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Microsoft Moves to Buy TikTok, Deepfake Identification Software, Facebook Advertising Growth Unchanged

Elijah Labby



Photo of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by Gage Skidmore used with permission

August 3, 2020 — Microsoft confirmed its plan to buy Chinese social media app TikTok on Sunday, CNBC reported. U.S. lawmakers have put significant pressure on TikTok, which is owned by ByteDance, accusing it of having dangerous ties to the Chinese government.

TikTok and other Chinese apps are “feeding data directly to the Chinese Communist Party,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday.

President Donald Trump has publicly toyed with the idea of banning TikTok in the United States for its alleged ties to China. After Microsoft’s initial expression of interest in buying the company, Trump said that he opposed the deal.

“This new structure would build on the experience TikTok users currently love, while adding world-class security, privacy, and digital safety protections,” Microsoft said. “[We will] ensure transparency to users as well as appropriate security oversight by governments.”

New group aims to detect deepfake imagery

A group including Adobe, Twitter and the New York Times unveiled a plan aimed at thwarting deepfake imagery, Axios reported.

In a white paper released Monday, the new Content Authenticity Initiative called for technology to be added to digital editing software that would record the first time a photo is taken and mark anytime the photo is edited.

Deepfakes, when deployed with strategic timing, could carry geopolitical risks.

Companies like Facebook have attempted to develop technologies that can detect deepfakes, but these have so far been largely inaccurate. In a development contest held by Facebook, the best entry could only identify deepfakes 65 percent of the time.

“That’s only slightly better than a coin toss,” said Sherif Hanna, who authored the white paper, in an interview with Axios. “Instead of all of us trying to get to where we can detect what’s fake, we should prove what's real.”

Hanna did not provide details on when the software would be available.

Facebook ad boycott has not significantly hurt revenue

The Facebook #StopHateForProfit ad boycott, which involved more than 1,000 brands such as Verizon and Honda, failed to make a significant impact on the platform’s revenue, Axios reported.

The boycott, which began in June, was a response to what some saw as Facebook’s lax response to hate speech. The companies intended to strongarm Facebook into tightening its policies, but ultimately had little effect.

Facebook experienced the same level of advertiser growth in July that it did in 2019, and increased the number of active advertisers on the website by over one million since January.

Some companies have expressed interest in continuing the boycott, but many will resume advertising on the website in August.

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg pushed back on the idea that the company profits off of hate speech in an earnings call Thursday.

“We completely agree that we don’t want hate on our platforms, and we stand firmly against it,” she said. “We don’t benefit from hate speech. We never have. Users don’t want to see it. Advertisers don’t want to be associated with it.”


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