Hellenic Shipping News Spurs Investors to Make Bad Investment

Time and again this publication has cautioned investors about relying on the advice of financial advisers. In most instances, as with the article by Alexis Assadi we reported on earlier, the money manager or adviser has an ulterior motive and misinformed investors. In this article, found in Hellenic Shipping News, the anonymous author (perhaps not even a financial adviser) has been paid to recommend that investment-seekers buy shares in a company called Toll Holdings, or Toll Group.

To demonstrate what terrible investment advice this is, we investigated Toll Holdings to expose the truth. This is what we uncovered …

Headquartered in Australia, Toll Group is part of Japan Post, a Japanese state-owned conglomerate. Japan Post bought the group as part of an attempt to catapult itself into the realm of global logistics. Instead, it has had to contend with what it says is weakening demand for logistics services, due to a slower Australian economy.

It was in February of 2015 that Japan Post made a A$6.5 billion cash takeover bid for the company. The purchase of Toll was completed a few months before the $12 billion IPO of Japan Post Holdings. The Japan Post IPO was pitched toward retail investors — stressing both the rock-solid reliability of the Japan Post brand and the newly globalised profile acquired through the Toll purchase. The IPO is estimated to have lured hundreds of thousands of Japanese families into the stock market for the first time. That same group of unsuspecting investors saw their Japan Post shares trade (for extended periods) below the IPO price of ¥1,400 per share.

Following the completion of the Toll purchase, Japan Post Holdings said it would report a Y40 billion ($360 million) loss for its first full financial year as a listed company, due to losses from Toll Holdings. The forecast loss at Japan Post arises from a ¥400.3 billion write-down of Toll Holdings, which the company deemed necessary after it was discovered that goodwill exceeded the original estimate and that Toll Holdings’ performance failed to live up to expectations. As a result, Japan Post is now writing off all the goodwill on its books for Toll — about $4.5 billion worth — and taking a further $400 million hit on the value of the Toll trademark and fixed assets.

Making matters worse for Japan Post, Toll’s operating income tumbled to $83 million between April and December of 2016, down more than two-thirds on the same period in 2015. In mid-2017, amid the continued losses, Toll Holdings Limited had to move quickly to implement changes recommended in an urgent 100-day strategy review. The recommendations in the report aimed to reduce Toll’s operational business units and eliminate 1700 jobs, mostly in Australia. The total job loss equates to approximately 4 per cent of Toll’s global workforce.

The Toll write-off has wiped out Japan Post’s earnings for the past year and dragged the Japanese conglomerate into the red to a total of ¥40 billion ($480 million) — its first loss since privatisation a decade ago. Japan Post had previously forecast a full-year net profit of ¥320 billion.

If investors were to follow the investing advice of the Hellenic Shipping News’ article and invest in Toll Holdings, the fake news and comments could have cost them a significant amount of money; just as it cost Japan Post a significant amount of money. This is once again an example of why investors need to beware of people offering investment advice. Their intentions may be self-serving and motivated by something other than helping others and encouraging financial success.

Facebook and U.S. Government Partner To Fight Disinformation

On November 19th, 2016 in Lima, Peru, the former President of the United States – Barack Obama – warned Mark Zuckerberg about the infiltration of fake news on the Facebook social network. Obama made a personal appeal to Zuckerberg to take the threat of fake news and political disinformation seriously. Unless Facebook and the government did more to address the threat, Obama warned, it would only get worse in the next presidential race. Zuckerberg told Obama at that time that there was “no easy fix.”

To its credit, Facebook did make efforts to shore up its own systems, without impinging on free discourse for its users around the world. That said though, some critics say Facebook dragged its feet, and is acting only now because of outside political pressure.

There’s been a systematic failure of responsibility. It’s rooted in their overconfidence that they know best, their naivete about how the world works, their extensive effort to avoid oversight, and their business model of having very few employees so that no one is minding the store. – Zeynep Tufekci, Associate Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

According to reports, Facebook initially discovered elements of the Russian misinformation operation in June of 2016, and notified the FBI. However, efforts to address and fix the problem stalled as the company and government officials struggled to diagnose and fix the problem. For months leading up to the vote, Obama and his top aides quietly toiled over how to respond to Russia’s brazen intervention on behalf of the Donald Trump campaign, without making matters worse.

Like officials in the U.S. government, Facebook did not foresee the strong wave of disinformation that was about to hit social media, or the political attention that would follow. Under pressure from U.S. officials, the social network has turned over more than 3,000 politically themed Facebook advertisements to Congress, that are suspected to have been purchased by Russian operatives.

The issue of fake news has forced Facebook and other Silicon Valley companies to weigh their core values, including freedom of speech, against the problems created when malevolent actors use those same freedoms to broadcast messages of violence, hate and disinformation.

3 Recommendations On How To Expose And Combat Misinformation

In this age of “fake news,” falsehoods being quickly spread online are in need of quick debunking. After spending decades trying to understand how misinformation spreads, researchers have a better understanding of how to effectively debunk fake news. Based on the findings of recent experiments and research, here are three broad recommendations on how to expose and combat misinformation.

  1. Limit Arguments Supporting Misinformation
  2. Encourage Scrutiny
  3. Present New Information

Limit Arguments Supporting Misinformation

Researchers discovered that rehashing arguments in favor of misinformation can inadvertently reinforce it, strengthening the defense against the truth. This is especially true when the lie offers a simpler explanation than the truth.

Encourage Scrutiny

When debunking fake news, it is useful to get the audience in a skeptical mindset. It is also helpful to make the audience feel engaged with the skepticism. Just labeling the theory “false” is not as convincing to people who believe it as walking them through the reasons it cannot be true.

You lead them down the garden path, rather than do all the work for them. – Dolores Albarracín, Professor of Psychology, Business, and Medicine at the University of Illinois

Present New Information

Contributing new and credible information is especially effective in unseating fake news. New information allows people to revisit and update their understanding of events, justifying why they fell for the falsehood in the first place. New research published in the summer of 2017 found that videos could be especially useful in correcting misinformation. Fact-checking videos seemed to “increase attention and reduce confusion” when compared with text content.

As a society we are more commonly using the words “fake news.” To combat the rise of misinformation, it is important to show how it happens, where it comes from, and show how fake news is generated, why it is generated and how it is used as a political weapon.

Europe Addresses Russian Media Spreading Disinformation

There is increasing evidence that Russia is automating disinformation on social media and the West is failing to get control of Russian hacking and fake news distribution. The Russian tactics have been described as ”very systematic and a new way to spread propaganda among young people.” The concern is not just that Russian media outlets spread disinformation, It is also the automated algorithms, known as bots, that help false reports go viral much faster than politicians or fact-checkers can debunk them.

If you have hacking, fake news with a purpose, it is very difficult to react. We can find out what happened, but it is very difficult to prove. The whole law in this area needs addressing. – Edgars Rinkēvičs, Latvian Foreign Minister

Speaking on a visit to London, Latvian Foreign Minister brought attention to new NATO-sponsored research showing more than five times the number of Russian language tweets sent in Latvia concerning NATO came from bot accounts, instead of from individuals. The figure in Estonia was nine times as many.

In answer to the growing concern over fake news, German parliament passed a law at the end of June 2017 that will impose fines worth upwards of $50 million on Facebook, Google, and other social media companies that do not promptly remove what they deem to be “illegal content.” The European Union has also created an office devoted to debunking fake news, fake comments, fake reviews, and Russian propaganda. The Czech Republic has set up a police agency to monitor social media for disinformation and other “hybrid threats.”

Mr. Rinkēvičs urged U.S. Congress to press ahead with its inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. He believes that it is essential for all U.S allies to understand the mechanics of how to organize a cyber attack and then use it as an information weapon to influence people’s opinions.

Fake News, Fake Reviews Could Irreparably Tarnish Credibility

It is sometimes easy to forget that there is news that is fake, as in made up, manufactured, blatantly untrue. It is also tempting to dismiss the impact that fake news has on those who read it. Most people do not stop to consider the contributions fake comments and reviews make to this.

Awards and rankings have always been manipulated to some extent, but now that ranking is so often algorithmic and uncurated, the system can more easily – and, similarly, algorithmically – be gamed. The algorithmic world that we live in has turned so many measures into targets, and by doing so ruined them. “#1 Best-Selling” books are a great example.

In this post-truth age, it has become more common for authors to try and buy their way onto the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Amazon bestseller lists. Likewise, others try to target books they disapprove of with “review abuse,” i.e. a fake negative review. Just like fake news, it has become an arms race between the genuine and the fake.

Researchers have used AI to develop software that can write extremely believable fake online reviews. This is a major threat to websites like Amazon who rely heavily on them. Perhaps more dangerously, it hints at a worrying future where AI is capable of writing sophisticated texts, undermining public trust and spreading fake news.

In general, the threat is bigger. I think the threat towards society at large and really disillusioned users and to shake our belief in what is real and what is not, I think that’s going to be even more fundamental. – Ben Zhao, Researcher, University of Chicago

For many people, online reviews are their first stop when looking for a product or service. As such, they have become the lifeblood for many businesses. And, because of this, businesses like Google and Facebook are constantly on the lookout for unfair or fake reviews, planted by disgruntled rivals or angry customers.

Fake news and fake reviews are an all too real example of a problem growing all over the world. Fake news. Fake science. Fake credentials. Fake skills. People game, fake, or outright invent measurements of all kinds, whether they be verifiable facts and statistics, social media connections, degrees, or accomplishments. Allowed to rise unchecked, fake news, fake comments, and fake reviews could irreparably tarnish the credibility of news and product/service reviews, as well as have far broader and more worrying implications for society.

EXPOSED: The Millions Of Dollars Funding Fake News Websites

In July 2017, Storyzy – a French ad-tech startup that uses AI and natural-language processing to root out fake news sites, reported that more than 600 well-known brands had their advertisements placed on websites that were characterized as fake news. With 600+ companies identified, it can be expected that many tech companies, banks, retailers, airlines, cosmetic companies, luxury goods companies, universities, and NGOs made the list.

Although there are some advertisers who know their ads display on fake news websites and choose to look the other way, most of the brands funding the fake news ecosystem are doing so without knowing they are contributing. This is the result of a combination of negligence and greed from media buyers, and the cohort of intermediaries (such as media buyers and trading desks) that rule the digital advertising industry. At the moment, three-quarters of digital ad money flows to Facebook and Google.

It would appear that most of the major brands don’t care where their ads show up, as long as the overall return on investment is fine. This combination of deniability and greed is toxic.

deniability
[dih-nahy-uh-bil-uh-tee]
noun
1. the ability to deny something, as knowledge of or connection with an illegal activity.
Source: Dictionary.com

The study performed by Storyzy exposes the source of the millions of dollars that are contributing to the survival of fake news. Misinformation or fake news media are super efficient at using resources like social media to maximize their time and budget. After all, their production costs are but a fraction of those required by legitimate websites who produce real news.

Financial Predators Pose The Greatest Threat To Investors

When investors make investments, one of their primary concerns is risk. Although exposure to risk begins with the collection of investing information and performing due diligence, it remains a concern for investors long after they have made an investment. Unbeknownst to much of the investment community, it is financial predators who pose the greatest threat to the safety of their money.

There are nefarious individuals and organizations that will target investors with investing offers that compare well to their existing investment portfolio, but are slightly more appealing. Since these targeted investors have demonstrated the confidence to pursue investments, they are considered much easier to prey upon. This is a phenomenon referred to as successive approximations.

In successive approximation, each successive step towards the desired behavior is identified and rewarded. The series of rewards for different steps of the behavior increases the likelihood that the steps will be taken again and that they will lead to the desired end result being fulfilled. – Darcie Nolan

These financial predators identify their targets by acquiring lists of a company’s current investors. These are often acquired through the Black Market or “underground.” Once they have established that someone has already made an investment, and they have so far been rewarded by good returns,  they will manufacture investment offerings that improve on the investor’s investing experience. This is done by offering incentives, such as a free vacation, as well as by promising better returns and/or lower risk.

To further add to their guise, some predators will assume (steal) the identity of a reputable financial firm or organization. This identity theft is done with the intention of increasing their own credibility in the eyes of the targeted investor, and is yet another attempt to mislead the investment community.

Identity theft is the deliberate use of someone else’s identity, usually as a method to gain a financial advantage in the other person’s name. – Wikipedia

In most instances, making an investment is a long-term commitment for both the investor and investment provider. This relationship is supported by well-established trust that is the envy of financial predators. The continued risk to investors is that, to their own gain, criminals will use aspects of this relationship to manipulate and fool people. Whether it is a similar offer, an incentive like a free trip, better returns, or lower risk, their intention is to mislead the investment community and bilk them out of their savings. Investors BEWARE.

Producers Are Using Social Media to Spread Fake News Stories

It has been nearly a full year since Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, and fake news has persisted as a problem. In fact, the fake news scourge is likely to get worse before it gets better. Some believe it is because of the centrality of social media’s role in its dissemination. The root of the problem is that fake news producers have learned to effectively use social media to spread lying headlines and misleading stories.

In December of 2016, Facebook acknowledged that fake news was becoming a threat to journalism everywhere. To combat the spread of misinformation on its social media platform, Facebook has launched a variety of efforts that have seen mixed results. In some instances, the company’s deterrents have unintentionally driven an increase in traffic to the worst fake news offenders.

Both Google and Apple have taken steps to prevent the spread of misinformation across their platforms. In the past, Apple CEO Tim Cook has called called for a massive campaign against fake news.

Perhaps the most effective way to combat fake news, comments and reviews is to improve the credibility of existing content and reliable producers of content. The assistant director for the Tow Center for Digital Journalism – Susan McGregor, advocates for verified digital signatures on news stories that confirm the identity of the author, and the time of publication. This would allow news resources, like CNN, to rebuild public trust and set their work apart from that of content mills and fake news factories.

Fake news seems to be everywhere these days and so far experienced reporters have no answers for how journalism could better combat it. Sadly, efforts to remove fake comments, reviews and stories are akin to playing a game of Whack-a-Mole; remove one fake news offender, ten more fake news articles will appear.

Trump-Russia Investigation Examines Phenomena of FAKE NEWS

The Trump-Russia investigation is expected to closely examine one of the biggest political phenomena of the modern era, fake news. The special counsel is expected to investigate Moscow-connected Twitter bots and Facebook “trolls” that repeatedly produced fake campaign-related headlines, and thereby helped to boost Donald Trump’s candidacy for President of the U.S.

Social media researchers studying the 2016 United States’ presidential election have concluded that both real internet trolls and fake bot accounts preyed on American voters — more than 60 percent of whom relied upon social media for their political discussions — and helped create an atmosphere for false news stories and fake comments, that established Trump’s perceived popularity, pumped up pro-Trump and anti-Hillary Clinton hashtags, and even suppressed those who offered opposition.

The ability to find a site that looks like a real news place, have them run a story that isn’t true, have your trolls begin to click on that story, it rises on Facebook as a trending topic, people start to read it, by the time they figure out it isn’t true, a lot of people think it is. – Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

The special investigator’s team will examine whether the Trump campaign or Trump’s intermediaries delivered micro-targeted data to the Russian social media operators to help them target their anti-Clinton/Pro-Trump messages, especially in important swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. The investigation must determine whether Trump’s aides and allies directly assisted the Russian-linked accounts, thereby running afoul of a federal law which “prohibits presidential campaigns from accepting or coordinating contributions or expenditures — directly or indirectly — from foreign nationals.”

As it pursues its investigation, the team has at its disposal the underlying assessments of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and National Security Agency (NSA), which in early January 2017 released a public report that stated Moscow led an “unprecedented” attack on the U.S. election blending covert hacking with open moves by state-funded Russian propaganda and paid social media users, or trolls, in an attempt to help elect Donald Trump for President of the United States.

News Alliance Says Google And Facebook Supporting Fake News

The news industry has been hit with declining print readership and a loss of advertising revenue as it has moved online. An alliance of approximately 2,000 news/media organizations says Google and Facebook’s dominance in online advertising and traffic is supporting fake news and creating an unsustainable future for journalism.

According to eMarketer, Google and Facebook combined will account for 60% of the U.S. digital advertising market in 2017. The news outlets say they want stronger protections for intellectual property, more support for subscription models, and a bigger share of the online advertising market.

The News Media Alliance, which represents nearly 2,000 news organizations in the United States and Canada, believes that because of the two companies’ dominance, news publishers are forced to “surrender their content and play by their rules on how news and information is displayed, prioritized and monetized.” This often puts media publishers in head-to-head competition with fake news.

These rules have commoditized the news and given rise to fake news, which often cannot be differentiated from real news. – News Alliance Press Release

The biggest challenge facing the news alliance is that it would need an exemption from antitrust law to negotiate as a group. However, if permitted to open discussions with Google and Facebook, the alliance could push for stronger intellectual-property protection, better support for their subscription models, and a fairer share of ad revenue and customer data. Many believe that doing so could build a more sustainable future for the news business.

Facebook says the company is working to cut down on fake news, fake reviews, and click-bait headlines, in favor of “quality journalism.”