Splice News Trends: Zuck ‘serious’ about Russia, NYT enters dark web and ST seemingly pleads for de-regulation

As a leading light of the commentariat in Asia, newsroom consultant and former alumnus of Yahoo, CNBC and Bloomberg, Alan Soon knows a thing or two about the media. Here is his roundup of developments inside the bubble this week


Zuck didn’t attend the Congressional hearings (they sent their top lawyer instead) but he’s making it clear that he’s “dead serious” about this whole Russian meddling thing. He told Wall Street that he’s going to spend time and money to make sure this never happens again, but that it’s going to hurt profits. Expenses are expected to increase between 45 and 60 percent next year, mainly going to security costs.

U.S. lawmakers want Facebook to inform millions of U.S. users that they saw Russian propaganda on the platform during the election. But this could prove impossible as Facebook’s estimates are based on estimates and modeling, not actual numbers. They may not be able to guarantee that they can reach all of them.

Facebook is making all ads transparent, not just political ones. That means you’ll be able to see what ads are being run by a specific Page. Facebook is also going to start labeling political ads.

Facebook’s little “test” in Cambodia (and five other countries) last week claimed the numbers of one of the country’s biggest video bloggers. Instead of the usual 12,000 views she gets with her videos, Catherine Harry, who covers taboo topics like virginity and menstruation, only got a fraction of that. “Suddenly I realised, wow, they actually hold so much power… [that they] can crush us just like that if they want to.”

Catherine Harry


We love this op-ed in The Straits Times, which is undergoing a massive restructuring. It’s written by the paper’s opinion editor herself, and it sounds like a plea for less government regulation. “The state cannot and must not hold back mainstream media companies from engaging fully with the competition for attention and subscription dollars that is reaching our shores. To do so is to hobble the local media even before the fight begins.”

What would be the right way forward then for Singapore Press Holdings, the country’s print monopoly? On the one side, you have the government. On the other, the ongoing disruption in media. Read PN Balji’s column on this.

Singapore-based news startup The Middle Ground is closing down. They raised money on Patreon, the crowdfunding platform of choice for publishers of all stripes, but it wasn’t enough to cover costs. Some talented journalists are going to be looking for work soon, so let us know if you’d like us to spread the word, people.  

HuffPost reportedly ended its partnership with the Times of India Group. HuffPost decided not to renew the three-year deal because of “editorial strategy interference” from TOI.

Here’s an interesting counter-argument. A publisher in Slovakia (one of the 6 “test” countries) says that while their total interactions took a major hit, it didn’t kill off referral traffic. What’s important are influencers and people who share articles. “Facebook Pages help, but their impact is not dramatic.”

Twitter banned RT and Sputnik from buying ads on its platform but didn’t stop them from tweeting. So the point Twitter wanted to make was that these Russian media companies can say what they want — as long as they don’t try to amplify it. That inconsistency is going to backfire.

Twitter’s ban on ads from RT didn’t go well. RT flipped the bird, publishing what it claims was Twitter’s pitch deck to RT on how to go about making the most of the U.S. election coverage. BuzzFeed did a little digging and found that Twitter offered RT a 15% share-of-voice on U.S. election advertising for $3 million.

Indonesia may have been successful in shutting down Saracen, the country’s largest generator of fake news. But it still needs a plan to take down other fake news outlets. Like everywhere else, it needs better media credibility and digital literacy.


The New York Times is now available on the dark web as a service on Tor. “Such tools assure our readers that our website can be reached without monitors or blocks, and they provide additional guarantees that readers are connected securely to our website.”

Google recently introduced an even more secure way to access your accounts — through the use of physical keys. very useful security tool for journalists.

This is insane. The personal details of some 46 million mobile subscribers were breached in Malaysia. That’s more than the country’s population, as some people have several phone numbers. But you can almost be certain that this hack affects practically everyone in the country.


One week after the party congress, China rolled out new rules to its already tough internet guidelines. It’s ordered all content platforms to punish and blacklist staff who post “illegal” content. It didn’t say how. The new rules take effect on December 1.

Two journos — one Singaporean, and one Malaysian — are detained in Myanmar for flying a drone over the parliament. They’ve been charged for importing a restricted item without license. They were on assignment for the Turkish state broadcaster TRT.


There’s a fight going on between the tech giants to get a hamburger emoji right. Microsoft: Bun-salad-cheese-patty-bun. Google: Bun-salad-tomato-patty-cheese-bun. Sundar Pichai even tweeted, “Will drop everything else we are doing and address on Monday🙂 if folks can agree on the correct way to do this!


Is this arguably the scariest Halloween outfit for the media industry? This dude went as a paywall. Slow clap.

Quote of the Week

“You have to be open and alert at every turn to the possibility that you’re about to learn the most important lesson of your life.” — Ruth Simmons, president of Prairie View A&M University, and one of the many CEOs interviewed by NYT’s Adam Bryant in a decade of his “Corner Office” column. See his recap here.


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