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Splice News Trends: YouTube fights propaganda, Telegram in hot water and Newsweek sackings

In this week’s media roundup, The Splice Newsroom’s Alan Soon examines YouTube's new plans to fight fake news, upheaval at Newsweek and what happened when one publication went cold turkey from Facebook

Platforms

(It’s nice to finally start a newsletter with something else other than Facebook.) YouTube is going to label state broadcasters on the platform as part of a plan to fight propaganda. “Our goal is to equip users with additional information to help them better understand the sources of news content that they choose to watch on YouTube.” This change will affect some obvious ones like RT, but will also include the U.S. Public Broadcasting Service. We think that’s fair, but does that improve media literacy?

Apple says it pulled Telegram off the App Store because it was distributing child porn. The app was removed for about 24 hours before it was reinstated.

More than half of the publishers who joined Facebook’s Instant Articles at its launch may have abandoned it. Likely reasons: Poor monetization, limited user data and a lack of options for subscriptions.

Flipboard is going after publishers left behind by Facebook’s latest algo change. It’s no longer asking publishers to use their own fast-loading format (similar to FB’s Instant Articles) — publishers can instead use direct referral links to their mobile sites. “It’s become a sleeper hit.”

A Danish broadcaster went cold turkey: It stopped publishing on Facebook for two weeks. Sure, visitors plunged — it was a 27% drop. But here’s the best part: Time spent went up by 42%. Hope!

Techlash? What techlash? Big Tech is in trouble, but that hasn’t scarred quarterly earnings now, has it? Facebook and fake news. Apple and iPhone addiction. Google and anti-competition. Amazon for disappearing jobs… The Economist writes a cautionary note to the Big Five, and it is so worth a read. A highlight: “You know you are in trouble if a Wall Street firm is lecturing you about morality.”

Some former employees from Google and Facebook have banded together to take on the companies they once built. The Center for Humane Technology plans to lobby against tech addiction.

Governments 

Weibo — under pressure by the Chinese government to properly censor content — redesigned its search front-end. Now, state articles are given prominence above other search trends.

Cambodia says its proposed lese majeste law is meant to “scare” the public. Offenders could face a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $2,500.

The Cambodian government has apparently been telling ISPs to block the Cambodian DailyThe paper was forced to shut after it was slapped with a $6.3 million tax bill. “All companies who are providing internet services in Cambodia must set up software programs and devices that control the internet to block the webpage.”

One more country in the region could soon have a law to silence journalists. Communicating or handling of sensitive government information could soon be punishable by up to 20 years in prison. That country: Australia.  Right, exactly. A Splice original.

The UK government will launch a review of the newspaper industry. It will look into sustainable funding models for the printed press at national, regional and local levels. Theresa May warned that the closure of hundreds of titles was a “danger to our democracy.

Facebook deleted its boasts about its ability to help the Scottish National Party deliver a “overwhelming victory” in the 2015 election. It also got rid of posts mentioning its role in Bernie Sanders’ 2016 Democratic primary. How things have changed.

Tools

Google Chrome will roll out a native ad-blocker on Thursday. The idea is not to kill every ad — just the annoying ones — which means you can wave goodbye to things like full-page ads, ads with autoplay video and audio, and those flashing abominations. Does this help publishers by weeding out bad advertising (less users using catch-all adblockers)? Yup. Does this give Google even more power over web advertising in general? Yup.

Transformation

South China Morning Post relaunched its brand with a new logo. It feels a little like the Swedish flag to me. Or Ikea. But technically, it’s the maritime signal flag Kilo. One year into his time at SCMP, Gary Liu’s efforts to build the company into a global media brand are starting to show. Check out its brand announcement here, as well as photos of its new newsroom (probably inspired by co-work spaces).

SCMP also launched Abacus, a site that covers Chinese tech for the rest of the world. It’s like The Verge, but for China. It’s exciting and gorgeous.

Newsweek fired its top editors, causing chaos in the newsroom. They were apparently doing some reporting into financial troubles at the magazine. Move on, there’s nothing to see here.

Patrick Soon-Shiong, a billionaire doctor, is about to buy The Los Angeles TimesThe 44-Pulitzer Prize newspaper and Soon-Shiong have had a contentious relationship with Tronc, its holding company, over the years. Soon-Shiong is a major shareholder, even though Tronc removed him from their board last year. There’s been a carousel of battling editors and publishers, disputes with Disney, leaks to the New York Times, etc. Soon-Shiong says he considers newspapers a “public trust” and that the press is a “valuable tool for the community.

Notables

What makes a great CEO? Freakonomics interviewed some of the smartest CEOs — people at Facebook, G.E., Yahoo!, PepsiCo, Microsoft and Virgin — for this amazing podcast. (Thanks to Santosh Nair who called this out in his wonderful new newsletter, Fosfr. We recommend it.)

The memeheads are in revolt about…publishing dates (or the lack thereof). “News stations can’t abuse old ass articles if they make it easy to find out how bullshit they are.” (sic)

Quote of the Week

“Look at the situations from all angles, and you will become more open.” 

— The Dalai Lama. Mercedes-Benz found itself in trouble in China after posting that quote on Instagram. It removed the post, calling it “erroneous.”

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