Facebook And Google Are On A Charm Offensive -- Don't Be Fooled

You can almost smell it in the air. Facebook and Google have realised that if they are truly to account for around three in every four pounds spent in British digital marketing by 2020, they might want to take a look at being better corporate citizens. Rather than keep on batting away complaints about hoovering up the UK's ad spend and making sure virtually none of it ever gets taxed in the UK, they have decided to change the subject.

Look how nice we are -- that seems to be the order of the day. Facebook has just announced that it has bought the "tbh" teen app that encourages young people to say nice things about one another. It has also just donated a million poundsto train up 4,500 ambassadors at schools across the country to encourage children to be nice to one another online and to feel more confident in calling out cyberbullying. 

At the same time we have Google's YouTube making a lot of noise about the success of its programme to take down extremist content. You will recall, of course, it launched a programme to tackle extremism earlier in the year after brands became embarrassed about advertising next to distasteful videos and ended up boycotting the site. 

Today we hear that just over four in five of the videos taken down at the moment are flagged up automatically, rather than through a concern raised by a human viewer. It's also nearly three-quarters of the way in building up a trusted flagger programme through NGOs who it believes are well-suited to picking out extremist content. And again we have a reference to money being given away -- this time $5m -- by Google to fund anti-extremism.

Now, where do we start? A million pounds by Facebook's standards is a nanosecond's worth of profit. That's a pretty good place to begin. Shall we also then mention how it still doesn't have a huge button at the top of the screen for a young person to raise an alarm about something they're uncomfortable with. That would surely be a very good place to start if you want children to feel safer going online. 

Let's be fair, funding ambassadors to help with training up children to feel better about going online and showing people the dangers of cyber bullying is only a good thing. Not sure if it's just me, though, but does anyone feel this may be related to the UK government telling Facebook it had to do more. The British government has warned them that they're making too much money with scant regard for the safety of users and action would be taken against them.

Facebook has ingeniously, and almost instantly, turned this around in to an announcement about funding the training of social media ambassadors. Talk about the principles of Judo, where you use incoming force to your advantage. The site's been on every tv station, every paper, every radio station and newspaper as stepping up to take more responsibility. It has little choice. It was told it had to do more. It acted immediately, presumably to avoid having to do even more than this and to nip anti-Facebook sentiment in the bud.

Then we have YouTube which is expected a round of applause for clearing up a problem that it has done very little about until it led to an advertising boycott. That really is all that needs to be said about its PR offensive for tackling extremism. When a who's who of advertising has shunned you, it really is time to do something about a problem you've been half ignoring for years. 

So, as the Americans would say -- no dice. That's my take. They're going for headlines, they want to be seen as looking nice but Facebook only acted when it was told it had to and Google only got itself in gear when confronted with an ad boycott. All the talk of wanting to do the right thing and protect freedom and children's rights to go online, and so on, it's just for the birds.

1 comment about "Facebook And Google Are On A Charm Offensive -- Don't Be Fooled".
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  1. Dale Knoop from TRE, October 20, 2017 at 9:02 a.m.

    Exposed deception has a way of making folks offer half-hearted apologies. Both GOOG and FB have to "make nice" in public so they can keep their ruse-driven $$$ flowing at a high rate of speed.

    What ruse you say? The ruse that they are about connecting you with friends, brands, info, etc.

    They do but in the process you endure every ad they've been paid to sell you whether that ad applies to you or not. They've told an advertiser that the ad is for you and then cash the check from the advertiser. Even Zuck has said they want distance between people and brands so that in this distance they can pack it full of ads of other brands. Google's no different.

    That anyone buys their apologies is laughable at best and totally naive at worst.

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