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Facebook, Zuckerberg Criticized For Allegedly Undermining Democratic Institutions

Legal documents reviewed by Reuters show how the investigation by British lawmakers has led them to seize documents relating to Facebook.

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a House Energy and Commerce hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington about the use of Facebook data to target American voters in the 2016 election and data privacy. VOA

Facebook came under fire on Tuesday from lawmakers from several countries who accused the firm of undermining democratic institutions and lambasted chief executive Mark Zuckerberg for not answering questions on the matter.

Facebook is being investigated by lawmakers in Britain after consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which worked on Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, obtained the personal data of 87 million Facebook users from a researcher, drawing attention to the use of data analytics in politics.

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The nameplate of political consultancy, Cambridge Analytica, is seen in central London, Britain. VOA

Concerns over the social media giant’s practices, the role of political adverts and possible interference in the 2016 Brexit vote and U.S. elections are among the topics being investigated by British and European regulators.

While Facebook says it complies with EU data protection laws, a special hearing of lawmakers from several countries around the world in London criticized Zuckerberg for declining to appear himself to answer questions on the topic.

“We’ve never seen anything quite like Facebook, where, while we were playing on our phones and apps, our democratic institutions… seem to have been upended by frat-boy billionaires from California,” Canadian lawmaker Charlie Angus said.

“So Mr. Zuckerberg’s decision not to appear here at Westminster [Britain’s parliament] to me speaks volumes.”

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Avaaz campaigners hold a banner in front of 100 cardboard cutouts of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington. VOA

Documents

Richard Allan, the vice president of policy solutions at Facebook who appeared in Zuckerberg’s stead, admitted Facebook had made mistakes but said it had accepted the need to comply with data rules.

“I’m not going to disagree with you that we’ve damaged public trust through some of the actions we’ve taken,” Allan told the hearing.

Facebook has faced a barrage of criticism from users and lawmakers after it said last year that Russian agents used its platform to spread disinformation before and after the 2016 U.S. presidential election, an accusation Moscow denies.

Allan repeatedly declined to give an example of a person or app banned from Facebook for misuse of data, aside from the GSR app which gathered data in the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

Also Read: Social Media Laws Should Be Tightened: Germany

Legal documents reviewed by Reuters show how the investigation by British lawmakers has led them to seize documents relating to Facebook from app developer Six4Three, which is in a legal dispute with Facebook.

Damian Collins, chair of the culture committee which convened the hearing, said he would not release those documents on Tuesday as he was not in a position to do so, although he has said previously the committee has the legal power to. (VOA)

Next Story

Here’s Why Millennials Overlook Age-Old Iconic Brands

Millennials Overlook Iconic Brands Their Parents Adored

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Brands
As once-iconic brands like Tiffany & Co., Harley Davidson and the Gap grappled with declining sales, one of the nation’s largest retailers was busy making some in-store changes. Pixabay

By Dora Mekouar

As once-iconic brands like Tiffany & Co., Harley Davidson and the Gap grappled with declining sales, one of the nation’s largest retailers was busy making some in-store changes.

Target started offering more organic and natural food, stepped up designer collaborations with up-and-coming brands, added a line of gender-neutral children’s decor, and created a showroom-style area to showcase the latest in home decor.

The in-store experience remains critical. Even though more people than ever are shopping online, just 11% of all retail sales occur over the internet. A full 89% of all retail purchases happen the traditional way, by walking into a store, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Target, the 8th largest retailer in the country, made tweaks to its stores in hopes of appealing to one particular kind of consumer.

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Home decor at a Target store in suburban Washington. VOA

“Target was really stuck in neutral and then was able to innovate through its stores, innovate through its digital, and, all the sudden, was able to again drive growth with millennials,” says Jason Dorsey, president and lead millennial researcher at the Center for Generational Kinetics.

America’s retailers are taking notice now that millennials have overtaken aging baby boomers as the country’s largest living generation of adults. And it’s a generation that differs from their parents when it comes to their consumer tastes. For starters, they’re more adventurous and want to try something new. They’re also interested in connecting with brands that feel authentic.

“What millennials tell us is that an authentic brand is candid. It has a personality. The brand itself has very distinct values, a distinct voice, and it has a candor to it that they can relate to, identify with, and trust,” Dorsey says, adding that convenience is also key.

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Some high-end brands, such as Gucci have successfully managed to reintroduce themselves to millennial shoppers. VOA

“This generation has been conditioned to be able to order everything through a small screen and if you make it hard or difficult or too many steps, then they’re not choosing to go that route.”

Millennials are expected to be big spenders over the next decade as they begin to buy and furnish new homes and start having children. Brands that fail to appeal to these influential young shoppers — who are currently in their mid-20s to late 30s — can quickly find themselves in trouble.

“Millennials are more hesitant to buy legacy big brands that they think don’t really understand or get them or their priorities,” Dorsey says. “You see this a lot in alcohol where you’ve seen a move away from your Bud Light, Coors Light, those type of brands and into craft beers, things that are seen as more unique, hard ciders, just a variety of other options that millennials feel better represents them, sort of more of a unique experience.”

Being seen as not unique or different has had an impact on brands the baby boomer generation — those between 55 and 75 — once helped make iconic.

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Harley Davidson motorcycles are on display at a dealership in Ashland. VOA

After an extended sales slump, Tiffany & Co. is currently in the process of being acquired by the same French luxury group that owns  Louis Vuitton and Sephora.  Millennials haven’t shown much interest in the 200-year-old retailer’s signature rings, necklaces and bracelets that were once prized by their parents.

Harley Davidson motorcycles, which represented freedom and the unlimited possibilities of the open road to older generations, now faces being left behind by millennials who are more interested in using ride-sharing apps to get around.

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GAP is one of the most popular brands among millennials. VOA

Harley-Davidson recently reported its worst quarterly sales in recent history, continuing a slide that began in 2014.

And there was a time when American teenagers thought nothing was cooler than wearing the Gap’s chino pants and branded sweatshirts. But today’s hipsters aren’t buying the retailer’s offerings, which industry experts say haven’t changed much in the last 20 years.

How millennials want to be seen, particularly through social media, is another big driver of millennial purchases, according to Dorsey.

Also Read- US Commission Urges India to Take Steps to Resolve Communal Riots in New Delhi

“You know millennials are the most photographed generation of adults in history,” he says. “How millennials want to see themselves really impacts what they buy in terms of, ‘Does this brand, product or service alignment my values? Does the store … treat people well? If it’s a restaurant, is the food responsibly sourced?’ All of these things are suddenly playing in that consumer narrative.”

The good news for retailers is that millennial dollars are still very much up for grabs, but it is up to the brands to figure out how to appeal to young shoppers who have very specific ideas about how and what they want to eat and buy. (VOA)