Someone Give Burger King a #NetNeutrality Crown

3 minutes

Last week Burger King’s Facebook page launched the below campaign to raise awareness about net neutrality and the US Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) move to repeal it.

link to facebook video (the embed was not working)
The average consumer has becomes less concerned with how corporates (and governments) have been gnawing away their right to access to media, internet and services for the sake of convenience. Alot of the times that has caused people to forgo their right of access to information which is dangerous for democracies and citizenship more broadly.

#NetNeutrality

Is an act that doesn’t allow ISPs (Internet Service Provider) to throttle or block access to the internet (content or services) based on preferential rates.

Why does this matter? If an ISP decides to create multiple lanes for web access it will give faster access to service providers that pay them a premium to reach consumer. Better visualized in the image below:

The end of Net Neutrality — What it means

From the U.S. to the world

The US would be hurting the domestic growth potential by repealing net neutrality. Today a service like Verizon has their own VOD service that competes with Netflix’s, if they were to slow the access to Netflix via their connection to favor their own service, they would be not only be creating unfair competition but driving a local company to prefer focusing on international growth where the competition is not so skewed.

Netflix and global businesses have servers across the world to better service their international consumers, which would surpass the US net neutrality repeal.

Feb 2015, Real Clear Politics, by Lisa Benson

Beyond the U.S.

The European Union does have a net neutrality law (not without cracks in the system though). China is infamous for it’s great firewall, the extreme opposite of net neutrality, managed by the government and only allowing local services to operate under surveillance. China has also recently demanded for international services to host the servers serving the Chinese market locally. India has a very aggressive strategy on net neutrality that is expected to go into affect in 2018; telecom’s have been banned from preferential access in 2015.

It’s important to note that while Facebook opposes the net neutrality repeal, they are proactively practicing the opposite. Facebook-Zero is a service that allows users in some countries to access a light version of facebook’s feed free of charge (preferential treatment). In India Facebook-Zero has been blocked due to it’s discriminatory access.

 

 

Which brings us to the MENA region. While there’s no Net Neutrality act in place in any of the countries, many ISPs and telecom operators are stillcoming to terms with the rapid loss of returns from calls and move to data consumption. That being said, Google services and Skype have been reported to be slower than usually in multiple countries of the GCC and Levant. Something that the providers (when cornered) claim is done because such services consumer a lot of bandwidth, usually followed by: “we don’t want you to finish you data packages” or “the available bandwidth capacity would suffer”.

As the digital space grows and internet access because a vital element for smarter cities, connected cars, homes and classrooms. Providers are also investing more into startups and complimentary services (expanding portfolios) and there are increasingly more reasons why they’d play favorites. If a telecom provider invests in a video-on-demand service, what stops them from throttling competing services. Today, nothing.

The need for a clear policy on net neutrality in middle east and north africa region has become evident. However with internet infrastructure providers across the region so tightly knitted with the public sector, will we see one soon?


P.S. The last time I ate at Burger King was at least 10 years ago, something in their food just doesn’t get along so well with me.

This post originally appeared on Medium on Jan 30, 2018

Dear Facebook, The World beyond the American borders is not a grey blob

2 minutes

Facebook (and many US based tech companies) seem to treat the world as great grey blob, even when they have international headquarters in Dubai, UK & beyond.

A recurring annoyance i’ve been facing with Facebook (and for a while with Uber) is the basic lack of understanding of: countries. While Lebanon is a relatively small country (<$11,000km2) it doesn’t justify facebook’s ignorance of suggested pages & events. For example, suggesting events in Israel (which Lebanese cannot visit and are at war with) or in Cyprus (where Lebanese need a visa + 2hrs pre-departure at the airport + ~35min flight) or even Syria, which may not be restricted to Lebanese, yet remains a totally different sovereign country. All while facebook decides to skip things that may be distance-wise slightly further but within the same country.

A simple search for events near me earlier today showed events in the three above mentioned countries:

Maybe it’s about time algorithms take into consideration the basics: where an event is taking place and if that’s the same country as the search origin? Instead of circles?

Facebook is an obvious example since it represents a significant percent of our mobile footprint

However, I have had that problem with Uber for a long time as well. Uber doesn’t send too many email marketing campaigns (thank goodness) so it’s quite noticeable when you start receiving campaigns in Hebrew, as a user that has only ever used the service in English in Lebanon, UAE, Turkey, Morocco, Saudi & Kuwait… all non-hebrew native countries. This goes beyond an algorithm acting of it’s own will, this is a significant data mis-management and disregard to geography of a consumer.

The actual frustration is that when such a basic and obvious feature has failed on world-dominating technology platforms, then how can such platforms even begin managing fake news and net-neutrality?

This has also clear from when Facebook ignorantly rolled out the Pride button in countries where homosexuality is legal, however somehow skipped Lebanon among other countries while at it. More on this: Facebook Celebrates Pride, Except Where Homosexuality Is Illegal

Is targeting people based on country so hard, if it is… what does that say about facebook’s ad targeting capabilities, the core business of the book behemoth?

This post originally appeared on Medium on Jun 26, 2017

Google vs Advertisers; Does google have too much Ad power?

2 minutes

First lets spell out some facts:

  • According to Mary Meeker’s 2017 Internet Trends Report Facebook & Google control 85% of online ad growth
  • Google Ad revenues for Q4’16 were $22.4B, represent 86% of total Alphabet revenues
  • Ad blockers have been growing at a rate of 41% year-on-year
  • Adblocker Plus reached 100M users during May 2016 and launched an Ad Exchange by Sept 2016
  • Chrome has more than 50% browser marketshare & Google search *drum roll* 77.8%
According to alphr.com 50% of their readers come from chrome

Google Ads + No Ads

As you may have heard Google is planning on launching their own Ad-blocker on Chrome by 2018! Here’s the problem though, everyone is competing for a share of Google’s ad revenue pie already, and now Google wants to control whose ads to block as well… that doesn’t sound right.

Google has already prioritized results on mobile that use AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages Project) and / or are mobile optimized on top of Google’s ever changing search algorithms. While many may be talking about Ad safety and standards for unified ad metrics (how many seconds counts as a view for a video?), can we ask: Who holds Google (and Facebook) accountable for ad-neutrality?

The rise of adblockers on mobile — Pagefair

Adblocker Plus vs Chrome

ABP (Adblocker Plus) launched an Ad network after accumulating alot of data on ads that consumers hate (block) and how publishers serve their ads (server pings + speed). Which placed them in a position to answer: What (type, shape, placement etc) ads will my target audience likely respond to without getting annoyed? ABP is not an advertiser.

Google has been serving ads for over a decade and have extensive data on ads: types, interaction, conversion, tracking, etc. Enough data to expect what ads will go unnoticed, increase conversion, or annoy a user. Google also has their own suite of products to push to consumers and compete with a lot of companies (under Alphabet) that use the internet to promote their services. Google, Alphabet, produce everything from to-do-lists to self driving cars.

Data Data Data

Chrome and Google has SO MUCH data about their users, and even more on their prolific users (guilty). It was hard for me to imagine switching to another browser while I read Eric Petitt’s “Browse Against the Machine”, but come to think of it, he’s right! Google (and chrome) know too much, all to fuel more Ads, it’s not a fair battle ground for advertisers and surely not a fair battle ground for any Alphabet competitors.

  • What can publishers do to control how much power Google has over their advertising (and ad revenues)?
  • Is it time a conversation about ad-neutrality is raised?
  • Is Google too big to stand up against at this stage? While the Youtube ad backlash allow us to extend that conversation to more ad-related discrepancies?

Is Google simply to be trusted to fairly regulate itself against bias? If Bing ran an Adwords campaign, would Adwords recommend ways to optimize the campaign and improve conversion?

This post originally appeared on Medium on Jun 6, 2017