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Google tightens political ads policy in effort to stop abuse

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Google on Wednesday updated how it handles political ads as online platforms remain under pressure to avoid being used to spread misleading information intended to influence voters.

The internet company said its rules already ban any advertiser, including those with political messages, from lying in ads. But it is making its policy more clear and adding examples of how that prohibits content such as doctored or manipulated images or video.

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“It’s against our policies for any advertiser to make a false claim — whether it’s a claim about the price of a chair or a claim that you can vote by text message, that election day is postponed, or that a candidate has died,” Google ads product management vice president Scott Spencer said in an online post.

Examples of banned ad material included ads or links to information making demonstrably false claims that could undermine voter trust or participation in elections.

“Of course, we recognize that robust political dialogue is an important part of democracy, and no one can sensibly adjudicate every political claim, counterclaim, and insinuation,” Spencer said.

“So we expect that the number of political ads on which we take action will be very limited – but we will continue to do so for clear violations.”

Google’s main formats for political advertising are ads posted along with search query results, those shown at video viewing service YouTube, and display ads that appear on websites.

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Google will also limit targeting of political ads to general categories such as age, gender, or postal code level location.

“Political advertisers can, of course, continue to do contextual targeting, such as serving ads to people reading or watching a story about, say, the economy,” Spencer said/.

“This will align our approach to election ads with long-established practices in media such as TV, radio, and print, and result in election ads being more widely seen and available for public discussion.”

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Google will begin enforcing the changes in Britain within a week and throughout the EU by the end of the year, then in the rest of the world starting January 6, according to Spencer.

– Speech vs Truth –

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Snap this week confirmed that it checks political ads at Snapchat to make sure they are not deceptive or misleading and thus enforce its ban on such material.

The strategy seems to be a middle ground between Facebook’s controversial tolerance of proven lies in political ads and Twitter’s decision to ban them all together.

Snap policies prohibit political ads that are deceptive or misleading, with an in-house team reviewing such paid messages to make sure they don’t break the rules.

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Twitter last week said its ban on political ads will exempt “cause-based” messages on topics related to social or environmental issues.

The San Francisco-based messaging platform plans to bar all paid political messages starting Friday, while addressing concerns expressed by activists for social causes.

“Ads that educate, raise awareness, and/or call for people to take action in connection with civic engagement, economic growth, environmental stewardship, or social equity causes are allowed,” Twitter said in its new policy.

“However, they may not reference prohibited political advertisers or political content.”

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Twitter said the move was aimed at countering the spread of misinformation by politicians.

The political ban has drawn mixed reactions: some argue it puts pressure on Facebook to follow suit or take other steps to curb the spread of misinformation from politicians; others say a ban will be difficult to enforce.

Social media platforms have been challenged by President Donald Trump’s campaign and its use of ads that contain claims which critics say have been debunked by independent fact-checkers.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said political advertising is not a major source of revenue but adds that he believes it is important to allow everyone a “voice,” and that banning political ads would favor incumbents.

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John Oliver unleashes on news sites that sent out stupid push notifications

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"Last Week Tonight" host John Oliver doesn't come back until Feb. 16, but he dropped a new web-exclusive video Sunday complaining to news agencies that they should stop sending out stupid push notifications on their apps.

Oliver told his audience that there are two major criteria when considering a push notification: 1. Is there something I should be doing differently?; and 2. Is this something I need to know now?

Things like declarations of war, earthquakes or acts of terrorism are all perfect examples of things news agencies should inform readers about quickly. But when CNN sent out a push notification about a 115,000 Neanderthal child that was only found "half-eaten" by a bird, Oliver was understandably frustrated.

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Billionaires are now richer than 60 percent of the world’s population: report

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The world's billionaires have doubled in the past decade and are richer than 60 percent of the global population, the charity Oxfam said Monday.

It said poor women and girls were at the bottom of the scale, putting in "12.5 billion hours of unpaid care work each and every day," estimated to be worth at least $10.8 trillion a year.

"Our broken economies are lining the pockets of billionaires and big business at the expense of ordinary men and women. No wonder people are starting to question whether billionaires should even exist," Oxfam's India head Amitabh Behar said.

"The gap between rich and poor can't be resolved without deliberate inequality-busting policies," Behar said ahead of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, where he will represent Oxfam.

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Alcohol-infused gummy bears infuriating candy giant Haribo

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Ander Mendez and his friends were hoping they'd struck it rich when they came up with the idea of selling alcohol-infused gummy bears -- until they found themselves in the sights of sweet giant Haribo.

Now, these three Spaniards say they're afraid of being shut down by the German confectionery king, which is famed for its vast array of jelly sweets and was founded 100 years ago in the western city of Bonn.

In a not-so-sweetly worded legal letter, Haribo has accused their startup of infringing its trademarked little bear.

But these graduates from the northern Spanish port city of Bilbao insist they will carry on producing their "drunken gummy bears" -- "because people like them."

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