Removing More Coordinated Inauthentic Behavior From Russia

By Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy

Today, we removed three networks of accounts, Pages and Groups for engaging in foreign interference — which is coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign actor — on Facebook and Instagram. They originated in Russia and targeted Madagascar, Central African Republic, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon, Sudan and Libya. Each of these operations created networks of accounts to mislead others about who they were and what they were doing. Although the people behind these networks attempted to conceal their identities and coordination, our investigation connected these campaigns to entities associated with Russian financier Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who was previously indicted by the US Justice Department. We have shared information about our findings with law enforcement, policymakers and industry partners.

We’re constantly working to detect and stop this type of activity because we don’t want our services to be used to manipulate people. We’re taking down these Pages, Groups and accounts based on their behavior, not the content they posted. In each of these cases, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action.

We are making progress rooting out this abuse, but as we’ve said before, it’s an ongoing challenge. We’re committed to continually improving to stay ahead. That means building better technology, hiring more people and working closer with law enforcement, security experts and other companies.

What We’ve Found So Far

Today, we removed 35 Facebook accounts, 53 Pages, seven Groups and five Instagram accounts that originated in Russia and focused on Madagascar, the Central African Republic, Mozambique, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire and Cameroon. The individuals behind this activity used a combination of fake accounts and authentic accounts of local nationals in Madagascar and Mozambique to manage Pages and Groups, and post their content. They typically posted about global and local political news including topics like Russian policies in Africa, elections in Madagascar and Mozambique, election monitoring by a local non-governmental organization and criticism of French and US policies.

  • Presence on Facebook: 35 Facebook accounts, 53 Pages, 7 Groups and 5 Instagram accounts.
  • Followers: About 475,000 accounts followed one or more of these Pages and around 450 people followed one or more of these Groups and around 650 people followed one or more of these Instagram accounts.
  • Advertising: Around $77,000 in spending for ads on Facebook paid for in US dollars. The first ad ran in April 2018 and the most recent ad ran in October 2019.

We found this activity as part of our internal investigations into Russia-linked, suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior in Africa. Our analysis benefited from open source reporting.

Below is a sample of the content posted by some of these Pages:

Page Name: “Sudan in the Eyes of Others” Caption Translation: Yam Brands, the company that owns the KFC franchise stated that it intends on opening 3 branches of its franchise in Sudan. The Spokesman of the company based in the american state of Kentucky, Takalaty Similiny, issued a statement saying that the branches are currently under construction and will open in mid November.

Translation: The Police of the Republic of Mozambique announced today that nine members of RENAMO were detained for their participation in the attempt to remove urns from one of the voting posts in the district of Machanga, Sofala and for having vandalised the infrastructure. According to the spokesperson for PRM, that spoke in a press-conference in Maputo, the nine people are accused of having lead around 300 RENAMO supporters that tried to remove the urns during counting at the Inharingue Primary School.

Translation: President of Central African Republic asked Vladimir Putin to organize the delivery of heavy weapons. Wednesday, in Sochi, the president Faustin-Archange Touadera asked his counterpart Vladimir Putin to increase the military assistance to the Republic, asking specifically for the supply of heavier weapons. “Russia is giving a considerable help to our country. They already carried out two weapons deliveries, trained our national troops, trained police officers, but for more effectiveness, we need heavy weapons. We hope that Russia will be able to allocate us combat vehicles, artillery canons and other killing weapons in order for us to bring our people to safety” said Touadera.
However, there is still an issue which is blocking us to implement this. The embargo on Central African Republic was not fully lifted in order for Russia to implement the plans of Touadera. Until now, it is only possible to supply weapons with a caliber less than 14,5 mm.
The embargo do not stop armed groups to get illegally heavy weapons for themselves, which is not helping the efforts of the government to establish peace.
We ask the Security Council of United Nations to draw attention on what their (sometimes reckless) sanctions are bringing.

We also removed 17 Facebook accounts, 18 Pages, 3 Groups and six Instagram accounts that originated in Russia and focused primarily on Sudan. The people behind this activity used a combination of authentic accounts of Sudanese nationals, fake and compromised accounts — some of which had already been disabled by our automated systems — to comment, post and manage Pages posing as news organizations, as well as direct traffic to off-platform sites. They frequently shared stories from SUNA (Sudan’s state news agency) as well as Russian state-controlled media Sputnik and RT, and posted primarily in Arabic and some in English. The Page administrators and account owners posted about local news and events in Sudan and other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, including Sudanese-Russian relations, US-Russian relations, Russian foreign policy and Muslims in Russia.

  • Presence on Facebook and Instagram: 17 Facebook accounts, 18 Pages, 3 Groups and 6 accounts on Instagram.
  • Followers: About 457,000 accounts followed one or more of these Pages, about 1,300 accounts joined at least one of these Groups and around 2,900 people followed one or more of these Instagram accounts.
  • Advertising: Around $160 in spending for ads on Facebook paid for in Russian rubles. The first ad ran in April 2018 and the most recent ad ran in September 2019.

We found this activity as part of our internal investigations into Russia-linked, suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior in the region.

Below is a sample of the content posted by some of these Pages:

Translation (first two paragraphs): “American and British intelligence put together false information about Putin’s inner circle… a diplomatic military source said that American and British intelligence agencies are preparing to leak false information about people close to the president, Vladimir Putin, and the leadership of the Russian defense ministry.“

Page title: “Nile Echo”
Post translation (first paragraph only): French movements to abort Russian and Sudanese mediation in the Central African Republic…

Translation: #Article (I am completely sure that the person in the cell is not [ousted Sudanese leader Omar] al-Bashir, but I don’t have physical evidence proving this) Aml al-Kordofani wrote: The person resembling al-Bashir who is sitting behind the bars..who is he? The double game continues between the military and the sons of Gosh (referring to former Sudanese intelligence chief Salah Abdullah Mohamed Saleh) according to the American plan. The American plan employs psychological operations, as we mentioned earlier, and are undertaken by a huge office within the US Department of Defense.

Finally, we removed a network of 14 Facebook accounts, 12 Pages, one Group and one Instagram account that originated in Russia and focused on Libya. The individuals behind this activity used a combination of authentic accounts of Egyptian nationals, fake and compromised accounts — some of which had already been disabled by our automated systems — to manage Pages and drive people to an off-platform domain. They frequently shared stories from Russian state-controlled media Sputnik and RT. The Page admins and account owners typically posted in Arabic about local news and geopolitical issues including Libyan politics, crimes, natural disasters, public health, Turkey’s alleged sponsoring of terrorism in Libya, illegal migration, militia violence, the detention of Russian citizens in Libya for alleged interference in elections and a meeting between Khalifa Haftar, head of the Libyan National Army, and Putin. Some of these Pages posted content on multiple sides of political debate in Libya, including criticism of the Government of National Accord, US foreign policy, and Haftar, as well as support of Muammar Gaddafi and his son Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, Russian foreign policy, and Khalifa Haftar.

  • Presence on Facebook and Instagram: 14 Facebook accounts, 12 Pages, one Group and one account on Instagram.
  • Followers: About 212,000 accounts followed one or more of these Pages, 1 account joined this Group and around 29,300 people followed this Instagram account.
  • Advertising: About $10,000 USD paid for primarily in US dollars, euros and Egyptian pounds. The first ad ran in May 2014 and the most recent ad ran in October 2019.

Based on a tip shared by the Stanford Internet Observatory, we conducted an investigation into suspected Russia-linked coordinated inauthentic behavior and identified the full scope of this activity. Our analysis benefited from open source reporting.

Below is a sample of the content posted by some of these Pages:

Page name: “Voice of Libya” Post translation: The Government of National Accord [GNA] practices hypocrisy … the detention of two Russian citizens under the pretense that they are manipulating elections in Libya. But in reality, no elections are taking place in Libya now. So the pretense under which the Russians were arrested is fictitious and contrived.

Page title: “Libya Gaddafi” Post translation: “Why was late Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi killed? Everyone was happy in Libya. There are people in America who sleep under bridges. There was never any discrimination in Libya, and there were not problems. The work was good and the money, too.”

Page name: “Voice of Libya” Post translation: First meeting between Haftar and Putin in Moscow. Several sources reported on the visit of the army’s commander-in-chief, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, to Moscow, where he met Russian President Vladimir Putin, to discuss developments in the military and political situation in Libya. This is Haftar’s first meeting with the Russian president. He has previously visited Russia and met with senior officials in the foreign and defense ministries, and they are expected to meet again.

Page title: “Falcons of the Conqueror” Post translation: Field Marshal Haftar: Libyans decide who to elect as the next president, and it is Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi’s right to be a candidate





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Social Shorts: LinkedIn refreshes Daily Rundown and Facebook’s VP of Ads exits company



Amy Gesenhues

This collection of social media marketing and new hire announcements is a compilation of the past week’s briefs from our daily Marketing Land newsletter. Click here to subscribe and get more news like this delivered to your inbox every morning.

Facebook makes space for news. Facebook has confirmed to Marketing Land it will not be placing ads in its newly introduced News tab, but publishers will still be able to monetize their content as usual with Instant Articles and other options.

The Washington Post first reported Facebook would be launching a news tab on the platform. Sources told the paper that the news stories featured in the tab will include articles from hundreds of news organizations, some of which will receive payment from Facebook for their content.

“Facebook’s service will include some human curation by a small editorial team of journalists, who will select top stories. But mostly the News tab will rely on computerized algorithms that seek to match user interests with offerings from a wide range of reports on politics, sports, health, technology, entertainment and other subjects,” reports the Washington Post. 

The Washington Post listed itself among the approximately 200 news organizations that will be included in the launch.

Other publications named by sources include the Wall Street Journal (which is owned by News Corp.), Business Insider, BuzzFeed News and local news publications. Sources told the Washington Post that the New York Times was also likely to participate, but terms had not been finalized. According to the report, payments by Facebook to news organizations will range from “hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.”

New look for LinkedIn’s Daily Rundown. LinkedIn has redesigned its Daily Rundown, the platform where the site curates news stories selected by an internal team of editors. The redesign includes new navigation that makes it easier for users to move between stories and go deeper into specific topics. By clicking on a headline within the Daily Rundown, users will be able to see conversations happening on the platform about the story. The site has also started a pilot program allowing users to subscribe to regularly published pieces by industry thought leaders. LinkedIn mentioned two available newsletters: the “Get Hired” newsletter and one called “The Hustle” — both offering insights into the job hunt and professional goals. Users who have access to the pilot program can find more newsletters by clicking the “Newsletters Related to Your Industry” option under the “My Network” tab.

TikTok touts its safety measures. The short-form video app TikTok, which boasts more than 500 million users, has released a second set of videos that are part of its “You’re in Control” video series, highlighting the platform’s safety and privacy features. “Educating our users on the options we provide to help them craft their optimal TikTok experience is one of our top priorities,” writes TikTok on its newsroom blog. The company has enlisted 12 of its most popular creators to produce videos on six different topics, including how to block a user, how to filter comments, reporting inappropriate behavior and how to disable or enable the duet feature which allows two videos to be posted side-by-side in the same screen. 

Majority of political tweets come from only 10% of users. After analyzing a random sample of tweets from U.S. adults with public accounts, Pew Research found the majority of political tweets are made by a very small segment of users. According to their findings: 97% of tweets mentioning national politics came from only 10% of users. Those who are tweeting about politics are also more likely to follow others who feel the same way they do. “Political tweeters – defined as those who tweeted at least five times in total, and at least twice about national politics, over the year of the study period – are almost twice as likely as other Twitter users to say the people they follow on Twitter have political beliefs similar to their own,” writes Pew Research.

Facebook’s latest efforts to safeguard elections

Facebook is doing some crisis control this week after receiving much criticism for how it handles political content and advertising on the platform — allowing candidates to run ads containing false information. The company announced a number of new updates to its Ad Library, launched the Facebook Protect program and made Pages more transparent. None of these updates reverse the company’s decision that, as the Washington Post put it: “Opens a frightening new world for political communication — and for national politics.” 

Here’s a rundown of the company’s recent moves to keep its platform safe during elections:

Updates to Ad Library offer more insight into political ads. Facebook’s Ad Library, the platform that archives all ads run on the platform during the past seven years, will now include a feature that tracks spending by U.S. presidential candidates. Facebook is also adding spend details for candidate campaigns at the state and regional level, and clarification around where the ad ran: Facebook, Instagram, Messenger or Facebook’s Audience Network. Starting next month, Facebook said it will begin testing a new database that allows researchers to download the entire ad library and pull daily snapshots to track day-to-day changes.

Facebook Protect: A program to keep political accounts safe. Launched this week, Facebook Protect is designed to secure Facebook and Instagram accounts belonging to candidates, elected officials, federal and state departments and agencies, and party committees in the U.S. Participants must enroll to be part of the program, and once accepted, will receive advanced security protections and monitoring for potential hacking threats.

“If we discover an attack against one enrolled individual, we can review and protect other accounts that are enrolled in our program and affiliated with that same campaign,” writes Facebook on the Facebook Protect website, “Additionally, all Page admins of enrolled Pages will be required to go through Page Publishing Authorization to ensure the security of the Page, regardless of whether or not individual Page admins choose to enroll in this program.”

To enroll, Page owners must already have received the blue-verified badge. Once a Page has been verified it can enroll via the form listed at the bottom of the Facebook Protect site.

More transparency for political Pages. Facebook is adding an “Organizations that Manage This Page” tab to Pages to clarify what organizations are behind political Pages on the platform. The tab will list the organization’s legal name and verified city, phone number or website. For now, this information will only be included for Pages with large U.S. audiences that have already completed Facebook’s business verification process and any Pages that have been authorized to run ads about social issues, elections or politics in the U.S.

“If we find a Page is concealing its ownership in order to mislead people, we will require it to successfully complete the verification process and show more information in order for the Page to stay up,” writes Facebook executives Guy Rosen, Nathaniel Gleicher and Rob Leathern on the company’s Newsroom Blog.

On the Move

Rob Goldman, Facebook’s VP of ads, announced on Twitter that Tuesday was his last day at the company: “Some personal news: After more than 7 years, today is my last day at Facebook. What I will miss most are the people, who are among the smartest and most talented I’ve ever met. I wish them all the very best in their important work.” wrote Goldman. He first joined Facebook in 2012, and was named director of product ads and Pages in 2014.

Twitch, the Amazon-owned game streaming site, has named Doug Scott as its new chief marketing officer. He is replacing Kate Jhaveri, Twitch’s former CMO who left the company earlier this year. “Doug has deep experience extending brands into new markets across games and entertainment industries, making him the ideal fit to lead Twitch’s marketing strategy,” said Twitch COO Sara Clemens. Prior to joining Twitch, Scott led marketing for the social gaming platform Zynga and was CMO for the music startup BandPage. 

Hyundai Motors has hired Angela Zepeda as its next chief marketing officer. Zepeda will oversee all U.S. marketing and advertising efforts for the automaker, including strategic direction, brand development, national and regional advertising, experiential and social marketing, lead gen and more. “Angela was already a member of our extended family and we’ve seen firsthand her creativity, business acumen and talent in building our brand and leading teams,” said Hyundai COO Brian Smith. Prior to joining the company, Zepeda was the senior vice president and managing director of INNOCEAN USA, Hyundai’s agency of record.

Heidi Bullock has been named chief marketing officer for Tealium, a customer data orchestration platform. CEO Jeff Lunsford called Bullock a fantastic addition to the team. “Heidi will undoubtedly help us expand our market position in a high growth market and continue to solidify us as a global leader in the industry,” said Lunsford. Prior to joining Tealium, Bullock most recently served as the CMO for Engagio. She also held the role of group vice president of global marketing at Marketo.

The marketing performance management platform Allocadia has hired Julia Stead as the new chief marketing officer and added John Stetic to its Board of Directors. Stead will focus on working with Allocadia clients, guiding marketing leaders in developing strategy, investing intelligently and optimizing their marketing investment results. “I’m thrilled to be joining a team that is focused on helping other marketers achieve the same growth I’m passionate about driving for my own company,” said Stead. Before joining Allocadia, Stead was the VP of marketing at Invoca. Stetic, a veteran in the martech product industry, currently serves as the senior VP of innovation and partnerships at ServiceMax.

BitPay, a global blockchain payments provider, has appointed Bill Zielke as the company’s first chief marketing officer. In his new role, Zielke will be tasked with executing marketing strategy that supports BitPay’s growth objectives, building a strong business and consumer brand, and cultivating an increased awareness around cryptocurrency and its use. “We realized we needed a seasoned marketer to advance the company to the next level. We are excited to have Bill on board as we attract more users to BitPay and drive greater merchant acceptance of cryptocurrencies,” said CEO Stephen Pair. Zielke’s former marketing leadership roles include time at Ingo Money and Forter, serving as CMO at both venture-backed startups.


About The Author

Amy Gesenhues is a senior editor for Third Door Media, covering the latest news and updates for Marketing Land, Search Engine Land and MarTech Today. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including MarketingProfs, SoftwareCEO, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy’s articles.





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How dopamine fuels the golden rule of content marketing



Jade Bunke

Anticipation is marketing gold – and dopamine is the currency that leads to a richer bottom line. Do you have the Midas touch? As a marketing professional, you’re interested in influencing behavior to help your business succeed – and that starts with dopamine.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that plays a central role in goal-directed behavior. Whether you’re eating your favorite food, purchasing a product that makes you happy, or engaging in a hedonistic conquest, dopamine drives your behavior forward. Put succinctly, dopamine helps you take action.

In your role, you want customers to engage in behavior that’s in alignment with your business objectives. What type of action do you want your customers to take? Do you want them to read a blog post, click a digital ad, open an email, or attend a webinar? If you said yes to any of these, you need to keep reading. 

Anticipation spikes dopamine

The key to creating marketing content that drives behavior in a direction that’s beneficial to your business is to tap into your customer’s complex reward circuitry – a system that’s fueled by dopamine. What comes to mind when you think of dopamine? If you’re like most people, you might associate dopamine with pleasure or reward. But there’s more to the story. 

The brain produces dopamine in response to rewarding experiences; however, the largest surge of dopamine doesn’t come from obtaining the reward – it comes from anticipation. If you want to drink a glass of wine, and you’ve experienced the reward of wine in the past, you might uncork the bottle, pour it into a glass and take a small sip. But the largest dopaminergic spike in your brain occurred before your first sip. 

Marketing science in action

In content marketing, you use information to connect with your audience. According to researchers at UC Berkley’s Haas School of Business, “information acts on the brain’s dopamine-producing reward system in the same way as money or food.” In other words, your marketing content, which is a form of information, can be leveraged to tap into your customer’s reward pathways. What does this mean for you? 

Commercials and videos

Imagine that you’re launching a series of commercials (or videos if you’re working with a smaller budget). As a neurotransmitter that facilitates goal-directed behavior, dopamine can motivate your audience to watch commercials with added interest – as long as you set the stage with the first commercial. If anticipation spikes dopamine, and dopamine drives behavior, you can develop anticipation between commercials to facilitate the desired behavioral response.

In 2006, Dos Equis launched the Most Interesting Man in the World campaign, which featured a grey-haired adventurer who impressed with charisma and fanciful exploits. The campaign tapped into your reward system through humor and storytelling. If you found the humor funny, for example, and you wanted to know how the next commercial would further define the Most Interesting Man in the World (while making you laugh), you were certain to pay close attention to each new commercial. The results? From 2008 to 2013, Dos Equis grew by 116% in the American market, thus turning it into “the fastest growing beer brand in the country.” 

How do you create a reward-driven campaign using commercials or videos? One tactical approach is to develop a cohesive narrative that plays like a movie over multiple commercials. By making sure each clip contains a reward along with a small cliff-hanger, you can get your audience to anticipate what the next commercial might reveal, thereby giving your brand access to one of the most valuable things in a competitive business environment—your audience’s attention. 

Email marketing 

Do you want people to open your marketing emails? Of course, you do. As you already know, the first step is to provide value. But that’s not enough. You need your audience to anticipate value. To do this, you need to make your inbox name become associated with rewarding content. 

How exactly does this work? If your emails contain rewards, such as insightful information, curious content, or humorous content, your name becomes a cue for the reward, thereby informing your audience that a reward is on the way. For your next campaign, therefore, determine what type of reward you plan on using – and be consistent to ensure your name becomes associated with the reward inside of the message. As soon as you’re able to create anticipation of what’s inside a message, you’ll not only see a spike in dopamine, but you’ll also see a spike in your open rates. 

Driving results 

When used correctly, marketing science can drive better results than traditional marketing. The key is to generate intrigue through value-based content that makes the reader anticipate the next communication – regardless if it’s an email, infographic, webinar, commercial or video. As you tackle your next marketing project, therefore, remember the golden rule of content marketing: get your audience to anticipate value. And once you do that, you’ll be able to influence goal-directed behavior that leads to a stronger bottom line. 


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


About The Author

Jade Bunke is a leading authority in marketing science, brand strategy, and demand generation. As a marketing scientist with expertise in buyer behavior, Mr. Bunke blends creative marketing with aspects of cognitive neuroscience, social psychology, and behavioral economics to yield optimal results.





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The Featured Snippet Cheat Sheet and Q&A



BritneyMuller

Earlier this week, I hosted a webinar all about featured snippets covering essential background info, brand-new research we’ve done, the results of all the tests I’ve performed, and key takeaways. Things didn’t quite go as planned, though. We had technical difficulties that interfered with our ability to broadcast live, and lots of folks were left with questions after the recording that we weren’t able to answer in a follow-up Q&A.

The next best thing to a live webinar Q&A? A digital one that you can bookmark and come back to over and over again! We asked our incredibly patient, phenomenally smart attendees to submit their questions via email and promised to answer them in an upcoming blog post. We’ve pulled out the top recurring questions and themes from those submissions and addressed them below. If you had a question and missed the submission window, don’t worry! Ask it down in the comments and we’ll keep the conversation going.

If you didn’t get a chance to sign up for the original webinar, you can register for it on-demand here:

Watch the webinar

And if you’re here to grab the free featured snippets cheat sheet we put together, look no further — download the PDF directly here. Print it off, tape it to your office wall, and keep featured snippets top-of-mind as you create and optimize your site content. 

Now, let’s get to those juicy questions!


1. Can I win a featured snippet with a brand-new website?

If you rank on page one for a keyword that triggers a featured snippet (in positions 1–10), you’re a contender for stealing that featured snippet. It might be tougher with a new website, but you’re in a position to be competitive if you’re on page one — regardless of how established your site is.

We’ve got some great Whiteboard Fridays that cover how to set a new site up for success:

2. Does Google provide a tag that identifies traffic sources from featured snippets? Is there a GTM tag for this?

Unfortunately, Google does not provide a tag to help identify traffic from featured snippets. I’m not aware of a GTM tag that helps with this, either, but would love to hear any community suggestions or ideas in the comments!

It’s worth noting that it’s currently impossible to determine what percentage of your traffic comes from the featured snippet versus the duplicate organic URL below the featured snippet.

3. Do you think it’s worth targeting longer-tail question-based queries that have very low monthly searches to gain a featured snippet?

Great question! My advice is this: don’t sleep on low-search-volume keywords. They often convert really well and in aggregate they can do wonders for a website. I suggest prioritizing long tail keywords that you foresee providing a high potential ROI.

For example, there are millions of searches a month for the keyword “shoes.” Very competitive, but that query is pretty vague. In contrast, the keyword “size 6 red womens nike running shoes” is very specific. This searcher knows what they want and they’re dialing in their search to find it. This is a great example of a long tail keyword phrase that could provide direct conversions.

4. What’s the best keyword strategy for determining which queries are worth creating featured snippet-optimized content for?

Dr. Pete wrote a great blog post outlining how to perform keyword research for featured snippets back in 2016. Once you’ve narrowed down your list of likely queries, you need to look at keywords that you rank on page one for, that trigger a snippet, and that you don’t yet own. Next, narrow your list down further by what you envision will have the highest ROI for your goals. Are you trying to drive conversions? Attract top-of-funnel site visitors? Make sure the queries you target align with your business goals, and go from there. Both Moz Pro and STAT can be a big help with this process.

A tactical pro tip: Use the featured snippet carousel queries as a starting point. For instance, if there’s a snippet for the query “car insurance” with a carousel of “in Florida,” “in Michigan,” and so on, you might consider writing about state-specific topics to win those carousel snippets. For this technique, the bonus is that you don’t really need to be on page one for the root term (or ranking at all) — often, carousel snippets are taken from off-SERP links.

5. Do featured snippets fluctuate according to language, i.e. if I have several versions of my site in different languages, will the snippet display for each version?

This is a great question! Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to do international/multi-language featured snippet research just yet, but hope to in the future. I would suspect the featured snippet could change depending on language and search variation. The best way to explore this is to do a search in an incognito (and un-logged-in) browser window of Google Chrome.

If you’ve performed research along these lines, let us know what you found out down in the comments!

6. Why do featured snippet opportunities fluctuate in number from day to day?

Change really is the only constant in search. In the webinar, I discussed the various tests I did that caused Moz to lose a formerly won featured snippet (and what helped it reappear once again). Changes as simple as an extra period at the end of a sentence were enough to lose us the snippet. With content across the web constantly being created and edited and deprecated and in its own state of change, it’s no wonder that it’s tough to win and keep a featured snippet — sometimes even from one day to the next.

The SERPs are incredibly volatile things, with Google making updates multiple times every day. But when it comes down to the facts, there are a few things that reliably cause volatility (is that an oxymoron?):

  • If a snippet is pulling from a lower-ranking URL (not positions 1–3); this could mean Google is testing the best answer for the query
  • Google regularly changing which scraped content is used in each snippet
  • Featured snippet carousel topics changing

The best way to change-proof yourself is to become an authority in your particular niche (E-A-T, remember?) and strive to rank higher to increase your chances of capturing and keeping a featured snippet.

7. How can I use Keyword Lists to find missed SERP feature opportunities? What’s the best way to use them to identify keyword gaps?

Keyword Lists are a wonderful area to uncover feature snippet (and other SERP feature) opportunity gaps. My favorite way to do this is to filter the Keyword List by your desired SERP feature. We’ll use featured snippets as an example. Next, sort by your website’s current rank (1–10) to determine your primary featured snippet gaps and opportunities.

The filters are another great way to tease out additional gaps:

  • Which keywords have high search volume and low competition? 
  • Which keywords have high organic CTR that you currently rank just off page one for?

8. What are best practices around reviewing the structure of content that’s won a snippet, and how do I know whether it’s worth replicating?

Content that has won a featured snippet is definitely worth reviewing (even if it doesn’t hold the featured snippet over time). Consider why Google might have provided this as a featured snippet:

  • Does it succinctly answer the query? 
  • Might it sound good as a voice answer? 
  • Is it comprehensive for someone looking for additional information? 
  • Does the page provide additional answers or information around the topic? 
  • Are there visual elements? 

It’s best to put on your detective hat and try to uncover why a piece of content might be ranking for a particular featured snippet:

  • What part of the page is Google pulling that featured snippet content from? 
  • Is it marked up in a certain way? 
  • What other elements are on the page? 
  • Is there a common theme? 
  • What additional value can you glean from the ranking featured snippet?

9. Does Google identify and prioritize informational websites for featured snippets, or are they determined by a correlation between pages with useful information and frequency of snippets? 

In other words, would being an e-commerce site harm your chances of winning featured snippets, all other factors being the same?

I’m not sure whether Google explicitly categorizes informational websites. They likely establish a trust metric of sorts for domains and then seek out information or content that most succinctly answers queries within their trust parameters, but this is just a hypothesis.

While informational sites tend to do overwhelmingly better than other types of websites, it’s absolutely possible for an e-commerce website to find creative ways of snagging featured snippets.

It’s fascinating how various e-commerce websites have found their way into current featured snippets in extremely savvy ways. Here’s a super relevant example: after our webinar experienced issues and wasn’t able to launch on time, I did a voice search for “how much do stamps cost” to determine how expensive it would be to send apology notes to all of our hopeful attendees. 

This was the voice answer:

“According to stamps.com the cost of a one ounce first class mail stamp is $0.55 at the Post Office, or $.047 if you buy and print stamps online using stamps.com.”

Pretty clever, right? I believe there are plenty of savvy ways like this to get your brand and offers into featured snippets.

10. When did the “People Also Ask” feature first appear? What changes to PAAs do you anticipate in the future?



People Also Ask boxes first appeared in July 2015 as a small-scale test. Their presence in the SERPs grew over 1700% between July 2015 and March 2017, so they certainly exploded in popularity just a few years ago. Funny enough, I was one of the first SEOs to come across Google’s PAA testing — you can read about that stat and more in my original article on the subject: Infinite “People Also Ask” Boxes: Research and SEO Opportunities

We recently published some great PAA research by Samuel Mangialavori on the Moz Blog, as well: 5 Things You Should Know About “People Also Ask” & How to Take Advantage

And there are a couple of great articles cataloging the evolution of PAAs over the years here:

When it comes to predicting the future of PAAs, well, we don’t have a crystal ball yet, but featured snippets continue to look more and more like PAA boxes with their new-ish accordion format. Is it possible Google will merge them into a single feature someday? It’s hard to say, but as SEOs, our best bet is to maintain flexibility and prepare to roll with the punches the search engines send our way.

11. Can you explain what you meant by “15% of image URLs are not in organic”?

Sure thing! The majority of images that show up in featured snippet boxes (or to be more accurate, the webpage those images live on) do not rank organically within the first ten pages of organic search results for the featured snippet query.

12. How should content creators consider featured snippets when crafting written content? Are there any tools that can help?

First and foremost, you’ll want to consider the searcher

  • What is their intent? 
  • What desired information or content are they after? 
  • Are you providing the desired information in the medium in which they desire it most (video, images, copy, etc)? 

Look to the current SERPs to determine how you should be providing content to your users. Read all of the results on page one:

  • What common themes do they have? 
  • What topics do they cover? 
  • How can you cover those better?

Dr. Pete has a fantastic Whiteboard Friday that covers how to write content to win featured snippets. Check it out: How to Write Content for Answers Using the Inverted Pyramid



You might also get some good advice from this classic Whiteboard Friday by Rand Fishkin: How to Appear in Google’s Answer Boxes

13. “Write quality content for people, not search engines” seems like great advice. But should I also be using any APIs or tools to audit my content? 

The only really helpful tool that comes to mind is the Flesch-Kincaid readability test, but even that can be a bit disruptive to the creative process. The very best tool you might have for reviewing your content might be a real person. I would ensure that your content can be easily understood when read out loud to your targeted audience. It may help to consider whether your content, as a featured snippet, would make for an effective, helpful voice search result.

14. What’s the best way to stay on top of trends when it comes to Google’s featured snippets?

Find publications and tools that resonate, and keep an eye on them. Some of my favorites include:

  1. MozCast to keep a pulse on the Google algorithm
  2. Monitoring tools like STAT (email alerts when you win/lose a snippet? Awesome.)
  3. Cultivating a healthy list of digital marketing heroes to follow on Twitter
  4. Industry news publications like Search Engine Journal and, of course, the Moz Blog 😉
  5. Subscribing to SEO newsletters like the Moz Top 10

One of the very best things you can do, though, is performing your own investigative featured snippet research within your space. Publishing the trends you observe helps our entire community grow and learn. 


Thank you so much to every attendee who submitted their questions. Digging into these follow-up thoughts and ideas is one of the best parts of putting on a presentation. If you’ve got any lingering questions after the webinar, I would love to hear them — leave me a note in the comments and I’ll be on point to answer you. And if you missed the webinar sign-up, you can still access it on-demand whenever you want.

We also promised you some bonus content, yeah? Here it is — I compiled all of my best tips and tricks for winning featured snippets into a downloadable cheat sheet that I hope is a helpful reference for you:

Free download: The Featured Snippets Cheat Sheet

There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to win your own snippets when you’re armed with data, drive, and a good, solid plan! Hopefully this is a great resource for you to have on hand, either to share around with colleagues or to print out and keep at your desk:

Grab the cheat sheet

Again, thank you so much for submitting your questions, and we’ll see you in the comments for more.





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5 critical elements for local marketing success



Digital Marketing Depot

U.S. businesses of all sizes are expected to spend $154.6 billion on local advertising in 2020. Local marketing growth is being driven by low unemployment and general optimism for future growth, which has led to greater consumer spending as well as a desire among advertisers to capture those dollars.

MarTech Today’s “Local Marketing Solutions for Multi-Location Businesses” reviews the growing market for local marketing solutions and the 5 critical elements for local marketing success:

  • Listing management
  • Local SEO
  • Local landing pages
  • Reputation management
  • Paid search and social media

The 61-page report discusses each of these campaign elements in more detail and reviews the latest trends, opportunities and challenges for brands marketing locally. Also included are profiles of 17 leading local marketing solution vendors, pricing charts, capabilities comparisons and recommended steps for evaluating and purchasing. Visit Digital Marketing Depot to get your copy.


About The Author

Digital Marketing Depot is a resource center for digital marketing strategies and tactics. We feature hosted white papers and E-Books, original research, and webcasts on digital marketing topics — from advertising to analytics, SEO and PPC campaign management tools to social media management software, e-commerce to e-mail marketing, and much more about internet marketing. Digital Marketing Depot is a division of Third Door Media, publisher of Search Engine Land and Marketing Land, and producer of the conference series Search Marketing Expo and MarTech. Visit us at http://digitalmarketingdepot.com.





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SEO Analytics for Free – Combining Google Search with the Moz API



Purple-Toolz

I’m a self-funded start-up business owner. As such, I want to get as much as I can for free before convincing our finance director to spend our hard-earned bootstrapping funds. I’m also an analyst with a background in data and computer science, so a bit of a geek by any definition.

What I try to do, with my SEO analyst hat on, is hunt down great sources of free data and wrangle it into something insightful. Why? Because there’s no value in basing client advice on conjecture. It’s far better to combine quality data with good analysis and help our clients better understand what’s important for them to focus on.

In this article, I will tell you how to get started using a few free resources and illustrate how to pull together unique analytics that provide useful insights for your blog articles if you’re a writer, your agency if you’re an SEO, or your website if you’re a client or owner doing SEO yourself.

The scenario I’m going to use is that I want analyze some SEO attributes (e.g. backlinks, Page Authority etc.) and look at their effect on Google ranking. I want to answer questions like “Do backlinks really matter in getting to Page 1 of SERPs?” and “What kind of Page Authority score do I really need to be in the top 10 results?” To do this, I will need to combine data from a number of Google searches with data on each result that has the SEO attributes in that I want to measure.

Let’s get started and work through how to combine the following tasks to achieve this, which can all be setup for free:

  • Querying with Google Custom Search Engine
  • Using the free Moz API account
  • Harvesting data with PHP and MySQL
  • Analyzing data with SQL and R

Querying with Google Custom Search Engine

We first need to query Google and get some results stored. To stay on the right side of Google’s terms of service, we’ll not be scraping Google.com directly but will instead use Google’s Custom Search feature. Google’s Custom Search is designed mainly to let website owners provide a Google like search widget on their website. However, there is also a REST based Google Search API that is free and lets you query Google and retrieve results in the popular JSON format. There are quota limits but these can be configured and extended to provide a good sample of data to work with.

When configured correctly to search the entire web, you can send queries to your Custom Search Engine, in our case using PHP, and treat them like Google responses, albeit with some caveats. The main limitations of using a Custom Search Engine are: (i) it doesn’t use some Google Web Search features such as personalized results and; (ii) it may have a subset of results from the Google index if you include more than ten sites.

Notwithstanding these limitations, there are many search options that can be passed to the Custom Search Engine to proxy what you might expect Google.com to return. In our scenario, we passed the following when making a call:

https://www.googleapis.com/customsearch/v1?key=<google_api_id>&userIp=
<ip_address>&cx<custom_search_engine_id>&q=iPhone+X&cr=countryUS&start=
1</custom_search_engine_id></ip_address></google_api_id>

Where:

  • https://www.googleapis.com/customsearch/v1 – is the URL for the Google Custom Search API
  • key=<GOOGLE_API_ID> – Your Google Developer API Key
  • userIp=<IP_ADDRESS> – The IP address of the local machine making the call
  • cx=<CUSTOM_SEARCH_ENGINE_ID> – Your Google Custom Search Engine ID
  • q=iPhone+X – The Google query string (‘+’ replaces ‘ ‘)
  • cr=countryUS – Country restriction (from Goolge’s Country Collection Name list)
  • start=1 – The index of the first result to return – e.g. SERP page 1. Successive calls would increment this to get pages 2–5.

Google has said that the Google Custom Search engine differs from Google .com, but in my limited prod testing comparing results between the two, I was encouraged by the similarities and so continued with the analysis. That said, keep in mind that the data and results below come from Google Custom Search (using ‘whole web’ queries), not Google.com.

Using the free Moz API account

Moz provide an Application Programming Interface (API). To use it you will need to register for a Mozscape API key, which is free but limited to 2,500 rows per month and one query every ten seconds. Current paid plans give you increased quotas and start at $250/month. Having a free account and API key, you can then query the Links API and analyze the following metrics:

Moz data field

Moz API code

Description

ueid

32

The number of external equity links to the URL

uid

2048

The number of links (external, equity or nonequity or not,) to the URL

umrp**

16384

The MozRank of the URL, as a normalized 10-point score

umrr**

16384

The MozRank of the URL, as a raw score

fmrp**

32768

The MozRank of the URL’s subdomain, as a normalized 10-point score

fmrr**

32768

The MozRank of the URL’s subdomain, as a raw score

us

536870912

The HTTP status code recorded for this URL, if available

upa

34359738368

A normalized 100-point score representing the likelihood of a page to rank well in search engine results

pda

68719476736

A normalized 100-point score representing the likelihood of a domain to rank well in search engine results

NOTE: Since this analysis was captured, Moz documented that they have deprecated these fields. However, in testing this (15-06-2019), the fields were still present.

Moz API Codes are added together before calling the Links API with something that looks like the following:

www.apple.com%2F?Cols=103616137253&AccessID=MOZ_ACCESS_ID&
Expires=1560586149&Signature=<MOZ_SECRET_KEY>

Where:

  • http://lsapi.seomoz.com/linkscape/url-metrics/” class=”redactor-autoparser-object”>http://lsapi.seomoz.com/linksc… – Is the URL for the Moz API
  • http%3A%2F%2Fwww.apple.com%2F – An encoded URL that we want to get data on
  • Cols=103616137253 – The sum of the Moz API codes from the table above
  • AccessID=MOZ_ACCESS_ID – An encoded version of the Moz Access ID (found in your API account)
  • Expires=1560586149 – A timeout for the query – set a few minutes into the future
  • Signature=<MOZ_SECRET_KEY> – An encoded version of the Moz Access ID (found in your API account)

Moz will return with something like the following JSON:

Array
(
    [ut] => Apple
    [uu] => <a href="http://www.apple.com/" class="redactor-autoparser-object">www.apple.com/</a>
    [ueid] => 13078035
    [uid] => 14632963
    [uu] => www.apple.com/
    [ueid] => 13078035
    [uid] => 14632963
    [umrp] => 9
    [umrr] => 0.8999999762
    [fmrp] => 2.602215052
    [fmrr] => 0.2602215111
    [us] => 200
    [upa] => 90
    [pda] => 100
)

For a great starting point on querying Moz with PHP, Perl, Python, Ruby and Javascript, see this repository on Github. I chose to use PHP.

Harvesting data with PHP and MySQL

Now we have a Google Custom Search Engine and our Moz API, we’re almost ready to capture data. Google and Moz respond to requests via the JSON format and so can be queried by many popular programming languages. In addition to my chosen language, PHP, I wrote the results of both Google and Moz to a database and chose MySQL Community Edition for this. Other databases could be also used, e.g. Postgres, Oracle, Microsoft SQL Server etc. Doing so enables persistence of the data and ad-hoc analysis using SQL (Structured Query Language) as well as other languages (like R, which I will go over later). After creating database tables to hold the Google search results (with fields for rank, URL etc.) and a table to hold Moz data fields (ueid, upa, uda etc.), we’re ready to design our data harvesting plan.

Google provide a generous quota with the Custom Search Engine (up to 100M queries per day with the same Google developer console key) but the Moz free API is limited to 2,500. Though for Moz, paid for options provide between 120k and 40M rows per month depending on plans and range in cost from $250–$10,000/month. Therefore, as I’m just exploring the free option, I designed my code to harvest 125 Google queries over 2 pages of SERPs (10 results per page) allowing me to stay within the Moz 2,500 row quota. As for which searches to fire at Google, there are numerous resources to use from. I chose to use Mondovo as they provide numerous lists by category and up to 500 words per list which is ample for the experiment.

I also rolled in a few PHP helper classes alongside my own code for database I/O and HTTP.

In summary, the main PHP building blocks and sources used were:

One factor to be aware of is the 10 second interval between Moz API calls. This is to prevent Moz being overloaded by free API users. To handle this in software, I wrote a “query throttler” which blocked access to the Moz API between successive calls within a timeframe. However, whilst working perfectly it meant that calling Moz 2,500 times in succession took just under 7 hours to complete.

Analyzing data with SQL and R

Data harvested. Now the fun begins!

It’s time to have a look at what we’ve got. This is sometimes called data wrangling. I use a free statistical programming language called R along with a development environment (editor) called R Studio. There are other languages such as Stata and more graphical data science tools like Tableau, but these cost and the finance director at Purple Toolz isn’t someone to cross!

I have been using R for a number of years because it’s open source and it has many third-party libraries, making it extremely versatile and appropriate for this kind of work.

Let’s roll up our sleeves.

I now have a couple of database tables with the results of my 125 search term queries across 2 pages of SERPS (i.e. 20 ranked URLs per search term). Two database tables hold the Google results and another table holds the Moz data results. To access these, we’ll need to do a database INNER JOIN which we can easily accomplish by using the RMySQL package with R. This is loaded by typing “install.packages(‘RMySQL’)” into R’s console and including the line “library(RMySQL)” at the top of our R script.

We can then do the following to connect and get the data into an R data frame variable called “theResults.”

library(RMySQL)
# INNER JOIN the two tables
theQuery <- "
    SELECT A.*, B.*, C.*
    FROM
    (
        SELECT 
            cseq_search_id
        FROM cse_query
    ) A -- Custom Search Query
    INNER JOIN
    (
        SELECT 
            cser_cseq_id,
            cser_rank,
            cser_url
        FROM cse_results
    ) B -- Custom Search Results
    ON A.cseq_search_id = B.cser_cseq_id
    INNER JOIN
    (
        SELECT *
        FROM moz
    ) C -- Moz Data Fields
    ON B.cser_url = C.moz_url
    ;
"
# [1] Connect to the database
# Replace USER_NAME with your database username
# Replace PASSWORD with your database password
# Replace MY_DB with your database name
theConn <- dbConnect(dbDriver("MySQL"), user = "USER_NAME", password = "PASSWORD", dbname = "MY_DB")
# [2] Query the database and hold the results
theResults <- dbGetQuery(theConn, theQuery)
# [3] Disconnect from the database
dbDisconnect(theConn)

NOTE: I have two tables to hold the Google Custom Search Engine data. One holds data on the Google query (cse_query) and one holds results (cse_results).

We can now use R’s full range of statistical functions to begin wrangling.

Let’s start with some summaries to get a feel for the data. The process I go through is basically the same for each of the fields, so let’s illustrate and use Moz’s ‘UEID’ field (the number of external equity links to a URL). By typing the following into R I get the this:

> summary(theResults$moz_ueid)
   Min. 1st Qu.  Median    Mean 3rd Qu.    Max. 
      0       1      20   14709     182 2755274 
> quantile(theResults$moz_ueid,  probs = c(1, 5, 10, 25, 50, 75, 80, 90, 95, 99, 100)/100)
       1%        5%       10%       25%       50%       75%       80%       90%       95%       99%      100% 
      0.0       0.0       0.0       1.0      20.0     182.0     337.2    1715.2    7873.4  412283.4 2755274.0 

Looking at this, you can see that the data is skewed (a lot) by the relationship of the median to the mean, which is being pulled by values in the upper quartile range (values beyond 75% of the observations). We can however, plot this as a box and whisker plot in R where each X value is the distribution of UEIDs by rank from Google Custom Search position 1-20.

Note we are using a log scale on the y-axis so that we can display the full range of values as they vary a lot!

A box and whisker plot in R of Moz’s UEID by Google rank (note: log scale)

Box and whisker plots are great as they show a lot of information in them (see the geom_boxplot function in R). The purple boxed area represents the Inter-Quartile Range (IQR) which are the values between 25% and 75% of observations. The horizontal line in each ‘box’ represents the median value (the one in the middle when ordered), whilst the lines extending from the box (called the ‘whiskers’) represent 1.5x IQR. Dots outside the whiskers are called ‘outliers’ and show where the extents of each rank’s set of observations are. Despite the log scale, we can see a noticeable pull-up from rank #10 to rank #1 in median values, indicating that the number of equity links might be a Google ranking factor. Let’s explore this further with density plots.

Density plots are a lot like distributions (histograms) but show smooth lines rather than bars for the data. Much like a histogram, a density plot’s peak shows where the data values are concentrated and can help when comparing two distributions. In the density plot below, I have split the data into two categories: (i) results that appeared on Page 1 of SERPs ranked 1-10 are in pink and; (ii) results that appeared on SERP Page 2 are in blue. I have also plotted the medians of both distributions to help illustrate the difference in results between Page 1 and Page 2.

The inference from these two density plots is that Page 1 SERP results had more external equity backlinks (UEIDs) on than Page 2 results. You can also see the median values for these two categories below which clearly shows how the value for Page 1 (38) is far greater than Page 2 (11). So we now have some numbers to base our SEO strategy for backlinks on.

# Create a factor in R according to which SERP page a result (cser_rank) is on
> theResults$rankBin <- paste("Page", ceiling(theResults$cser_rank / 10))
> theResults$rankBin <- factor(theResults$rankBin)
# Now report the medians by SERP page by calling ‘tapply’
> tapply(theResults$moz_ueid, theResults$rankBin, median) 
Page 1 Page 2 
    38     11 

From this, we can deduce that equity backlinks (UEID) matter and if I were advising a client based on this data, I would say they should be looking to get over 38 equity-based backlinks to help them get to Page 1 of SERPs. Of course, this is a limited sample and more research, a bigger sample and other ranking factors would need to be considered, but you get the idea.

Now let’s investigate another metric that has less of a range on it than UEID and look at Moz’s UPA measure, which is the likelihood that a page will rank well in search engine results.

> summary(theResults$moz_upa)
   Min. 1st Qu.  Median    Mean 3rd Qu.    Max. 
   1.00   33.00   41.00   41.22   50.00   81.00 
> quantile(theResults$moz_upa,  probs = c(1, 5, 10, 25, 50, 75, 80, 90, 95, 99, 100)/100)
  1%   5%  10%  25%  50%  75%  80%  90%  95%  99% 100% 
  12   20   25   33   41   50   53   58   62   75   81 

UPA is a number given to a URL and ranges between 0–100. The data is better behaved than the previous UEID unbounded variable having its mean and median close together making for a more ‘normal’ distribution as we can see below by plotting a histogram in R.

A histogram of Moz’s UPA score

We’ll do the same Page 1 : Page 2 split and density plot that we did before and look at the UPA score distributions when we divide the UPA data into two groups.

# Report the medians by SERP page by calling ‘tapply’
> tapply(theResults$moz_upa, theResults$rankBin, median) 
Page 1 Page 2 
    43     39 

In summary, two very different distributions from two Moz API variables. But both showed differences in their scores between SERP pages and provide you with tangible values (medians) to work with and ultimately advise clients on or apply to your own SEO.

Of course, this is just a small sample and shouldn’t be taken literally. But with free resources from both Google and Moz, you can now see how you can begin to develop analytical capabilities of your own to base your assumptions on rather than accepting the norm. SEO ranking factors change all the time and having your own analytical tools to conduct your own tests and experiments on will help give you credibility and perhaps even a unique insight on something hitherto unknown.

Google provide you with a healthy free quota to obtain search results from. If you need more than the 2,500 rows/month Moz provide for free there are numerous paid-for plans you can purchase. MySQL is a free download and R is also a free package for statistical analysis (and much more).

Go explore!



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Helping to Protect the 2020 US Elections

By Guy Rosen, VP of Integrity; Katie Harbath, Public Policy Director, Global Elections; Nathaniel Gleicher, Head of Cybersecurity Policy and Rob Leathern, Director of Product Management

We have a responsibility to stop abuse and election interference on our platform. That’s why we’ve made significant investments since 2016 to better identify new threats, close vulnerabilities and reduce the spread of viral misinformation and fake accounts. 

Today, almost a year out from the 2020 elections in the US, we’re announcing several new measures to help protect the democratic process and providing an update on initiatives already underway:

Fighting foreign interference

  • Combating inauthentic behavior, including an updated policy
  • Protecting the accounts of candidates, elected officials, their teams and others through Facebook Protect 

Increasing transparency

  • Making Pages more transparent, including showing the confirmed owner of a Page
  • Labeling state-controlled media on their Page and in our Ad Library
  • Making it easier to understand political ads, including a new US presidential candidate spend tracker

Reducing misinformation

  • Preventing the spread of misinformation, including clearer fact-checking labels 
  • Fighting voter suppression and interference, including banning paid ads that suggest voting is useless or advise people not to vote
  • Helping people better understand the information they see online, including an initial investment of $2 million to support media literacy projects

Fighting Foreign Interference

Combating Inauthentic Behavior

Over the last three years, we’ve worked to identify new and emerging threats and remove coordinated inauthentic behavior across our apps. In the past year alone, we’ve taken down over 50 networks worldwide, many ahead of major democratic elections. As part of our effort to counter foreign influence campaigns, this morning we removed four separate networks of accounts, Pages and Groups on Facebook and Instagram for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior. Three of them originated in Iran and one in Russia. They targeted the US, North Africa and Latin America. We have identified these manipulation campaigns as part of our internal investigations into suspected Iran-linked inauthentic behavior, as well as ongoing proactive work ahead of the US elections.

We took down these networks based on their behavior, not the content they posted. In each case, the people behind this activity coordinated with one another and used fake accounts to misrepresent themselves, and that was the basis for our action. We have shared our findings with law enforcement and industry partners. More details can be found here.

As we’ve improved our ability to disrupt these operations, we’ve also built a deeper understanding of different threats and how best to counter them. We investigate and enforce against any type of inauthentic behavior. However, the most appropriate way to respond to someone boosting the popularity of their posts in their own country may not be the best way to counter foreign interference. That’s why we’re updating our inauthentic behavior policy to clarify how we deal with the range of deceptive practices we see on our platforms, whether foreign or domestic, state or non-state.

Protecting the Accounts of Candidates, Elected Officials and Their Teams

Today, we’re launching Facebook Protect to further secure the accounts of elected officials, candidates, their staff and others who may be particularly vulnerable to targeting by hackers and foreign adversaries. As we’ve seen in past elections, they can be targets of malicious activity. However, because campaigns are generally run for a short period of time, we don’t always know who these campaign-affiliated people are, making it harder to help protect them.

Beginning today, Page admins can enroll their organization’s Facebook and Instagram accounts in Facebook Protect and invite members of their organization to participate in the program as well. Participants will be required to turn on two-factor authentication, and their accounts will be monitored for hacking, such as login attempts from unusual locations or unverified devices. And, if we discover an attack against one account, we can review and protect other accounts affiliated with that same organization that are enrolled in our program. Read more about Facebook Protect and enroll here.

Increasing Transparency

Making Pages More Transparent

We want to make sure people are using Facebook authentically, and that they understand who is speaking to them. Over the past year, we’ve taken steps to ensure Pages are authentic and more transparent by showing people the Page’s primary country location and whether the Page has merged with other Pages. This gives people more context on the Page and makes it easier to understand who’s behind it. 

Increasingly, we’ve seen people failing to disclose the organization behind their Page as a way to make people think that a Page is run independently. To address this, we’re adding more information about who is behind a Page, including a new “Organizations That Manage This Page” tab that will feature the Page’s “Confirmed Page Owner,” including the organization’s legal name and verified city, phone number or website.

Initially, this information will only appear on Pages with large US audiences that have gone through Facebook’s business verification. In addition, Pages that have gone through the new authorization process to run ads about social issues, elections or politics in the US will also have this tab. And starting in January, these advertisers will be required to show their Confirmed Page Owner. 

If we find a Page is concealing its ownership in order to mislead people, we will require it to successfully complete the verification process and show more information in order for the Page to stay up. 

Labeling State-Controlled Media

We want to help people better understand the sources of news content they see on Facebook so they can make informed decisions about what they’re reading. Next month, we’ll begin labeling media outlets that are wholly or partially under the editorial control of their government as state-controlled media. This label will be on both their Page and in our Ad Library. 

We will hold these Pages to a higher standard of transparency because they combine the opinion-making influence of a media organization with the strategic backing of a state. 

We developed our own definition and standards for state-controlled media organizations with input from more than 40 experts around the world specializing in media, governance, human rights and development. Those consulted represent leading academic institutions, nonprofits and international organizations in this field, including Reporters Without Borders, Center for International Media Assistance, European Journalism Center, Oxford Internet Institute‘s Project on Computational Propaganda, Center for Media, Data and Society (CMDS) at the Central European University, the Council of Europe, UNESCO and others. 

It’s important to note that our policy draws an intentional distinction between state-controlled media and public media, which we define as any entity that is publicly financed, retains a public service mission and can demonstrate its independent editorial control. At this time, we’re focusing our labeling efforts only on state-controlled media. 

We will update the list of state-controlled media on a rolling basis beginning in November. And, in early 2020, we plan to expand our labeling to specific posts and apply these labels on Instagram as well. For any organization that believes we have applied the label in error, there will be an appeals process. 

Making it Easier to Understand Political Ads

In addition to making Pages more transparent, we’re updating the Ad Library, Ad Library Report and Ad Library API to help journalists, lawmakers, researchers and others learn more about the ads they see. This includes:

  • A new US presidential candidate spend tracker, so that people can see how much candidates have spent on ads
  • Adding additional spend details at the state or regional level to help people analyze advertiser and candidate efforts to reach voters geographically
  • Making it clear if an ad ran on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger or Audience Network
  • Adding useful API filters, providing programmatic access to download ad creatives and a repository of frequently used API scripts.

In addition to updates to the Ad Library API, in November, we will begin testing a new database with researchers that will enable them to quickly download the entire Ad Library, pull daily snapshots and track day-to-day changes.

Visit our Help Center to learn more about the changes to Pages and the Ad Library

Reducing Misinformation

Preventing the Spread of Viral Misinformation

On Facebook and Instagram, we work to keep confirmed misinformation from spreading. For example, we reduce its distribution so fewer people see it on Instagram, we remove it from Explore and hashtags, and on Facebook, we reduce its distribution in News Feed. On Instagram, we also make content from accounts that repeatedly post misinformation harder to find by filtering content from that account from Explore and hashtag pages for example. And on Facebook, if Pages, domains or Groups repeatedly share misinformation, we’ll continue to reduce their overall distribution and we’ll place restrictions on the Page’s ability to advertise and monetize.

Over the next month, content across Facebook and Instagram that has been rated false or partly false by a third-party fact-checker will start to be more prominently labeled so that people can better decide for themselves what to read, trust and share. The labels below will be shown on top of false and partly false photos and videos, including on top of Stories content on Instagram, and will link out to the assessment from the fact-checker.

Much like we do on Facebook when people try to share known misinformation, we’re also introducing a new pop-up that will appear when people attempt to share posts on Instagram that include content that has been debunked by third-party fact-checkers.

In addition to clearer labels, we’re also working to take faster action to prevent misinformation from going viral, especially given that quality reporting and fact-checking takes time. In many countries, including in the US, if we have signals that a piece of content is false, we temporarily reduce its distribution pending review by a third-party fact-checker.

Fighting Voter Suppression and Intimidation

Attempts to interfere with or suppress voting undermine our core values as a company, and we work proactively to remove this type of harmful content. Ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, we extended our voter suppression and intimidation policies to prohibit:

  • Misrepresentation of the dates, locations, times and methods for voting or voter registration (e.g. “Vote by text!”);
  • Misrepresentation of who can vote, qualifications for voting, whether a vote will be counted and what information and/or materials must be provided in order to vote (e.g. “If you voted in the primary, your vote in the general election won’t count.”); and 
  • Threats of violence relating to voting, voter registration or the outcome of an election.

We remove this type of content regardless of who it’s coming from, and ahead of the midterm elections, our Elections Operations Center removed more than 45,000 pieces of content that violated these policies more than 90% of which our systems detected before anyone reported the content to us. 

We also recognize that there are certain types of content, such as hate speech, that are equally likely to suppress voting. That’s why our hate speech policies ban efforts to exclude people from political participation on the basis of things like race, ethnicity or religion (e.g., telling people not to vote for a candidate because of the candidate’s race, or indicating that people of a certain religion should not be allowed to hold office).

In advance of the US 2020 elections, we’re implementing additional policies and expanding our technical capabilities on Facebook and Instagram to protect the integrity of the election. Following up on a commitment we made in the civil rights audit report released in June, we have now implemented our policy banning paid advertising that suggests voting is useless or meaningless, or advises people not to vote. 

In addition, our systems are now more effective at proactively detecting and removing this harmful content. We use machine learning to help us quickly identify potentially incorrect voting information and remove it. 

We are also continuing to expand and develop our partnerships to provide expertise on trends in voter suppression and intimidation, as well as early detection of violating content. This includes working directly with secretaries of state and election directors to address localized voter suppression that may only be occurring in a single state or district. This work will be supported by our Elections Operations Center during both the primary and general elections. 

Helping People Better Understand What They See Online

Part of our work to stop the spread of misinformation is helping people spot it for themselves. That’s why we partner with organizations and experts in media literacy. 

Today, we’re announcing an initial investment of $2 million to support projects that empower people to determine what to read and share — both on Facebook and elsewhere. 

These projects range from training programs to help ensure the largest Instagram accounts have the resources they need to reduce the spread of misinformation, to expanding a pilot program that brings together senior citizens and high school students to learn about online safety and media literacy, to public events in local venues like bookstores, community centers and libraries in cities across the country. We’re also supporting a series of training events focused on critical thinking among first-time voters. 

In addition, we’re including a new series of media literacy lessons in our Digital Literacy Library. These lessons are drawn from the Youth and Media team at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, which has made them available for free worldwide under a Creative Commons license. The lessons, created for middle and high school educators, are designed to be interactive and cover topics ranging from assessing the quality of the information online to more technical skills like reverse image search.

We’ll continue to develop our media literacy efforts in the US and we’ll have more to share soon. 





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5 Things You Should Know About “People Also Ask” & How to Take Advantage



SamuelMangialavori

It’s undeniable that the SERPs have changed considerably in the last year or so. Elements like featured snippets, Knowledge Graphs, local packs, and People Also Ask have really taken over the SEO world — and left some of us a bit confused.

In particular, the People Also Ask (PAA) feature caught my attention in the last few months. For many of the clients I’ve worked with, PAAs have really had an impact on their SERPs.

If you are anything like me, you might be asking yourself the same questions:

  • How important are these SERP features?
  • How many clicks do they “steal” from SEO?
  • And most importantly: who are these people that also ask SO MANY questions? Somehow, I always imagine the hipster-looking man from Answer the Public being the leader of such a group of people…

The first part of the post focuses on five things I’ve learned about People Also Ask, while the second part outlines some ideas on how to take advantage of such features.

Let’s get started! Here are five things you should know about PAAs.

1. PAA can occupy different positions on the SERP

I don’t know about you all, but I wasn’t fully aware of the above until a few months ago; I just assumed that most of the time PAAs appeared in the same location, IF and only IF it was actually triggered by Google. I didn’t really pay attention to this featured until I started digging into it.

Distinct from featured snippets (which appear always at the top of the SERP), PAAs can be located in several different parts of the page.

Let’s look at some examples:

Keyword example: [dj software]

Example of SERP where PAA is at the top of the page

For the keyword [dj software], this is what the SERP looks like:

  • 3 PPC ads
  • Related videos
  • 4 PAA listings at the top of the page
  • 10 organic results

Keyword example: [cocktail dresses under 50 pounds]

Example of SERP where PAA is in the middle of the page

For the keyword [cocktail dresses under 50 pounds], this is what the SERP looks like:

  • Shopping ads
  • 1 PPC ad
  • Image carousel
  • 3 organic results
  • 4 PAA listings in the middle of the page

Keyword example: [tv unit]

Example of SERP where PAA is at the bottom of the page

For the keyword [tv unit], this is what the SERP looks like:

  • Shopping ads
  • 1 PPC ad
  • 10 organic results
  • 3 PAA listings at the bottom of the page

Why does this matter to you?

Understanding the implications of the different positions of PAA in the SERPs impacts organic results’ CTR, especially on mobile, where space is very precious.

2. Do PAAs have a limit?

I’m just giving away the answer now: No-ish.

This feature has the ability to trigger a potentially infinite number of questions on the topic of interest. As Britney Muller researched in this Moz post, the initial 3–4 listing could continue into the hundreds once clicked on, in some cases.

With one simple click, the 4 PAA questions can trigger three more listings, and so on and so forth.

Has the situation changed at all since the original 2016 Moz article?

Yes, it has! What I’m seeing now is actually very mixed: PAAs can vary extensively, from a fixed number of 3–4 listings to a plethora of results.

Let’s look at an example of a query that’s showing a large number of PAAs:

Keyword example: [featured snippets]

Example of SERP where the number of PAA expands when clicked upon, and is not fixed

For the query [featured snippets], the PAA listings can be expanded if clicked on, which process generates a large number of new PAA listings that appear at the bottom of such SERP feature.

For other queries, Google will only show you 4 PAA listings and such number will not change even if the listings get clicked on:

Keyword example: [best italian wine]

Example of SERP where the number of PAA listings is fixed and does not expand

For the query [best italian wine], the PAA listings cannot be expanded, no matter how many times you hover or click on them.

Interestingly, it also appears that Google does not keep this feature consistent: a few days after I took the above screenshots, the fixed number of PAAs was gone. On the other hand, I’ve recently seen instances where the keywords have a fixed amount of only 3 PAAs instead of 4.

Now, the real question for Google would be:

“What methodology are they using to decide which keywords trigger an infinite amount of PAAs and which keywords cannot?”

As you might have guessed by now, I don’t have an answer today. I’ll continue to work on uncovering it and keep you folks posted when/if I get an answer from Google or discover further insights.

My two cents on the above:

The number of PAAs does not relate to particular verticals or keywords patterns at the moment, though this may change in the future (e.g. comparative keywords more or less inclined to a fixed amount of PAAs.)

Google’s experiments will continue, and they may change PAAs quite a bit in the next one to two years. I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw questions being answered in different ways. Read the next point to know more!

Why does this matter to you?

From an opportunity standpoint, the number of questions you can scrape to take advantage of will vary.

From a user standpoint, it impacts your search journey and offers a different number of answers to your questions.

3. PAAs can trigger video results

I came across this by reading an article on Search Engine Roundtable.

Example PAA with video results

I wasn’t able to replicate the above result myself in London — but that doesn’t matter, as we’re used to seeing Google experimenting with new features in the US first.

Answering a PAA listing with a video makes a lot of sense, especially if you consider the nature of many of the queries listed:

  • What is…
  • How to…
  • Why is/are…

And so on.

I expect this to be tested more and more by Google, to a point where most of the keywords that are currently showing video results in the SERPs will trigger video results in the PAA listings, too.

Keyword example: [how to clean suede shoes diy]

Example of SERP for keywords that often trigger video results

Video results will matter more and more in the near future. Why is that?

Just examine how hard Google is working on the interpretation and simplification of video results. Google has added key moments for videos in search results (read this article to know more). This new feature allows us to jump to the portion of the video that answers our specific query.

Why does this matter to you?

From an opportunity standpoint, you can optimize your YouTube and video results to be eligible to appear in PAAs.

From a user standpoint, it enriches your search journey for PAA queries that are better answered with videos.

4. PAA questions are frequently repeated for the same search topic and also trigger featured snippets

This might be obvious, but it’s important to understand these three points:

  1. Most PAA questions also trigger featured snippets
  2. The same PAA question (& answer) can be triggered for different keywords
  3. The same answer/listing that appears for a certain question in a PAA can also appear for different questions triggered by PAAs

Let’s look at some examples to better visualize what I mean:

1. PAA questions also trigger Featured Snippets

Keyword 1: [business card ideas]

Keyword 2: [what is on a good business card?]

Example of PAA listings for case n.1

The keyword [business card ideas] triggers some PAA listings, whose questions, if used as the main query, trigger a featured snippet.

2. Different keywords can trigger the same PAA question and show the same result. 

The same listing that appears for a PAA question for keyword X can also appear for the same question, triggered by a different keyword Y.

Keyword 1: [quality business cards]

Keyword 2: [business cards quality design]

Example of PAA listings for case n.2

To summarize: Different keywords, same question in the PAA and same listing in the PAA.

3. Different questions listed in a PAA triggered by different keywords can show the same result. 

The same listing that appears for a PAA question for keyword X can also appear for the same question, triggered by a different keyword Y.

Keyword 1: [quality business cards]

Keyword 2: [best business cards online]

Example of PAA listings for case n.3

To summarize: Different keywords, different question in the PAA but same listing in the PAA.

The above keywords are clearly different, but they show the same intent:

“I’m looking for a business card by using terms that highlight certain defining attributes — best & quality.”

Small Biz Trends in the above screenshot has created a page that matches that particular intent. Keyword intent is a crucial topic that the SEO community has been talking about for a few years by now.

Why does this matter to you?

From an opportunity standpoint, your PAA listings can trigger featured snippets and also have the possibility to cover a portfolio of different keyword permutations.

5. PAAs have a feedback feature

Most of you have probably glanced over this feature but never really paid attention to it: at the bottom of the last PAA listing, there is often a little hyperlink with the word Feedback.

By clicking on it, you’re shown the following pop-up:

Example of feedback for PAA

Google states that this option is available “on some search results” and it allows users to send feedback or suggest a translation. Even if you do go through the effort, Google says they will not reply to you directly, but rather collect the info submitted and work on the accuracy of the listings.

Does this mean they’ll actually change the PAA listing based off of feedback?

Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer for this (I’ve tried to submit feedback manually and nothing really happened) but I think it’s very unlikely.

The only for-sure thing you get from Google is the following response:

Google’s response after feedback submission

Why does this matter to you?

From an opportunity standpoint, if you notice that PAA listings (for questions you are trying to appear for) are not accurate, you can flag it to Google and hope they’ll change it.

Now that we’ve covered some interesting facts, how can we take advantage of PAA?

Determine how deeply your SERP is being affected by PAA (and other SERP features)

This task is fairly straightforward, but I guarantee you very few people actually pay much attention to it. When monitoring your rankings, you should really try to dig deeply into which other elements are affecting your overall organic traffic & organic CTR.

Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What elements affect the SERP for my core keywords?
  • How often do these SERP elements appear?
  • How deeply are they affecting my organic results?

You might spot an increasing amount of paid results (in the form of shopping ads for products or text ads for services) appearing for many of your key terms.

Established tools like SEMrush, Sistrix, and Ahrefs can show you the number of ads, overall spending, & how the ads look at a keyword level.

Kw: [hr software]

SEMrush ads history graph by keyword

Or it may be the case that organic SERP elements, such as video results, are being triggered in the SERP for many of your informational queries, or that featured snippets appear for a high percentage of your navigational & transactional terms, and so on.

Recently, I came across a client where over 90% of their primary keywords triggered PAAs at the top of the SERP. 90%!

Which tools can help?

At Distilled we use STAT, which reports on such insights in a really comprehensive manner with a great overview of all the SERP elements.

This is what the STAT SERP features interface looks like:

STAT SERP features

Ahrefs also does a great job of allowing you to download the SERP features of the top twenty results for any of the keywords you’re interested in.

Understanding where you stand in the current SERP landscape & how your SEO has been affected by it is a crucial step prior to implementing any SERP strategy.

Tactics to take advantage of PAAs

There are several ways to incorporate PAAs into your SEO strategy. It’s already been written about many times online, so I’m going to keep it simple and focus on a few easy tactics that I think will really improve your workflow:

1. Extract PAA listings

This one’s pretty straightforward: how can we take advantage of PAAs if we cannot find a way to extract those questions in the first place?

There are several ways to “scrape” PAAs, more or less compliant with Google’s Terms & Conditions (such as using Screaming Frog).

Personally, I like STAT’s report, so I’ll talk about how easy it is to extract PAA listings using this tool:

  • One of the features of STAT’s reporting is called “People also ask (Google),” which is pretty self-explanatory: for the keywords you’ve decided to track in the tool, this report will provide the PAA questions they trigger and the URLs appearing for those listings, along with their exact rankings within the PAA box.

This is an example of how the report will look like after you’ve downloaded the “People also ask (Google)” report:

STAT PAA report

2. Address questions in your content

Once you have a list of all PAA questions and you are able to see which URLs rank for such results, what should you do next?

This is the more complicated part: think how your content strategy can incorporate PAA findings and start experimenting. Similarly to featured snippets, PAAs should be included in your content plan. If that’s not yet the case, well, I hope this blog post can convince you to give it a go!

Since I am not focusing (sadly, for some) on content strategy with this article, I will not dwell on the topic too much. Instead, I’ll share a few tips on what you could do with the data gathered so far:

Understand what type of results such PAA questions are triggering: are they informational, navigational, transactional?

Many people think featured snippets and PAA questions are triggered by heavily informational or Q&A pages: trust me, do NOT assume anything. heck your data and behave accordingly. Keyword intent should never be taken for granted.

Create or re-optimize your content

Depending on the findings in the previous point, it may be a matter of creating new content that can address PAA questions or re-optimizing the existing content on your site.

If you discover that you have a chance at ranking in a PAA with your current transactional/editorial pages, it might be best to re-optimize what you have.

It may also be the case that one of the following options can be enough to rank in PAAs:

  • Adding questions and answers to your content (don’t limit yourself to just the bottom of the page)
  • Using the right headings to mark up such elements (h1, h2, h3, whatever works for your page)
  • Copying the formatting of results that are currently appearing in PAA
  • Simply changing the language used on your site

If you do not have any content to cover a certain keyword theme, think about creating new ones that would match the keyword intent that Google is favoring. Editorial content with SEO in mind (don’t limit yourself to PAA, but look at the overall SERP spectrum) or simple FAQs pages could really help win PAA or featured snippets.

Depending on your KPIs (traffic, leads, signups, etc), tailor your newly optimized content and be ready to retain users on your site

Once users land on your site after clicking on a PAA listing, what do you want them to see/do? Don’t do half the job, worry about the entire user journey from the start!

3. Test schema on your page

The SEO community has gone a bit cray-cray over the new FAQs schema — my colleague Emily Potter wrote a great post on it.

FAQs and how-to schema represent an interesting opportunity for SERP features such as featured snippets and PAAs, so why not give it a go? Having the right content & testing the right type of schema may help you win precious snippets or PAAs. In the future, I expect Google to increase the amount of markup that refers to informational queries, so stay tuned — and test, test, and test some more!

Think of the extended search volume opportunity

Without digging too much into this topic (it deserves a post on its own), I’ve been thinking about the following idea quite a lot recently:

What if we started looking at PAAs as organic listings, hence counting the search volume for the keywords that trigger such PAAs?

Since PAAs and other elements have been redefining the SERPs as we know them, maybe it’s time for us marketers to redefine how these features are impacting our organic results. Maybe it’s time for us to consider the extended search opportunity that such features bring to the table and not limit ourselves at the tactics mentioned above.

Just something to think about!

PAA can be your friend

By now, I hope you’ve learned a bit more about People Also Ask and how it can help your SEO strategy moving forward.

PAA can be your friend indeed if you’re willing to spend time understanding how your organic visibility can be influenced by such features. The fact that PAAs are now popular for a large portfolio of queries makes me think Google considers them a new, key part of the user journey.

With voice search on the rise, I expect Google to pay even more attention to elements like featured snippets and People Also Ask. I don’t think they’re going anywhere soon — so my dear fellow SEOs, you should start optimizing for the SERPs starting today!

Feel free to get in touch with us at Distilled or on Twitter at @SamuelMng to discuss this further, or just have a chat about who these people who also ask so many questions actually are…





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Social Shorts: LinkedIn Events, Facebook Story Ad templates and Pinterest Lite



Amy Gesenhues

This collection of social media marketing and new hire announcements is a compilation of the past week’s briefs from our daily Marketing Land newsletter. Click here to subscribe and get more news like this delivered to your inbox every morning.

Event planning on LinkedIn. LinkedIn has rolled out a new Events feature that makes it easy to create and share event announcements. The feature can be found in the “Community” panel on the  left side of the newsfeed, and allows users to enter their event description, date, time, venue and invite connections using filters such as location, company, industry and school. “You’ll be able to seamlessly create and join professional events, invite your connections, manage your event, have conversations with other attendees, and stay in touch online after the event ends,” writes Ajay Datta, LinkedIn India’s head of product. Once an event is posted, users can track attendees, post updates and interact with the users they have invited. Users who have accepted an event invite on the platform will be able to see their events under the “My Network” tab. 

Twitter defends its policies for world leaders. Twitter is defending its policies for allowing content from world leaders that may otherwise be prohibited. After listing enforcement scenarios for why it may remove a Tweet from a political figure, such as “promotion of terrorism” and “Clear and direct threats of violence against an individual,” the company goes on to say, “We will err on the side of leaving the content up if there is a clear public interest in doing so.” The company said it understands why users want clear yes/no decisions regarding what’s allowed, but that it’s not that simple: “Our mission is to provide a forum that enables people to be informed and to engage their leaders directly.” 

Reddit pushes back against lawmakers. On Wednesday, executives from Reddit, Google and the Electronic Frontier Foundation took questions from Congress about possible modifications to the 1996 Communications Decency Act currently being considered by lawmakers, specifically Section 230 of the law which gives social media platforms immunity from being held responsible for content posted by users. “Lawmakers from both major political parties have said Congress could make additional changes to the law to restrict companies’ immunity,” reports Reuters. Reddit CEO Steve Huffman published his comments to Congress on Reddit’s Upvoted blog, explaining why Section 230 is critical to the company: “Reddit uses a different model of content moderation from our peers — one that empowers communities — and this model relies on Section 230. I’m here because even small changes to the law will have outsized consequences for our business, our communities, and what little competition remains in our industry.” 

An easier way to create Story Ads. Facebook is launching customizable templates for Story ads that can be used across Facebook, Instagram and Messenger. The templates allow advertisers to choose from a variety of layouts once they have uploaded their creative assets to Ads Manager, and come with editing tools to select background color, text and cropping options. “We’re making it easier for businesses of any size to create for fullscreen vertical stories placements,” writes Facebook on its business blog. Streetbees reported a 40% increase in incremental app installs and a 29% reduction in cost per incremental app click when using the new templates.

Instagram launches new data-security features. Instagram is giving users more control over their data with a new feature that allows them to remove third-party apps connected to their account. Under the account “Settings” page in the app, users will be able to click on “Security” to find the “Apps and Websites” option. From there, users can remove any third-party apps to keep them from accessing their data. The social media platform is also launching an authorization screen that will list all the information a third-party app is requesting to access. Users will have the option to cancel access to their data directly from the authorization screen. Unfortunately, it may take some time before all users have access to the new features — Instagram reports they will be rolling out over the next six months.

Reddit opens up its content to Snapchat. Reddit announced a new Snapchat integration, making it easy for users who have Snapchat downloaded on their mobile device to share Reddit posts on the app. “Simply tap the ‘share’ icon on an image, text or link-based post on Reddit’s iOS app and select the Snapchat option. Then choose a few friends to send the post to, or add it to your Story,” writes Reddit on its Upvoted Blog. Once posted to Snapchat, the content will include a sticker with the Reddit logo and source information. This is the first content-sharing integration for Reddit. Sharable content is limited to posts from “Safe for Work” communities and communities in good standing on the platform. At launch, the feature is only available on iOS, but will be rolling out on Android devices soon.

More bad news for Facebook Libra. Things are not looking good for Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency project. Last week, PayPal announced it was pulling its participation in the network, and now eBay, Stripe, Visa and Mastercard are following suit. According to Gizmodo, the only two remaining payment platform partners are Mercado Pago and PayU. Visa said it would continue to evaluate the project and that its ultimate decision would based on the Libra Association’s ability to meet regulatory expectations.

“Visa’s continued interest in Libra stems from our belief that well-regulated blockchain-based networks could extend the value of secure digital payments to a greater number of people and places, particularly in emerging and developing markets,” a Visa spokesperson told CNBC. When Facebook initially launched the Libra Association, it had 28 companies that had agreed to be part of the group. That number is now at 22 — with each member agreeing to pay a $10 million fee to be part of the association and have voting rights. The Libra Association is scheduled to meet next week in Geneva to review the charter and appoint board members, reports CNBC.

Pinterest Lite. Pinterest is taking efforts to make sure its platform is available to users in emerging markets. The company launched its Pinterest Lite app last week, offering users an app that downloads faster and takes up less space on their mobile device. This is the second go at offering a Lite version of the app — according to TechCrunch, a Pinterest Lite app was pulled from Google Play last year. The latest Lite app is the result of a project that Pinterest started in July of 2017 when it formed a team tasked with rewriting its mobile web app from scratch as a progressive web app, reports TechCrunch. The new app is designed to offer a better user experience for people in low-bandwidth environments on limited data plans.

Facebook holiday preparations. Facebook is rolling out new Story Ad templates across Facebook, Instagram and Messenger in time for holiday promotions. “We know businesses have limited resources and time, and it may not always be possible to create new assets for ad campaigns. So we’re making it easier for businesses of all sizes to create vertical, full-screen assets,” writes Facebook on its News Blog. For Messenger, the company is rolling out instant replies in the coming weeks so that businesses can automatically respond to customer communications and create saved replies for commonly asked questions. It is also making it possible to set up an “away message” in Messenger for when a business is closed. 

New Twitter app for Mac users. After sunsetting its Mac desktop client last year, Twitter has launched a new Twitter app for Macs, but it is only available on the latest version of macOS Catalina. Twitter reported in June its plans to take advantage of Apple’s Mac Catalyst, a toolset that allows developers to bring iPad apps to the Mac desktop, reports TechCrunch. “Twitter had been one of the more highly anticipated Catalyst apps,” writes TechCrunch, citing that many users were left to rely on third-party apps, like TweetDeck or paid applications like Twitterific 5 or Tweetbot 3, when Twitter stopped offering its Mac desktop app. According to TechCrunch, the new app is free and the interface is consistent with the rest of Twitter’s platform apps, but the timeline doesn’t refresh in real-time. 

On the Move

The Minneapolis-based TV ad agency Marketing Architects has hired Marin Suska as its new VP of client growth. Suska was the agency’s former director of media services and is now returning after serving in various marketing roles at multiple agencies, including Haworth Marketing + Media, The Nerdery and Digital River. “Marketing Architects is a different agency than the one I knew working on the media team years ago,” said Suska, “The strategic nature of how this agency does business with clients, the colossal shift from radio to TV, and the greater goals lying ahead all played a role in my interest in returning to be a part of something big.”

Richard Nicoll has been named chief commerce officer and managing director at Liquid Omnicommerce, a Dubai-based retail consultancy. In his new role, Nicoll will be responsible for driving regional growth and enhancing the agency’s offerings. “He is the real pioneer of shopper marketing in the UAE,” said Liquid Omnicommerce Founder Sachinnn Laala, “With a wealth of experience in highly competitive global markets, the insights he will bring will benefit our clients tremendously.” Before joining Liquid Commerce, Nicoll served as the chief shopper marketing officer for Publicis Communications in Asia. Marketsmith Inc., a woman-owned marketing agency in New Jersey has added three new hires to its executive team this month.

Jo Maggiore has joined the agency as Creative Director, Samantha Foy has been named senior director of digital media and Rachel Schulties is the new VP of client performance. “We have brought in strong, accomplished women who each bring something unique to us, but all embrace data, analytics and modeling,” said Marketsmith President Rob Bochicchio, “More importantly, these leaders have made their mark with great clients and bring that expertise to Marketsmith to take outcomes for our client partners to a whole new level.” Before joining the agency, Maggiore was the director of digital creative at GNC. Foy previously worked at Active International and Schulties was in managed services at Digital Media Solution.


About The Author

Amy Gesenhues is a senior editor for Third Door Media, covering the latest news and updates for Marketing Land, Search Engine Land and MarTech Today. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including MarketingProfs, SoftwareCEO, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy’s articles.





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Mark Zuckerberg Stands for Voice and Free Expression

Today, Mark Zuckerberg spoke at Georgetown University about the importance of protecting free expression. He underscored his belief that giving everyone a voice empowers the powerless and pushes society to be better over time — a belief that’s at the core of Facebook.

In front of hundreds of students at the school’s Gaston Hall, Mark warned that we’re increasingly seeing laws and regulations around the world that undermine free expression and human rights. He argued that in order to make sure people can continue to have a voice, we should: 1) write policy that helps the values of voice and expression triumph around the world, 2) fend off the urge to define speech we don’t like as dangerous, and 3) build new institutions so companies like Facebook aren’t making so many important decisions about speech on our own. 

Read Mark’s full speech below.

Standing For Voice and Free Expression

Hey everyone. It’s great to be here at Georgetown with all of you today.

Before we get started, I want to acknowledge that today we lost an icon, Elijah Cummings. He was a powerful voice for equality, social progress and bringing people together.

When I was in college, our country had just gone to war in Iraq. The mood on campus was disbelief. It felt like we were acting without hearing a lot of important perspectives. The toll on soldiers, families and our national psyche was severe, and most of us felt powerless to stop it. I remember feeling that if more people had a voice to share their experiences, maybe things would have gone differently. Those early years shaped my belief that giving everyone a voice empowers the powerless and pushes society to be better over time.

Back then, I was building an early version of Facebook for my community, and I got to see my beliefs play out at smaller scale. When students got to express who they were and what mattered to them, they organized more social events, started more businesses, and even challenged some established ways of doing things on campus. It taught me that while the world’s attention focuses on major events and institutions, the bigger story is that most progress in our lives comes from regular people having more of a voice.

Since then, I’ve focused on building services to do two things: give people voice, and bring people together. These two simple ideas — voice and inclusion — go hand in hand. We’ve seen this throughout history, even if it doesn’t feel that way today. More people being able to share their perspectives has always been necessary to build a more inclusive society. And our mutual commitment to each other — that we hold each others’ right to express our views and be heard above our own desire to always get the outcomes we want — is how we make progress together.

But this view is increasingly being challenged. Some people believe giving more people a voice is driving division rather than bringing us together. More people across the spectrum believe that achieving the political outcomes they think matter is more important than every person having a voice. I think that’s dangerous. Today I want to talk about why, and some important choices we face around free expression.

Throughout history, we’ve seen how being able to use your voice helps people come together. We’ve seen this in the civil rights movement. Frederick Douglass once called free expression “the great moral renovator of society”. He said “slavery cannot tolerate free speech”. Civil rights leaders argued time and again that their protests were protected free expression, and one noted: “nearly all the cases involving the civil rights movement were decided on First Amendment grounds”.

We’ve seen this globally too, where the ability to speak freely has been central in the fight for democracy worldwide. The most repressive societies have always restricted speech the most — and when people are finally able to speak, they often call for change. This year alone, people have used their voices to end multiple long-running dictatorships in Northern Africa. And we’re already hearing from voices in those countries that had been excluded just because they were women, or they believed in democracy.

Our idea of free expression has become much broader over even the last 100 years. Many Americans know about the Enlightenment history and how we enshrined the First Amendment in our constitution, but fewer know how dramatically our cultural norms and legal protections have expanded, even in recent history.

The first Supreme Court case to seriously consider free speech and the First Amendment was in 1919, Schenk vs the United States. Back then, the First Amendment only applied to the federal government, and states could and often did restrict your right to speak. Our ability to call out things we felt were wrong also used to be much more restricted. Libel laws used to impose damages if you wrote something negative about someone, even if it was true. The standard later shifted so it became okay as long as you could prove your critique was true. We didn’t get the broad free speech protections we have now until the 1960s, when the Supreme Court ruled in opinions like New York Times vs Sullivan that you can criticize public figures as long as you’re not doing so with actual malice, even if what you’re saying is false.

We now have significantly broader power to call out things we feel are unjust and share our own personal experiences. Movements like #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo went viral on Facebook — the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter was actually first used on Facebook — and this just wouldn’t have been possible in the same way before. 100 years back, many of the stories people have shared would have been against the law to even write down. And without the internet giving people the power to share them directly, they certainly wouldn’t have reached as many people. With Facebook, more than 2 billion people now have a greater opportunity to express themselves and help others.

While it’s easy to focus on major social movements, it’s important to remember that most progress happens in our everyday lives. It’s the Air Force moms who started a Facebook group so their children and other service members who can’t get home for the holidays have a place to go. It’s the church group that came together during a hurricane to provide food and volunteer to help with recovery. It’s the small business on the corner that now has access to the same sophisticated tools only the big guys used to, and now they can get their voice out and reach more customers, create jobs and become a hub in their local community. Progress and social cohesion come from billions of stories like this around the world.

People having the power to express themselves at scale is a new kind of force in the world — a Fifth Estate alongside the other power structures of society. People no longer have to rely on traditional gatekeepers in politics or media to make their voices heard, and that has important consequences. I understand the concerns about how tech platforms have centralized power, but I actually believe the much bigger story is how much these platforms have decentralized power by putting it directly into people’s hands. It’s part of this amazing expansion of voice through law, culture and technology.

So giving people a voice and broader inclusion go hand in hand, and the trend has been towards greater voice over time. But there’s also a counter-trend. In times of social turmoil, our impulse is often to pull back on free expression. We want the progress that comes from free expression, but not the tension.

We saw this when Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his famous letter from Birmingham Jail, where he was unconstitutionally jailed for protesting peacefully. We saw this in the efforts to shut down campus protests against the Vietnam War. We saw this way back when America was deeply polarized about its role in World War I, and the Supreme Court ruled that socialist leader Eugene Debs could be imprisoned for making an anti-war speech.

In the end, all of these decisions were wrong. Pulling back on free expression wasn’t the answer and, in fact, it often ended up hurting the minority views we seek to protect. From where we are now, it seems obvious that, of course, protests for civil rights or against wars should be allowed. Yet the desire to suppress this expression was felt deeply by much of society at the time.

Today, we are in another time of social tension. We face real issues that will take a long time to work through — massive economic transitions from globalization and technology, fallout from the 2008 financial crisis, and polarized reactions to greater migration. Many of our issues flow from these changes.

In the face of these tensions, once again a popular impulse is to pull back from free expression. We’re at another cross-roads. We can continue to stand for free expression, understanding its messiness, but believing that the long journey towards greater progress requires confronting ideas that challenge us. Or we can decide the cost is simply too great. I’m here today because I believe we must continue to stand for free expression.

At the same time, I know that free expression has never been absolute. Some people argue internet platforms should allow all expression protected by the First Amendment, even though the First Amendment explicitly doesn’t apply to companies. I’m proud that our values at Facebook are inspired by the American tradition, which is more supportive of free expression than anywhere else. But even American tradition recognizes that some speech infringes on others’ rights. And still, a strict First Amendment standard might require us to allow terrorist propaganda, bullying young people and more that almost everyone agrees we should stop — and I certainly do — as well as content like pornography that would make people uncomfortable using our platforms.

So once we’re taking this content down, the question is: where do you draw the line? Most people agree with the principles that you should be able to say things other people don’t like, but you shouldn’t be able to say things that put people in danger. The shift over the past several years is that many people would now argue that more speech is dangerous than would have before. This raises the question of exactly what counts as dangerous speech online. It’s worth examining this in detail.

Many arguments about online speech are related to new properties of the internet itself. If you believe the internet is completely different from everything before it, then it doesn’t make sense to focus on historical precedent. But we should be careful of overly broad arguments since they’ve been made about almost every new technology, from the printing press to radio to TV. Instead, let’s consider the specific ways the internet is different and how internet services like ours might address those risks while protecting free expression.

One clear difference is that a lot more people now have a voice — almost half the world. That’s dramatically empowering for all the reasons I’ve mentioned. But inevitably some people will use their voice to organize violence, undermine elections or hurt others, and we have a responsibility to address these risks. When you’re serving billions of people, even if a very small percent cause harm, that can still be a lot of harm.

We build specific systems to address each type of harmful content — from incitement of violence to child exploitation to other harms like intellectual property violations — about 20 categories in total. We judge ourselves by the prevalence of harmful content and what percent we find proactively before anyone reports it to us. For example, our AI systems identify 99% of the terrorist content we take down before anyone even sees it. This is a massive investment. We now have over 35,000 people working on security, and our security budget today is greater than the entire revenue of our company at the time of our IPO earlier this decade.

All of this work is about enforcing our existing policies, not broadening our definition of what is dangerous. If we do this well, we should be able to stop a lot of harm while fighting back against putting additional restrictions on speech.

Another important difference is how quickly ideas can spread online. Most people can now get much more reach than they ever could before. This is at the heart of a lot of the positive uses of the internet. It’s empowering that anyone can start a fundraiser, share an idea, build a business, or create a movement that can grow quickly. But we’ve seen this go the other way too — most notably when Russia’s IRA tried to interfere in the 2016 elections, but also when misinformation has gone viral. Some people argue that virality itself is dangerous, and we need tighter filters on what content can spread quickly.

For misinformation, we focus on making sure complete hoaxes don’t go viral. We especially focus on misinformation that could lead to imminent physical harm, like misleading health advice saying if you’re having a stroke, no need to go to the hospital.

More broadly though, we’ve found a different strategy works best: focusing on the authenticity of the speaker rather than the content itself. Much of the content the Russian accounts shared was distasteful but would have been considered permissible political discourse if it were shared by Americans — the real issue was that it was posted by fake accounts coordinating together and pretending to be someone else. We’ve seen a similar issue with these groups that pump out misinformation like spam just to make money.

The solution is to verify the identities of accounts getting wide distribution and get better at removing fake accounts. We now require you to provide a government ID and prove your location if you want to run political ads or a large page. You can still say controversial things, but you have to stand behind them with your real identity and face accountability. Our AI systems have also gotten more advanced at detecting clusters of fake accounts that aren’t behaving like humans. We now remove billions of fake accounts a year — most within minutes of registering and before they do much. Focusing on authenticity and verifying accounts is a much better solution than an ever-expanding definition of what speech is harmful.

Another qualitative difference is the internet lets people form communities that wouldn’t have been possible before. This is good because it helps people find groups where they belong and share interests. But the flip side is this has the potential to lead to polarization. I care a lot about this — after all, our goal is to bring people together.

Much of the research I’ve seen is mixed and suggests the internet could actually decrease aspects of polarization. The most polarized voters in the last presidential election were the people least likely to use the internet. Research from the Reuters Institute also shows people who get their news online actually have a much more diverse media diet than people who don’t, and they’re exposed to a broader range of viewpoints. This is because most people watch only a couple of cable news stations or read only a couple of newspapers, but even if most of your friends online have similar views, you usually have some that are different, and you get exposed to different perspectives through them. Still, we have an important role in designing our systems to show a diversity of ideas and not encourage polarizing content.

One last difference with the internet is it lets people share things that would have been impossible before. Take live-streaming, for example. This allows families to be together for moments like birthdays and even weddings, schoolteachers to read bedtime stories to kids who might not be read to, and people to witness some very important events. But we’ve also seen people broadcast self-harm, suicide, and terrible violence. These are new challenges and our responsibility is to build systems that can respond quickly.

We’re particularly focused on well-being, especially for young people. We built a team of thousands of people and AI systems that can detect risks of self-harm within minutes so we can reach out when people need help most. In the last year, we’ve helped first responders reach people who needed help thousands of times.

For each of these issues, I believe we have two responsibilities: to remove content when it could cause real danger as effectively as we can, and to fight to uphold as wide a definition of freedom of expression as possible — and not allow the definition of what is considered dangerous to expand beyond what is absolutely necessary. That’s what I’m committed to.

But beyond these new properties of the internet, there are also shifting cultural sensitivities and diverging views on what people consider dangerous content.

Take misinformation. No one tells us they want to see misinformation. That’s why we work with independent fact checkers to stop hoaxes that are going viral from spreading. But misinformation is a pretty broad category. A lot of people like satire, which isn’t necessarily true. A lot of people talk about their experiences through stories that may be exaggerated or have inaccuracies, but speak to a deeper truth in their lived experience. We need to be careful about restricting that. Even when there is a common set of facts, different media outlets tell very different stories emphasizing different angles. There’s a lot of nuance here. And while I worry about an erosion of truth, I don’t think most people want to live in a world where you can only post things that tech companies judge to be 100% true.

We recently clarified our policies to ensure people can see primary source speech from political figures that shapes civic discourse. Political advertising is more transparent on Facebook than anywhere else — we keep all political and issue ads in an archive so everyone can scrutinize them, and no TV or print does that. We don’t fact-check political ads. We don’t do this to help politicians, but because we think people should be able to see for themselves what politicians are saying. And if content is newsworthy, we also won’t take it down even if it would otherwise conflict with many of our standards.

I know many people disagree, but, in general, I don’t think it’s right for a private company to censor politicians or the news in a democracy. And we’re not an outlier here. The other major internet platforms and the vast majority of media also run these same ads.

American tradition also has some precedent here. The Supreme Court case I mentioned earlier that gave us our current broad speech rights, New York Times vs Sullivan, was actually about an ad with misinformation, supporting Martin Luther King Jr. and criticizing an Alabama police department. The police commissioner sued the Times for running the ad, the jury in Alabama found against the Times, and the Supreme Court unanimously reversed the decision, creating today’s speech standard.

As a principle, in a democracy, I believe people should decide what is credible, not tech companies. Of course there are exceptions, and even for politicians we don’t allow content that incites violence or risks imminent harm — and of course we don’t allow voter suppression. Voting is voice. Fighting voter suppression may be as important for the civil rights movement as free expression has been. Just as we’re inspired by the First Amendment, we’re inspired by the 15th Amendment too.

Given the sensitivity around political ads, I’ve considered whether we should stop allowing them altogether. From a business perspective, the controversy certainly isn’t worth the small part of our business they make up. But political ads are an important part of voice — especially for local candidates, up-and-coming challengers, and advocacy groups that may not get much media attention otherwise. Banning political ads favors incumbents and whoever the media covers.

Even if we wanted to ban political ads, it’s not clear where we’d draw the line. There are many more ads about issues than there are directly about elections. Would we ban all ads about healthcare or immigration or women’s empowerment? If we banned candidates’ ads but not these, would that really make sense to give everyone else a voice in political debates except the candidates themselves? There are issues any way you cut this, and when it’s not absolutely clear what to do, I believe we should err on the side of greater expression.

Or take hate speech, which we define as someone directly attacking a person or group based on a characteristic like race, gender or religion. We take down content that could lead to real world violence. In countries at risk of conflict, that includes anything that could lead to imminent violence or genocide. And we know from history that dehumanizing people is the first step towards inciting violence. If you say immigrants are vermin, or all Muslims are terrorists — that makes others feel they can escalate and attack that group without consequences. So we don’t allow that. I take this incredibly seriously, and we work hard to get this off our platform.

American free speech tradition recognizes that some speech can have the effect of restricting others’ right to speak. While American law doesn’t recognize “hate speech” as a category, it does prohibit racial harassment and sexual harassment. We still have a strong culture of free expression even while our laws prohibit discrimination.

But still, people have broad disagreements over what qualifies as hate and shouldn’t be allowed. Some people think our policies don’t prohibit content they think qualifies as hate, while others think what we take down should be a protected form of expression. This area is one of the hardest to get right.

I believe people should be able to use our services to discuss issues they feel strongly about — from religion and immigration to foreign policy and crime. You should even be able to be critical of groups without dehumanizing them. But even this isn’t always straightforward to judge at scale, and it often leads to enforcement mistakes. Is someone re-posting a video of a racist attack because they’re condemning it, or glorifying and encouraging people to copy it? Are they using normal slang, or using an innocent word in a new way to incite violence? Now multiply those linguistic challenges by more than 100 languages around the world.

Rules about what you can and can’t say often have unintended consequences. When speech restrictions were implemented in the UK in the last century, parliament noted they were applied more heavily to citizens from poorer backgrounds because the way they expressed things didn’t match the elite Oxbridge style. In everything we do, we need to make sure we’re empowering people, not simply reinforcing existing institutions and power structures.

That brings us back to the cross-roads we all find ourselves at today. Will we continue fighting to give more people a voice to be heard, or will we pull back from free expression?

I see three major threats ahead:

The first is legal. We’re increasingly seeing laws and regulations around the world that undermine free expression and people’s human rights. These local laws are each individually troubling, especially when they shut down speech in places where there isn’t democracy or freedom of the press. But it’s even worse when countries try to impose their speech restrictions on the rest of the world.

This raises a larger question about the future of the global internet. China is building its own internet focused on very different values, and is now exporting their vision of the internet to other countries. Until recently, the internet in almost every country outside China has been defined by American platforms with strong free expression values. There’s no guarantee these values will win out. A decade ago, almost all of the major internet platforms were American. Today, six of the top ten are Chinese.

We’re beginning to see this in social media. While our services, like WhatsApp, are used by protesters and activists everywhere due to strong encryption and privacy protections, on TikTok, the Chinese app growing quickly around the world, mentions of these protests are censored, even in the US.

Is that the internet we want?

It’s one of the reasons we don’t operate Facebook, Instagram or our other services in China. I wanted our services in China because I believe in connecting the whole world and I thought we might help create a more open society. I worked hard to make this happen. But we could never come to agreement on what it would take for us to operate there, and they never let us in. And now we have more freedom to speak out and stand up for the values we believe in and fight for free expression around the world.

This question of which nation’s values will determine what speech is allowed for decades to come really puts into perspective our debates about the content issues of the day. While we may disagree on exactly where to draw the line on specific issues, we at least can disagree. That’s what free expression is. And the fact that we can even have this conversation means that we’re at least debating from some common values. If another nation’s platforms set the rules, our discourse will be defined by a completely different set of values.

To push back against this, as we all work to define internet policy and regulation to address public safety, we should also be proactive and write policy that helps the values of voice and expression triumph around the world.

The second challenge to expression is the platforms themselves — including us. Because the reality is we make a lot of decisions that affect people’s ability to speak.

I’m committed to the values we’re discussing today, but we won’t always get it right. I understand people are concerned that we have so much control over how they communicate on our services. And I understand people are concerned about bias and making sure their ideas are treated fairly. Frankly, I don’t think we should be making so many important decisions about speech on our own either. We’d benefit from a more democratic process, clearer rules for the internet, and new institutions.

That’s why we’re establishing an independent Oversight Board for people to appeal our content decisions. The board will have the power to make final binding decisions about whether content stays up or comes down on our services — decisions that our team and I can’t overturn. We’re going to appoint members to this board who have a diversity of views and backgrounds, but who each hold free expression as their paramount value.

Building this institution is important to me personally because I’m not always going to be here, and I want to ensure the values of voice and free expression are enshrined deeply into how this company is governed.

The third challenge to expression is the hardest because it comes from our culture. We’re at a moment of particular tension here and around the world — and we’re seeing the impulse to restrict speech and enforce new norms around what people can say.

Increasingly, we’re seeing people try to define more speech as dangerous because it may lead to political outcomes they see as unacceptable. Some hold the view that since the stakes are so high, they can no longer trust their fellow citizens with the power to communicate and decide what to believe for themselves.

I personally believe this is more dangerous for democracy over the long term than almost any speech. Democracy depends on the idea that we hold each others’ right to express ourselves and be heard above our own desire to always get the outcomes we want. You can’t impose tolerance top-down. It has to come from people opening up, sharing experiences, and developing a shared story for society that we all feel we’re a part of. That’s how we make progress together.

So how do we turn the tide? Someone once told me our founding fathers thought free expression was like air. You don’t miss it until it’s gone. When people don’t feel they can express themselves, they lose faith in democracy and they’re more likely to support populist parties that prioritize specific policy goals over the health of our democratic norms.

I’m a little more optimistic. I don’t think we need to lose our freedom of expression to realize how important it is. I think people understand and appreciate the voice they have now. At some fundamental level, I think most people believe in their fellow people too.

As long as our governments respect people’s right to express themselves, as long as our platforms live up to their responsibilities to support expression and prevent harm, and as long as we all commit to being open and making space for more perspectives, I think we’ll make progress. It’ll take time, but we’ll work through this moment. We overcame deep polarization after World War I, and intense political violence in the 1960s. Progress isn’t linear. Sometimes we take two steps forward and one step back. But if we can’t agree to let each other talk about the issues, we can’t take the first step. Even when it’s hard, this is how we build a shared understanding.

So yes, we have big disagreements. Maybe more now than at any time in recent history. But part of that is because we’re getting our issues out on the table — issues that for a long time weren’t talked about. More people from more parts of our society have a voice than ever before, and it will take time to hear these voices and knit them together into a coherent narrative. Sometimes we hope for a singular event to resolve these conflicts, but that’s never been how it works. We focus on the major institutions — from governments to large companies — but the bigger story has always been regular people using their voice to take billions of individual steps forward to make our lives and our communities better.

The future depends on all of us. Whether you like Facebook or not, we need to recognize what is at stake and come together to stand for free expression at this critical moment.

I believe in giving people a voice because, at the end of the day, I believe in people. And as long as enough of us keep fighting for this, I believe that more people’s voices will eventually help us work through these issues together and write a new chapter in our history — where from all of our individual voices and perspectives, we can bring the world closer together.





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