META representatives invited to Lithuania due to the proliferation of clone portals on social networks

The Internet Media Association (IŽA), in cooperation with the Seimas and the Seimas Committee on Culture, is taking the growing problem of cloning news portals to the international level. META has been contacted about the increasing activities of online miscreants who distribute illegally created copies of media outlets on Facebook, one of the largest social networks, to profit from citizens.

Meta logo.<br>ZUMA Press/Scanpix.
Meta logo.<br>ZUMA Press/Scanpix.
Daugiau nuotraukų (1)

2023-11-15 15:18

Its representatives are invited to come to Lithuania and seek solutions to stop this harmful practice, which damages the image of the media and Lithuania, threatens national security, and the population, from whom money is being extorted by offering to get rich quickly.

To this end, associating the most popular news portals with the most extensive readership provided the Seimas Committee on Culture with detailed information on the problem and proposed questions to META, which operates the Facebook platform.

According to IŽA Chairwoman Lina Bušinskaitė, there is a growing public outcry over the activities of online scammers to create and distribute copies of news portals on Facebook, where they spread misinformation, use media names, brands, designs, journalists' identities and images, and present financial schemes to enrich themselves and to make lucrative investments in the petroleum industry, for example, to profit from the population. In other words, internet villains create false information in clones to reflect current events.

„It is important to address this problem in Lithuania and internationally. This is very important because, so far, online villains are operating freely on Facebook, where they buy ads to promote clones to attract the largest possible readership and to profit from them. Some clones have Facebook accounts in the hundreds of thousands and growing because nobody is stopping them, which META can do because it has all the tools to do so. This is intolerable, unacceptable and damaging not only to the Lithuanian population and the Lithuanian media but also to the reputation of the social platform Facebook and their managers, META,“ said L. Bušinskaitė.

She said that digital media receives complaints from the public about such scams, where victims are convinced that they have received false information from the Facebook account of a well-known news portal. They, therefore, attribute the responsibility for the damage to the media rather than to the actual perpetrators – the online criminals. Victims often cannot believe that the information they are complaining about was not disseminated by news portals or their Facebook accounts but by a clone of a media outlet made by third parties. By trusting in the possibility of making a quick buck, citizens lose money that cannot be recovered.

According to Vytautas Kernagis, a Seimas Committee on Culture member, in this age of propaganda and lies, it is essential that businesses and politicians react quickly.

„Laws are already being changed to prevent clones of news portal websites. However, we cannot change META's internal working rules by law, so after receiving the IŽA's appeal, we are immediately organising a meeting with META and Lithuanian media representatives to find the best solution to prevent clones of news portals on META social networking platforms,“ says Kernagis.

Justinas Jautžemis, former META Country Manager for Lithuania at Httpool, says that with the global technology company taking over the Baltic service from 1 October, he would like to see more focus on more than just commercial issues.

„It is clear that META has the tools and solutions to address the challenges the digital media community poses. All it takes is the political will from META's office in Warsaw, Poland“, says Mr. Jautžemis.

According to the association, META is excellent at moderating issues relevant to their advertising policy, so it is vital to question why they respond less quickly to national needs, in this case – Lithuania's. They also scan advertisers' websites and content with strict rules for financial products, but for some reason, they do not apply them to cyber criminals who profit from people's gullibility. By failing to address this problem, META becomes complicit with fraudsters who benefit from people by adapting financial fraud schemes in the clones circulating on the Facebook platform. Moreover, META needs to pay more attention to brand protection, which is only confirmed by the copies of news portals and their accounts circulating on Facebook.

The IŽA points out that META has and uses tools to detect various images and texts that contravene its guidelines. It also crawls websites, determines their usefulness, and ensures they comply with internal policies. The question is, therefore, why it is not being prevented from creating illegal content, pages and websites and buying advertising to promote these illegal products on Facebook.

The question is whether the META automated algorithm can include additional rules in line with Lithuanian law. Also, whether META could go beyond its algorithms and, if notified by the Lithuanian authorities or trademark holders of infringements of their rights, react and delete the clones by contacting the actual holder and following the instructions of the Lithuanian authorities.

META will also be proposed to include specific categories of trademarks, such as news portals, in the protected trademarks to prevent anyone from creating media clones. If META Business Manager is used, it should be possible to protect against copyright infringement.

META representatives will be asked why they ignore and do not improve comment moderation, detection of fake users and the spread of disinformation in comments and how this could be done with the help of the Lithuanian authorities. For example, it might be appropriate to regulate the compliance of account managers, with the possibility of checking them.

The IŽA recalls that the creation and dissemination of copies of news portals on Facebook intensified in the summer of this year. This may be related to the geopolitical situation and the desire of Eastern countries to test Lithuania's readiness to counter hybrid and cyber-attacks against institutions and traditional media. Therefore, if the necessary measures are not taken to stop the spread of such clones, which have an audience of hundreds of thousands, real threats to the country's national security may arise if, for example, they start publishing information hostile to Lithuania.

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