AdSense's <a href="https://support.google.com/adsense/answer/1348688">policies</a> against misrepresentative content, which cover "deceptively presenting fake news articles as real" as well as "falsely implying having an affiliation with, or endorsement by, another individual, organization, product, or service," Horner's site includes advertising from Google AdSense.</p> <p>On an article entitled <em>Donald Trump Tweets Image Of His Penis – WARNING: Graphic Content </em>that includes a fake photo of the president elect with the real ABC News logo, this author was served ads from brands like AT&amp;T, The Wall Street Journal and Panera Bread.</p> <p>Needless to say, none of these brands likely intended for their ads to show up on abcnews.com.co or this fake article.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0008/1661/fakeabcnews.png" alt="" width="794" height="475"></p> <h2>Asleep at the wheel</h2> <p>That reputatable and supposedly well-policed ad networks are being used to serve ads to such low-quality sites, to the detriment of their advertiser clients, <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/68259-are-online-advertisers-wising-up-about-content-quality/">is not news</a>.</p> <p>But with big companies like Google and Facebook facing higher levels of scrutiny following the 2016 election, it's possible that the lackadaisical enforcement of their policies could start to become more problematic.</p> <p>While <a href="https://econsultancy.com/training/courses/programmatic/">programmatic</a> has increased advertiser focus on the concept of <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/68198-how-people-based-marketing-is-redefining-effectiveness-in-programmatic-ad-buying/">buying audiences</a>, and many brands have come to prioritize reach, there is growing evidence that content quality has a significant effect on campaign efficacy.</p> <p>For example, a comScore study earlier this year found that <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/68086-ads-on-premium-sites-drive-67-greater-brand-lift/">ads on premium sites drive 67% greater brand lift</a>.</p> <p>Another recent study found that ads following political ads <a href="http://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/287639/political-ads-found-to-suppress-effectiveness-of-b.html">had a negative impact on brand perception</a>, again demonstrating that content and context can be just important as who ads are shown to.</p> <p>Obviously, networks like AdSense, despite their increasingly obvious shortcomings, aren't going away any time soon, but the spotlight on fake news should serve as a wake-up call to the industry that there is a lot of unnecessary waste that needs to be dealt with for the long-term health of digital advertising.</p> <p>Both Facebook and Google have <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/nov/15/facebook-google-fake-news-sites-ad-networks">updated their ad network policies</a> to reaffirm that they'll be going after fake news sites, but how easy that will be achieved remains to be seen.</p> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/68523 2016-11-14T14:00:00+00:00 2016-11-14T14:00:00+00:00 10 ways the Donald Trump presidency could affect tech and media Patricio Robles <p>Here are the 10 ways Donald Trump's presidency could impact tech and media...</p> <h3>1. A corporate tax reform boon</h3> <p>President-elect Trump has promised to enact corporate tax reform and lower the corporate tax rate significantly. This would likely be a major boon to tech companies.</p> <p>If Trump's corporate tax reforms are substantial enough, it's possible that companies like Apple, Oracle, Google and Facebook would no longer have to turn to tax strategies like the <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_Irish_arrangement">Double Irish</a>.</p> <p>Instead, they could officially conduct more of their business in the US and repatriate the billions of dollars they have stashed away in foreign countries, potentially spurring greater investment and M&amp;A activity on the US side of the pond.</p> <h3>2. Trade challenges</h3> <p>While corporate tax reform has the potential to be a boon to tech companies, particularly those with large hordes of cash parked overseas, Trump's tough talk on trade could present challenges to a number of companies.</p> <p>For example, during his campaign, Trump criticized Apple for not making more of its products in the US. In fact, at one event, he stated:</p> <blockquote> <p>We're going to get Apple to build their damn computers and things in this country instead of in other countries.</p> </blockquote> <p>It's not at all clear that corporate tax reform and other policy initiatives would provide enough incentive to make manufacturing of devices like the iPhone in American factories viable economically, but if Trump doesn't relent, companies like Apple could find themselves targeted for manufacturing overseas.</p> <h3>3. Less regulation, sort of</h3> <p>Trump has vowed to substantially reduce government regulation. In some respects, that could be good news for tech companies, many of which have turned to heavy lobbying efforts in recent years to protect their interests from government regulators.</p> <p>And Trump's proposed reforms to financial regulations like Dodd-Frank could make it easier for small businesses to access capital.</p> <p>But despite his calls for cutting regulatory red tape <em>bigly</em>, large tech and media companies could find themselves in the crosshairs of the Trump administration.</p> <p>For example, during the campaign, Trump, a vocal critic of the media, said he would block the proposed AT&amp;T-Time Warner merger.</p> <p>He also took aim at Amazon, and said that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has "a huge anti-trust problem because he’s controlling so much, Amazon is controlling so much of what they are doing."</p> <p>If Trump follows through on his promise to reduce regulation, it could be a boon to some, including startups and small companies, but tech and media titans might find that Trump's pro-business policies aren't always pro their big business.</p> <h3>4. Sayonara net neutrality</h3> <p>Trump's desire to reduce regulation could mean the end of net neutrality, perhaps the biggest area where many tech and media companies have asked for government regulation.</p> <p>Trump has referred to net neutrality as a "top down power grab" that could be used to enable censorship and, given his comments, one telecom analyst has said that "net neutrality has a big target on its back" in the Trump administration.</p> <h3>5. More infastructure</h3> <p>While Trump won the US presidency as the Republican candidate, he has historically identified as a Democrat and many of his policies are at odds with Republican ideology.</p> <p>This is perhaps most apparent in his desire to spend up to $1trn on infrastructure, more than double the amount proposed by his Democratic opponent.</p> <p>Trump's infrastructure spending plan <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trumps-infrastructure-plan-faces-speed-bumps-1478884989">faces many hurdles and might not even be realistic</a>, but if he is able to up infrastructure spending substantially, tech and media companies could of course be beneficiaries.</p> <h3>6. Less access to international talent</h3> <p>While much of Trump's tough talk on immigration has been focused on illegal immigration, his populist campaign rhetoric and promise to put American workers first suggests that changes to legal immigration programs could also be on the horizon.</p> <p>In particular, large tech companies like Google and Facebook claim that they need access to more talent that they can find in the United States, and rely on the H1B visa program to bring engineers and other highly-skilled employees from outside the country.</p> <p>If Trump's immigration reforms target the H1B program and make it more difficult to hire workers from abroad, or Trump's presidency keeps foreigners from wanting to immigrate to the US, the talent shortage could be exacerbated. </p> <h3>7. A faster-growing economy and healthier middle class</h3> <p>Trump made economic growth and a healthier middle class a central part of his campaign pitch. He even went so far as to suggest that he would drive GDP growth as much as 5% or 6%. </p> <p>While there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about Trump's audacious economic promises, if he is somehow able to solve the problem of stagnant GDP growth and, most importantly, revitalize the economy in the parts of the U.S. that have lagged, it will likely be good news for tech and media companies that need a healthy consumer economy to sustain long-term success.</p> <h3>8. Less direct access to Washington</h3> <p>While PayPal co-founder, Facebook director and venture capitalist Peter Thiel <a href="http://www.theverge.com/2016/11/11/13602026/peter-thiel-trump-transition-team-facebook">will serve on Trump's transition team</a>, unlike his predecessor, President Barack Obama, Trump has relatively few friends in Silicon Valley.</p> <p>In fact, <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/10/31/500114584/peter-thiel-stands-out-in-silicon-valley-for-support-of-donald-trump">some 95% of campaign donations from tech employees went to Hillary Clinton</a>.</p> <p>Tech CEOs like Tim Cook and Jeff Bezos have made conciliatory statements following Trump's victory but it's unlikely that Silicon Valley will continue to have the access to the Trump White House that it has had to the Obama White House.</p> <p>For tech firms that have become prolific lobbyists and made themselves a part of the revolving door between Washington DC and the private sector, that could make life more difficult. </p> <h3>9. Clashes over national security</h3> <p>Since he launched his campaign, Trump has talked tough about national security, and terrorism in particular.</p> <p>Despite its relative coziness with the Obama administration, Silicon Valley has still clashed numerous times in recent years with Washington DC over national security issues such as encryption and data sharing.</p> <p>A more aggressive Trump administration could cause even bigger clashes that test the restrictions on government's access to individuals' data and devices.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p lang="en" dir="ltr">Boycott all Apple products until such time as Apple gives cellphone info to authorities regarding radical Islamic terrorist couple from Cal</p> — Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) <a href="https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/700796528844103680">February 19, 2016</a> </blockquote> <h3>10. Bubbles bursting</h3> <p>Already, some are suggesting that Trump's victory, and the <a href="http://www.recode.net/2016/11/9/13574396/donald-trump-victory-silicon-valley-meltdown">horrified responses from many in tech and media to it</a>, are evidence that Trump has started to pop a cultural bubble that exists in tech and media centers like Silicon Valley and New York.</p> <p>But it's also possible that a Trump presidency could lead to the bursting of economic bubbles.</p> <p>While Trump has promised faster and more evenly-shared economic growth, he also called the stock market "a big bubble" during the campaign and stated that "if rates go up, you're going to see something that's not pretty."</p> <p>His <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/donald-trump-attacks-federal-reserve-yellen-during-debate-1474946709">criticism of the Federal Reserve</a> and suggestion that Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen was propping up the stock market for political reason drew scorn, but many do believe the low interest rate environment that has been in place since the 2008 financial crisis has helped fuel Silicon Valley's latest boom.</p> <p>If Trump's policies reduce the flow of investor dollars, intentionally or unintentionally, it could be bad news for tech and media companies that aren't able to survive without continued access to large amounts of investor capital.</p> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/68518 2016-11-11T14:54:58+00:00 2016-11-11T14:54:58+00:00 Following Donald Trump's election, the war against algorithms has begun Patricio Robles <p><a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/66613-new-amazon-algorithm-to-shake-up-product-reviews/">On Amazon</a>, an algorithm determines which product reviews should be highlighted. <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/67515-twitter-unveils-new-timeline-feature-what-you-need-to-know/">On Twitter</a>, an algorithm determines which tweets should appear at the top of each user's timeline. <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/67656-instagram-is-shaking-up-its-feed-with-an-algorithm-what-brands-need-to-know/">On Instagram</a>, an algorithm determines in what order posts should be displayed.</p> <p>In short, it's almost impossible to find a popular digital service that doesn't in some way employ algorithms to deliver content to users.</p> <p>For marketers, the <em>algorithimization</em> of the web has been a fact of life for years.</p> <p>While <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/66378-facebook-s-algorithm-update-what-it-means-for-marketers/">changes</a> to algorithms have been the source of angst and frequently complaint, marketers have been forced to accept the fact that their success or failure on the web will in large part be determined by algorithms they don't control and their ability to understand them and make the most of them.</p> <p>Some marketers, of course, have fought against the way algorithms are used. For example, numerous companies have accused Google of tweaking its algorithm to favor its own properties, and such claims have frequently been cited in discussions about whether regulators should pursue <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/66277-google-could-face-eu-antitrust-charges-imminently-report/">anti-trust charges</a> against the search giant.</p> <p>But by and large, Google has escaped a Microsoft-like crackdown, perhaps in part because marketers themselves are an unfavorable lot to regulators and the public.</p> <p>Now, however, a real war against algorithms appears to be underway.</p> <p>Recently, German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced the concern that "algorithms, when they are not transparent, can lead to a distortion of our perception, they can shrink our expanse of information." She <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/oct/27/angela-merkel-internet-search-engines-are-distorting-our-perception">explained</a>...</p> <blockquote> <p>I'm of the opinion that algorithms must be made more transparent, so that one can inform oneself as an interested citizen about questions like ‘what influences my behaviour on the internet and that of others?'</p> </blockquote> <p>Her concerns are being echoed by others following Donald Trump's stunning upset victory over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 US presidential race.</p> <p>Now, many are accusing Facebook's algorithm of helping Donald Trump win the election he wasn't expected to win by allowing misinformation to be widely spread across its network.</p> <p>Writing for New York Magazine, Max Read <a href="http://nymag.com/selectall/2016/11/donald-trump-won-because-of-facebook.html">went so far as to claim</a> that "Donald Trump won because of Facebook."</p> <p>He argues: "The most obvious way in which Facebook enabled a Trump victory has been its inability (or refusal) to address the problem of hoax or fake news.</p> <p>"Fake news is not a problem unique to Facebook, but Facebook’s enormous audience, and the mechanisms of distribution on which the site relies — i.e., the emotionally charged activity of sharing, and the show-me-more-like-this feedback loop of the news feed algorithm — makes it the only site to support a genuinely lucrative market in which shady publishers arbitrage traffic by enticing people off of Facebook and onto ad-festooned websites, using stories that are alternately made up, incorrect, exaggerated beyond all relationship to truth, or all three.</p> <p>"All throughout the election, these fake stories, sometimes papered over with flimsy “parody site” disclosures somewhere in small type, circulated throughout Facebook: The Pope endorses Trump. Hillary Clinton bought $137m in illegal arms. The Clintons bought a $200m house in the Maldives.</p> <p>"Many got hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of shares, likes, and comments; enough people clicked through to the posts to generate significant profits for their creators.</p> <p>"The valiant efforts of Snopes and other debunking organizations were insufficient; Facebook’s labyrinthine sharing and privacy settings mean that fact-checks get lost in the shuffle.</p> <p>"Often, no one would even need to click on and read the story for the headline itself to become a widely distributed talking point, repeated elsewhere online, or, sometimes, in real life."</p> <p>While Trump himself claimed throughout his campaign that the media was treating him unfairly, a claim that seems to have resonated with his supporters, many others are, like Reed, largely <a href="http://www.niemanlab.org/2016/11/the-forces-that-drove-this-elections-media-failure-are-likely-to-get-worse/">attributing</a> Clinton's loss to internet-spread misinformation instead of, say, <a href="http://adage.com/article/campaign-trail/hillary-clinton-wrong/306676/">her messaging</a>.</p> <h3>Algorithms aren't perfect, but people aren't either</h3> <p>Not surprisingly, those who appear to be unhappy with the results of the US presidential election seem to be leading the criticism of Facebook and the algorithms that help determine what content is displayed to users.</p> <p>But that doesn't mean they don't have a point. They do.</p> <p>There is a real debate to be had about the power Google, Facebook and others wield through their algorithms because the potential for abuse and harmful effects is real.</p> <p>For example, in 2012, Facebook conducted a psychological study by tweaking the number of positive and negative News Feed posts displayed to a random selection of over half a million of its users.</p> <p>It did not alert them to the fact that they were part of a study or obtain their permission. For obvious reasons, the study, which found that emotions could be spread through social networks, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/30/technology/facebook-tinkers-with-users-emotions-in-news-feed-experiment-stirring-outcry.html?_r=0">was widely criticized</a>.</p> <p>But, psychological studies that push ethical boundaries aside, it's not clear that there's an easy way to address concerns that algorithms are directing people to potentially bad information.</p> <p>Some suggest that Facebook and others need to involve humans.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p lang="en" dir="ltr">Facebook needs a public editor. About three years ago. <a href="https://t.co/TVLGEnn9Gr">https://t.co/TVLGEnn9Gr</a></p> — Vacation Alex (@alex) <a href="https://twitter.com/alex/status/796815389917184000">November 10, 2016</a> </blockquote> <p>But humans aren't perfect. If companies like Facebook start relying on human editors to vet the content that circulates on their services, they will arguably cease to be technology platforms and instead come to function as media organizations.</p> <p>That would open many new cans of worms as humans are themselves vulnerable to bias and manipulation.</p> <p>For example, during the election cycle, Facebook found itself under scrutiny when former Facebook staffers <a href="http://gizmodo.com/former-facebook-workers-we-routinely-suppressed-conser-1775461006">claimed</a> the world's largest social network routinely suppressed conservative news from its "trending" news section.</p> <p>The accusation that the one of the world's most influential companies was engaging in censorship to favor liberal news sources led CEO Mark Zuckerberg to meet with conservative leaders. The company subsequently decided to rely more heavily on algorithms instead of an editorial team.</p> <p>Perhaps the most balanced solution to the challenges algorithms present would be to increase transparency as Germany's Merkel has suggested.</p> <p>But this too isn't likely to have the intended effect. If companies like Google and Facebook provided the intricate details about how their algorithms function, the knowledge would almost certainly be used by those seeking to manipulate them for personal gain.</p> <p>In addition, the average person probably isn't going to have the interest or technical knowledge required to understand the mechanics of these algorithms even if this information was accessible to them.</p> <p>Finally, bad information isn't going away. Human editorial controls – and censorship – might be able to reduce the spread of information deemed inaccurate or harmful, but misinformation and its ill effects existed well before the internet came along.</p> <h3>An inconvenient truth</h3> <p>Founding father Thomas Jefferson wrote, "A properly functioning democracy depends on an informed electorate."</p> <p>With over half of adults in the US getting news through social media today <a href="http://www.journalism.org/2016/05/26/news-use-across-social-media-platforms-2016/">according to Pew</a>, there is no doubt that social media plays an increasingly important role in how the electorate is informed.</p> <p>But Jefferson also wrote of the importance of education and critical thinking:</p> <blockquote> <p>An enlightened citizenry is indispensable for the proper functioning of a republic. Self-government is not possible unless the citizens are educated sufficiently to enable them to exercise oversight.</p> </blockquote> <p>The 2016 US presidential election, following the UK's Brexit vote, has turned algorithms into something of a scapegoat.</p> <p>And while we should discuss and debate the role they play in all aspects of our society, from how marketing messages are delivered to consumers to how news is disseminated to citizens, we should also be very careful that we don't blame algorithms for our own shortcomings.</p> <p>If we do, it will sadly pave the way for an Orwellian web that is less free and more subject to the abuses of concentrated power.</p>