WhatsApp Launches Media Blitz to Dispel India’s Fake News Woes

WhatsApp Launches Media Blitz to Dispel India's Fake News Woes

A newspaper vendor reading a newspaper with a full back page advertisement from WhatsApp

Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging platform on Tuesday published advertisements in key Indian newspapers to tackle the spread of misinformation, its first such effort to combat a flurry of fake messages that prompted mob lynchings.

Beatings and deaths triggered by false incendiary messages in India, WhatsApp’s biggest market with more than 200 million users, caused a public relations nightmare, sparking calls from authorities for immediate action.

“Together we can fight false information,” read full-page advertisements in some top English language-newspapers, part of a series that will also feature in regional-language dailies.

It urged users to check information before sharing it and cautioned them about the spread of fake news.

“We are starting an education campaign in India on how to spot fake news and rumours,” a WhatsApp spokesman said in a statement.

“Our first step is placing newspaper advertisements in English and Hindi and several other languages. We will build on these efforts.”

During the week, it aims to publish similar advertisements in regional dailies across India, from the states of Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan in the west to the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh in the north, it added.

WhatsApp has previously said it is tweaking features and giving users controls in its effort to rein in false messages.

It is also testing the labelling of messages to show users when a message received is just a forward, rather than one created by the sender.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

What PR Pros Must Do Before Collecting Insights From Media Coverage

Slide1

Measuring media relations success has to start at the top. Meaning, before you start collecting insights from your coverage, you need to have a benchmark of what your ideal story is, and everyone, from the CEO level down, needs to be in agreement about what that is.

This was the central media relations tenet expressed by Visit Philly’s communications team at PR News’ recent Measurement Conference in Philadelphia. Paula Butler, VP of communications, Dana Schmidt, director of social media, and Kevin Lessard, senior analyst, have a clear idea of what the perfect story is for Visit Philly, the official visitor website for Philadelphia travel and tourism.

Visit Philly’s top-down-agreed-upon ideal story:

  • Published in a high-profile outlet
  • Has a great headline
  • Is a full-length feature as opposed to a mention
  • Includes a great image or video (preferably credited to Visit Philly)
  • And it links to one of Visit Philly’s websites, which is their perfect call to action

Obviously, every organization has its own version of what its ideal media story is. But unless you hash it out with the C-suite on down the line, measurement efforts and the reporting of metrics will quite likely result in so-what shrugs and glazed expressions.

With its ideal story in mind, the Visit Philly communications team starts by measuring the traditional things like:

• clip counts

• impressions generated

• the breakdown of coverage by media type

• sentiment

Then they dig into the earned media data they’re collecting. These additional metrics can be changed depending on what you value in your coverage, Lessard said:

Coverage by topic—This drives Visit Philly’s content strategy. What performs well, and when?

Coverage by type of placement—Visit Philly places an emphasis on driving more feature coverage (vs. mentions).

Coverage using beautiful images—If you have visual resources, make sure the media knows about them. (Visit Philly recently launched a redesign of its online pressroom, placing a big emphasis on visual content.)

Coverage conveying key messages from a corporate standpoint.

Geographic breakdown of coverage (by DMA)

Coverage in A-list media—For Visit Philly, A-list media comprises local, regional and national travel/lifestyle outlets (see image above).

All efforts to pinpoint a brand’s ideal media story and select the right metrics go down the drain without meticulous tracking and smart repurposing of coverage for internal and external stakeholders, Lessard said. Beyond sharing coverage on social media, you should consider repackaging media coverage in the form of a regular e-newsletter sent to employees and boards of directors. You helped create the good news about your organization—be creative about distributing that good news.

 

[“Source-prnewsonline”]

Social Media and Shopping: Report Provides Potential Insights on North Korean Online Behavior

Image result for Social Media and Shopping: Report Provides Potential Insights on North Korean Online BehaviorA new report offers fascinating insight into Internet activity from North Korea, suggesting that average North Koreans and the upper echelons of the Workers’ Party and military aren’t nearly as cut off as commonly portrayed. However, no definitive conclusions can be drawn from the report about the source, frequency and range of this access because it doesn’t provide hard numbers for many of its conclusions and the raw data isn’t available. That is unfortunate because the findings are counter-intuitive to what we have assumed about North Korean online behavior. Opening the data to peer review may help us better understand the nature and scale of this activity and, if confirmed, could change the way the world deals with North Korea.

Findings

The report was published in July by the Insikt Group, the research arm of Massachusetts-based Recorded Future. The company utilizes machine learning to deliver online security threat intelligence to businesses. The basis for the report was Internet traffic captured outside of North Korea by Team Cymru, a computer security-focused non-profit that acts as Insikt’s “intelligence partner.”

In the report, researcher Priscilla Moriuchi, the director of strategic threat development at Recorded Future and a 12-year veteran of the US intelligence community, writes that users in North Korea spend much of their time online checking social media. Facebook was the most often accessed site with Google, Baidu and Instagram all attracting significant numbers of views. Alibaba, Amazon, Tencent and Apple rounded out the top eight social networking sites over the period of the data, which spanned April 1 to July 6 this year.

Just on April 1, for example, the report notes users accessed 163.com email accounts, streamed Chinese-language video from Youku and checked news on Xinhua and People’s Daily.

Team Cymru was vague about how it captured the data and exactly what it consisted of, but it has previously said it works with “data donors and sources.” It also declined to provide a copy of the North Korean data without subscription to its commercial service. But the report did provide details of how it decided what was “North Korean” traffic and it comes down to three blocks of Internet addresses.

  • The first was a block of 1,024 Internet addresses from 175.45.176.0 to 175.45.179.255. Those are addresses allocated to Star JV, North Korea’s sole Internet provider. All of the country’s websites sit within this range and it’s also used by the Koryolink 3G service for Internet access offered to resident foreigners and tourists.
  • The second was a smaller block of 256 addresses from 210.52.109.0 to 210.52.109.255. These are Chinese addresses but have been allocated to North Korea’s state-run telecom provider through China Netcom since before Star JV existed. North Korean websites sat in these addresses about 15 years ago.
  • The third group was another 256 addresses from 77.94.35.0 to 77.94.35.255. These are allocated to SatNet, a Russian satellite Internet provider and are currently registered as being used in Lebanon. In the past, these were registered as being used by North Korea, but information in the Internet address registration database isn’t verified so it’s unproven whether these were or are legitimate North Korean addresses.

Moriuchi feels sure the SatNet addresses were in use by North Korea during the time the data was collected and points to the similarity in access patterns between the SatNet addresses and the Star JV addresses; she didn’t see any traffic targeted at Lebanese websites, as might be expected. Again, the baseline data wasn’t available to illustrate or support that assertion. Moriuchi told me, however, that the SatNet traffic made up about 40 percent of the data with just 1 percent coming from the China Netcom block. The rest came from the North Korean IP range and that, if taken alone, would still support the general findings of the report.

Among Moriuchi’s research, she found a larger-than-expected amount of traffic from North Korea to India, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nepal, Kenya and Mozambique. She said the amount of access was higher than would typically be expected and directed at sites such as a local news outlets and governments—the kind of sites only someone living there or with a link to the country might access.

In fact, one fifth of all activity observed in the data involved India—a surprising amount. According to the report, the traffic suggests North Korea has students at least seven universities and might be working with several research institutions in the country.

Of the countries mentioned, Malaysia and Indonesia also maintain diplomatic missions in North Korea, although Malaysia brought diplomats home as relations with Pyongyang broke down in the wake of the murder of Kim Jong Nam in Kuala Lumpur.

Perhaps most intriguingly, on May 17, Bitcoin mining traffic was observed. There had been none since the beginning of April but it suddenly spiked. The report notes the close timing with the release of the “WannaCry” malware that hit computers between May 12 and 15. WannaCry demanded a ransom in Bitcoin and was linked to North Korea by computer security companies.

The report also noted the use of at least seven different western VPN (virtual private network) services in traffic among the data. Such services require a credit card subscription, which isn’t impossible for a North Korean to arrange through overseas contacts, but again raises the question of who is behind the traffic.

The report notes, “one VPN was used by an iPad to check a Gmail account, access Google Cloud, check Facebook and MSN accounts, and view adult content. Other VPN and VPS (virtual private server) were used to run Metasploit (security software), make purchases using Bitcoin, check Twitter, play video games, stream videos, post documents to Dropbox, and browse Amazon.”

Caveats

An important caveat to many of the findings in the report is that it’s unclear how many people were covered and who they are. The report refers to those with Internet access as a “limited number,” but it didn’t acknowledge that several hundred foreigners might be present in Pyongyang at any one time, accessing the Internet and connecting to overseas sites. For them, using VPNs, accessing Facebook and Google and checking 163.com email accounts would be expected.

Moriuchi later told me she did see traffic that appeared to be foreign residents but it was just a small sliver of the overall data. But it’s impossible to know how much because the report doesn’t provide those numbers and Moriuchi wouldn’t disclose them.

Take the Indian traffic, for example. From the data provider, it’s impossible to determine whether the increased activity to India is just bored diplomats at India’s embassy Pyongyang. We also don’t know the amount of data analyzed, the number of websites accessed or even an estimate as to the number of Internet users in Pyongyang.

In a phone conversation, Moriuchi told me the traffic collected represented a significant number of records—it wasn’t just a handful of web sessions each day—but wouldn’t put numbers on it. When I asked her what it might compare to, she said it was about what you might expect from a medium-sized company—which is about 50 to 250 people according to most definitions.

Unanswered Questions

Just like almost everywhere else, Facebook is king for the people inside North Korea that have Internet access, and they also spend a fair amount of time on Google, Baidu and other major sites. If the traffic is really coming from North Koreans rather than resident or visiting foreigners, then they really are very much like us—more than we ever imagined.

However, while the report adds insight into the largely opaque area of access to the Internet from inside North Korea, it’s far from clear exactly what was captured and whether all of it was really from North Koreans.

I’ve spoken to several North Korea and Internet experts about the report and they all draw the same conclusion: that something is not quite right with the numbers. Perhaps a lot more of it is from foreigners than estimated or perhaps there’s an unknown Internet connection that wasn’t taken into account.

Or, perhaps we are all wrong and North Koreans really are going online and checking Amazon and Alibaba. Without more information, it’s impossible to know and that’s unfortunate because of the surprising nature of some of the findings.

Moriuchi says she’s sure about the results reached from the data set—the sites accessed, the traffic patterns, the activity—and I’m sure that’s true. Nonetheless, I’d love to do a deeper dive into the data to gain much greater granularity and insight into some of its conclusions.

[“Source-38north”]

Google Photos Removes Option to Backup Media Only While Charging

Google Photos Removes Option to Backup Media Only While Charging

HIGHLIGHTS
The option allowed devices to perform backup only while charging
Users still have the option to stop backup while on cellular data
The option is said to still show up for some people
Google Photos app for Android and iOS has quietly removed the feature that allowed devices to backup images and video files only while charging the device. Users could earlier choose this option to ensure that the backup of media files doesn’t end up draining their device’s battery life but it seems like the search giant has now removed the option without any explanation for why it did so.

While Google Photo users still have the option to switch off backup of media files while on cellular data, they can no longer add the constraint related to charging. As you might expect, this feature was extremely beneficial as it made sure that the backups were only performed when the device was in proximity to a power source and was not running short of juice.

As pointed out in a 9To5Google report, with the release of version 2.17 for Android and 2.18.0 on iOS, this option in the backup settings within the Google Photos app was removed.
The While charging only option is currently not visible with any of our devices, on both platforms, but 9To5Google says that there is a minority that can still see the option available. Interestingly, the option cannot be seen on company’s help page for Google Photos backup settings as well.

Notably, the option to switch off media backup while on roaming is still available within the Google Photos app. Users can always switch the cellular data option off and as Wi-Fi is usually available at either homes or offices, which usually have easily accessible power sources too, they will still be saved from battery drain. However, an extra option at your disposal is something nobody ever complains about – hope you’re listening Google.

[“Source-ndtv”]