Saturday, March 17, 2018

The Meaning of Gina Haspel as CIA Director Designate: Is This the Best the United States Can Do?

I. Ah, if the Obama Administration had only followed my advice!

November 15, 2016, after teaching class in Toledo, I had driven overnight from Toledo with a student, Victor Aberdeen, and arrived just in time to change from my road clothes and walk into the session entitled "Panel V - Continuity, Change and Future Challenges in the Use of Force Abroad of the 26th Annual Review of the Field of Law and National Security conference of the ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security."

Moderated by Laura Donohue, Professor of Law, Director, Center on National Security and the Law at Georgetown Law, the panel included such stars of the national security firmament as John Bellinger, Partner, National Security and Public International Law Practice at Arnold & Porter (formerly of the Bush National Security Council and Legal Adviser at Bush State), Mary DeRosa, Distinguished Visitor from Practice, Co-Director, Global Law Scholars Program, Georgetown Law, Christine Fair, Associate Professor, Security Studies Program, Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, Martin S. Lederman, Associate Professor of Law, Georgetown Law (formerly of the Obama Office of Legal Counsel at Justice), and Charlie Savage, Washington Correspondent for The New York Times.

As they turned to the Q and A, I shot up my hand to ask the question I had held in my head since leaving Toledo. When Laura called on me, I asked whether during the interregnum between the election and the inauguration the Obama Administration might formally apologize on behalf of the United States to the world for the 44 country torture regime that the United States had put in place, and that John Bellinger (while at the Bush White House) had helped organize, and about which Marty Lederman (while at the Obama Office of Legal Counsel) had not been willing to prosecute. Apology is a remedy in international law, and by making such a formal apology the United States would have provided an enormous remedy to the world on behalf of itself and the 43 other countries that had helped the United States put in place the torture regime after 9/11. In addition, for any future Administration, they would be faced with denouncing our own unilateral given remedy of apology in international law - not impossible but a modest constraint on future torturers.

When I was challenged by John Bellinger on my facts about him, I replied that he should read John Rizzo's (former Acting General Counsel of the Central Intelligence Agency) book Company Man, where he describes his role on page 189.

That apology never happened. Gina Haspel got appointed Deputy Director of the CIA in February, 2017 soon after the change of Administration, and this week we are confronted with her nomination to be the CIA Director.

II. Who is Gina Haspel?

Google or Bing her - the list of articles about her role at the Thai black site where Abu Zubaydah and Al-Nashiri were tortured by those mischievous psychologists James E. Mitchell and Bruce Jessen is long (See also here and here). Her role in destroying the 92 videotapes of those torture sessions will rivet you (the October 5, 2011 Opinion and Order Denying Motion to Hold Defendant Central Intelligence Agency in Civil Contempt of Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein takes one through that sordid story). She is a bona fide knuckledragger (slang for torturer), who has managed to still survive and prosper going up the chain of command at the CIA.

III. Ain't it Grand?

With one fell stroke with her nomination, whether consciously or not, President Trump has done something that I want to draw to your attention. Yes, he has revived the discussions about torture, but much more importantly, he has done something else. He has called out the actors in the torture in and out of government to remind us of who they were in that post 9/11 period. Many of them have been very critical of him with respect to the Russia investigation and other Trump misadventures. And it has been remarkable to watch them.

For example, this morning Phillip Mudd (who was in the middle of it), the CNN commentator, did the full throated "it was authorized and we were legal" defense.

There is on CNN (at 3:55) the full throated support of Haspel by James Clapper, Obama Director of National intelligence, up until the issue of torture comes up where one hears him saying that on the human rights issues, "she will have to deal with it."

Jose Rodriguez, in Company Man at several pages, is quoted as saying the destruction was to protect the CIA persons. Former Acting Director of the CIA Michael Morrell (a CIA lifer) sings her praises and on torture presents on her behalf the infamous "just following orders" defense.

And of course Obama era CIA Director Leon Panetta has stepped in to support her, and John Rizzo has chimed in (as he did in his book Company Man with his version of it was proper: "Well, I mean, David, I was in the middle of all that at the time as the chief legal adviser for CIA. First of all, I do not believe that the word torture is what was and is actually legally accurate. They were very harsh, very brutal measures, but not torture.").

Lurking in the background are the dozens if not hundreds of civilians who were the leaders of and the cogs in the machine to make sure the 44 country torture regime was a well-oiled monster that was hidden from the light of day and, once Abu Ghraib occurred, accountability for design and implementation resisted. If you wonder who they were, just read Rizzo's book, the December 3, 2014 declassified summary of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's report entitled Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Program, and/or the Senate Armed Service Committee's November 20, 2008 report entitled Inquiry into the Detainees Treatment in U.S. Custody. The names of all the protagonists (in and out of the Executive and the Legislative branches, and during both the Bush and Obama years) who years later are having a relook at their role in the torture and their obstruction of accountability can be found there. I wonder if Trump was targeting Mueller (head of the FBI at the relevant times) with this choice. All of these types suffered little or no consequences for their role in the torture and even got career improvements, as we can see with Gina Haspel.

IV. Who is left out of this blossoming discussion?

It would be nice, if just once, people would remember that there are four groups of people who have paid a price for the torture. The first one are those lowly soldiers at Abu Ghraib who were court-martialed and/or received administrative discipline for their role in torturing people there. Betraying the Uniform Code of Military Justice by doing the bidding of those who were not subject to its strictures. Played for chumps. Whenever persons say we do not prosecute people for torture, I remind them that we actually do prosecute people for torture - those soldiers who were at least as close to the torture as Gina Haspel. They got court-martialed, she got a promotion. Haspel got the elevator, Lynddie England got the shaft, or at least carried the water for her higher-ups.

The second group are the detainees held at Gitmo (Abu Zubaydah is still alive and has still not seen the light of day; Al-Nashiri is in an interminable military commission - both tortured at Gina Haspel's Thai country club), released, and dead. A 2014 shadow report prepared by the Advocates for U.S. Torture Prosecutions for the UN Committee Against Torture found that no detainee had as of 2014 received relief in the American justice system for their torture. Since then the settlement of the case against James E. Mitchell and Bruce Jessen remains the true exception that proves the rule. Any relief has been abroad.

The third group are those around the world being tortured even as they speak knowing that there is no consequence in terms of world community opprobrium led by the United States. Once the United States was willing to go easy on torture, the knuckledraggers everywhere were let loose.

The fourth group are rainbow coalition of Americans who have rationalized the torture all these years and acquiesced in it. Talk about losing one's soul.

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Friday, March 16, 2018

Trump and Putin: What's Really Going On?

"I like chaos." — United States President Donald Trump, March 4, 2018

Credo quia absurdum. "I believe because it is absurd." In the very best case scenario, President Donald Trump is "merely" incompetent, fundamentally incapable of meeting minimal intellectual and emotional expectations of the American presidency. In the worst case, he is acting consciously on behalf of his Russian counterpart, expressly driven by Vladimir Putin to sow chaos and eventual capitulation in the United States.

Significantly, however, even the second case explanation need not imply any hatred or disloyalty toward Mr. Trump's own country. It suggests only that Mr. Putin has such overwhelmingly damaging personal information at his disposal that Donald Trump no longer maintains any "rational" alternative to collaborating against core American national interests. Following such more-or-less plausible extrapolations from ordinary logic, the people of the United States can now choose to examine all pertinent evidence with appropriate care and attention, or they can continue to assume that even an outrageously objectionable US president may nonetheless be sane and/or uncorrupted.

If they should choose the latter, they could commit a very familiar human error in reasoning, a fallacy, siding lazily with blind faith over science and truth. Undoubtedly, Sigmund Freud would have called this behavior a textbook example of "wish fulfillment," the very same term he used to explain religion. All the more so, perhaps, because Mr. Trump now continues to express his fierce admiration for foreign dictators and "strongmen" in general, and to impose selective tariffs that would specifically undermine the US aerospace and defense industry.

If, however, the American People should opt instead for a properly systematic assessment, they might then offer their imperiled country a seemingly last chance to be taken seriously, and also to remain recognizably decent before the wider community of nations.

In the very early years of German National Socialism, Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, speaking proudly against science and truth, intoned ominously: "Intellect rots the brain." From the beginning, US President Donald Trump has deliberately surrounded himself with subordinates who routinely oppose any capable iterations of measured analytic thought. Even when his highest-level appointments have become downright caricatural or cartoonish - e.g., when his appointees are selected precisely because they oppose the objectives and interests of the federal department to which they are being directed - the public reaction somehow stops palpably short of any needed incredulity.

Certain other fundamental questions ought now arise. Exactly what kind of American democracy stands solidly against human rights both inside and outside of its own borders, rights expressly guaranteed to all by the "sacred" founding documents of the United States?

(By their definition, the rights assured by the Declaration of Independence and Constitution can never be confined to only the people of the United States. This is because both documents were conceived by their authors as the indisputable codification of a pre-existing Natural Law. Although generally unrecognized, the United States was expressly founded upon the Natural Rights philosophies of the 18th century Enlightenment, especially Locke, Hobbes, Montesquieu and Rousseau. Thomas Jefferson, an American president before Donald Trump, was well acquainted with the classic writings of political philosophy, from Plato to Diderot. In those early days of the Republic, it is presently worth recalling, an American president could not only read serious books, but could also write them.)

The only correct answer, in this case, is a nation that is willing to violate not only relevant international law, but also its own domestic or municipal legal rules. This is because international law, whether customary or codified, has long been unambiguously incorporated into the "supreme law" of the United States.

When President Trump's executive orders direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to expand his coercive program of "expedited removal" (of selected immigrants, to their inhospitable countries of origin), he is frequently in violation of the legal principle known as non-refoulement, as codified (inter alia) at Article 33 of the 1951 Refugee Convention. Automatically, owing to the prior incorporation of international human rights law into US law, these very serious violations extend as well to the authoritative immigration laws of the United States.

Similar and intersecting legal issues must now be raised with regard to this president's explicit country preferences concerning future immigration to the United States. When Mr. Trump openly urges reduced immigration from "shithole countries," which just happen to be in Africa and Latin America or the Caribbean, and calls instead for refugees from "places like Norway," it is a thinly disguised retrogression to Third Reich-type criteria. In essence, and without any conspicuous subtlety, President Trump has been nudging America toward an immigration posture of "pure blood," an inherently egregious stance that would openly prefer "pure" (read "Aryan" type) immigrants to all others.

The fact that such crude and inhumane presidential thinking is allowed to pass as merely "coarse," "prejudiced," "foolish" or "narrow minded" misses a very key antecedent point. It is that determinedly racist stereotypes are integral to President Trump's core persona, and thus help fashion his actual policies. In this connection, one need now be reminded that despite America's codified and customary legal obligations to oppose genocide-like crimes in Syria - obligations discoverable, among other sources, at the 1948 Genocide Convention - Mr. Trump chooses to stand silently by the overtly murderous Syria policy of his never-criticized counterpart ("master"?) in Moscow.

Under absolutely no circumstances, it should be obvious, would this American president ever stand up against crimes of war and crimes against humanity where they have first been "authorized" by Vladimir Putin. For the United States, this stunningly unique presidential unwillingness means opposing our interests and our ideals at the same time. For us, moreover, this can signify nothing less than abandoning our indispensable rights and corresponding privileges for the sake of maintaining a contemptible and potentially catastrophic American presidency.

Going forward, when we should sometime look back at what we had once allowed, what will be the excuse for our de facto complicity with such plainly defiled American governance? Will it be that the apparent facts of Mr. Trump's "cooperation" with Vladimir Putin were just never sufficiently clear or compelling? If so, then we may all soon have to learn to "love chaos."

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Friday, March 9, 2018

Top Google Algorithm Changes in 2017 and How They Affect You

Last year, the SEO and copywriting communities, along with business owners who rely heavily on their optimized websites were on their toes waiting for the next Google search algorithm to kill their hard work.

Of course, this never happened. Despite the numerous algorithm changes of last year, the websites that really cared for bringing valuable information and great copy to their readers saw little to no decrease in traffic.

In fact, some of them were rewarded by the almighty Google bots. I distinctly remember one of my agency’s clients emailing us to thank us for thinking ahead and helping his website gain even more traffic after the updates.

It felt incredible!

However, I strongly believe in not overestimating yourself and staying grounded in reality. This is why, even though at, Idunn, the marketing agency I run, we never had problems caused by algorithm updates, I still think an overview is useful.

E2M created an amazing infographic that showcases all the major confirmed and unconfirmed Google search algorithm updates of last year. Let’s take a look at them and at how they affect you.

The 11 Major Google Search Algorithm Updates of 2017 and What to do about Them

As a general note on these updates, it’s worth mentioning that most of them (if not all) are designed to improve user experience. Thus, while we may dislike the fact that we need to change our strategy frequently, we also need to look at the bigger picture and take these updates as free advice on improving our own users’ experience.

1. Intrusive interstitials penalty (January, 10)

The first confirmed update of 2017 was to penalize websites that used intrusive interstitials that blocked content when users clicked through from web searches. The update was announced and the website users were given more than fair warning.

Action tip: this one is pretty obvious – offer your readers a great experience and remove the intrusive interstitials. This doesn’t mean you have to give up on all your CTAs, just make sure they don’t block any of the text.

2. Unconfirmed spam links devaluation (February, 1)

Google never confirmed this, but SEO specialists speculate that it was a change to Penguin that helped the algorithm better detect and devalue spam links. The best news about this is that a lot of black hats reported losses.

Action tip: you can still have spammy links pointing to your website, even if you didn’t hire someone to do it on purpose. Head on to your search console and disavow them manually.

3. Unconfirmed core search algorithm update (February, 7)

Google updates their Search Quality Raters around the same time, so experts suspect that this is related to content quality.

Action tip: I’ve said this more times than I can count – never, ever cut corners when it comes to the quality of your content. Don’t publish just because “it’s time”. Publish relevant, authority content that your buyer persona enjoys reading.

4. Fred (March, 8)

Very few updates brought as much happiness to us, people who hate filling the internet with irrelevant content, as Fred did. This update takes its name from Google’s Gary Illyes who jokingly called it that on Twitter.

In a nutshell, Fred penalizes websites with low quality content that is more focused on revenue generation than on helping users.

Action tip: hire SEO copywriters who know what they are doing. They may be more expensive, but they will never get your website penalized. Quite the contrary – your content will be appreciated by both Google bots and readers (aka your potential customers) if written by pros.

5. Wide-range unconfirmed quality update (May, 17)

Some suspect this was a core update, while others saw massive changes in the rankings of ecommerce websites.

Action tip: if you run an ecommerce website and saw massive drops in your organic traffic after mid-May, take a look at the pages that got the worst hits and try to rework the copy to follow Google’s newest guidelines.

6. Unconfirmed update affecting rankings across country domains (June, 25)

Google’s John Muller denied anything special happened, but experts noticed huge ranking fluctuations. Plus, all the analytics tools signaled something was going on.

7. Quality-related unconfirmed update (August, 19)

Websites with disruptive advertising, poor UX, technical SEO issues and tags and category pages with no unique content on them dropped massively.

Action tip: again, think about the user experience across your entire website. A pleasant experience is more than pretty colors and conveniently placed menus. Make sure that your website is easy to navigate and that readers can easily browse your menu and get to what they need.

8. Hawk (August, 22)

This update annulled some of the effects brought by Possum back in 2016. Basically, Google removed a filter that prevented local businesses sharing an address from appearing in the same pack. I wrote more about Hawk and its effects here.

Action tip: make sure your address is perfectly written in Google My Business. Ask your customers for reviews (offer incentives to ensure you get them). Check your business and contact information frequently and update whenever needed.

9. Local results on Google ccTLDs (October, 27)

The search results are now location-specific and independent of the country specific domain used. In other words: users can’t access international results by changing ccTLDs. As a result, AdWords ads saw a massive spike, while local packs in SERPs dropped.

Action tip: if you own a local business, this is your moment of glory. Add as many references to your city or area in your copy as possible. Also, make sure that your business address and name are correctly listed in Google My Business.

10. Increase in meta descriptions length (December, 1)

The length of the meta description grew from 160 to 230 characters. Google, of course, confirmed this, and said it was a way to offer more descriptive results and more information to users before clicking on a link.

Action tip: make the most of this lengthier meta description. Add variations of your keyword in it, as well as LSI keywords. But make sure it remains telling of the entire content on the page. Ideally, go back and update your older metas.

11. Maccabees (December, 12)

Confirmed by Google, this is another core algorithm change. We still know very little of this update. SEO experts have seen major changes in affiliate websites.

As always, user-friendliness and excellent content are paramount. We’ve been through 11 major changes last year and this has held true more than ever. And we don’t expect this to ever change.

My two cents: invest in quality content and play the long-term game. If you must invest in AdWords, do it, but save some budget for quality copywriting as well. Remember that as soon as your ads stop, so do the results. However, the results brought about by excellent SEO copywriting last for ages.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

To VPN or Not to VPN: Are Online Businesses Safe Enough?

You’ve been planning on this product launch for quite a long time. It’s expected to catapult your online business to well-deserved stardom, giving you significant hegemony in that particular niche. A titillating anticipation is in the air!

Have you strategized enough? Indeed.

Have you calculated the probable consumer reaction curves? Of course.

Most of all, are you confident about the unique value and originality of your product? Definitely.

Nothing can hold you back now.

And look where you started from. Such humble beginnings! It is remarkable how you, with the help of others, have taken this product from infancy to such admirable heights. When you first dipped your feet into the vast ocean of e-commerce, there was a massive possibility of you being obliterated by the huge waves of other wildly popular, longstanding products. But you stood your ground, and kept moving. Slowly and steadily, you gathered enough momentum to become a huge online business wave yourself.

Just one step is left between you and the gold-colored, success horizon: your product launch.

However, there’s an immediate cause for alarm, threatening to topple you over.

What you had been preparing to launch tomorrow is replicated and produced by your greatest rival, just the night before. You’re stunned to see YOUR creation selling like wildfire with the tag of your rival brand.

Now, it’s out there – your wonderful idea, swept away from your grasp because you had not considered or undertaken ONE highly important measure: setting up a virtual private network (VPN).

Could it have saved your future prospects? Or, to flip the coin, could your online business have survived without it?

Should one go for a VPN or not? Let’s find out.


Suppose you go to a region where the cold temperature drops many degrees below zero. Do you dare step out naked in the bone-chilling winds? No. You’d think of it as mere foolishness, wouldn’t you? The same goes for the unfathomable and unpredictable plane of the internet. You shouldn’t venture out exposed in any way. Malevolent entities are out there, eagerly searching for any unprotected slot. If they happen to find one, they will undeniably pounce and take advantage of you, without you even knowing it. This is how your rival company got hold of your idea, by surreptitiously eyeing your e-activity.

A virtual private network provides just enough amount of protective covering, encrypting all of your online business transactions and vital communications from prying eyes. With a VPN, no one will be able to hack into or release any dirty malware to your e-accounts. It’s a sure security measure which you should not miss out on.


Imagine the internet as a dangerous ocean, with an unmeasurable depth. You need to get across it. How do you do it? With a boat, of course. This boat, which takes you over the waves, is your IP address. If someone else takes control of this boat, then you’re absolutely done for. So it is crucial that you protect your little boat at any cost, so that you’re able to safely cross the ocean.

Putting the analogy aside, whenever you access the internet over public networks (think coffee shops, hotels, airports), you’re putting your whole e-business at risk, because your ISP and other interested entities can see and sinisterly maneuver your IP address. However, a virtual private network can definitely lend you that desired veil of anonymity. By turning it on, you can freely roam the internet with a masked IP, and no one will be able to tell what you’re doing or see your private data.


Sometimes, you get stuck at one point, and need different research to inspire you. But that valuable piece of information has been blocked by third parties, and you’re unable to access it online. How do you bypass the ban?

In another instance, you’re compelled to travel to a distant country in order to plant the seed of your e-business there. Expansion is what you’re hoping to get, yet foreign networks don’t respond to you the way you would like. They restrict your access, and even decide to keep an eye on you. How do you get around this unwanted attention, and connect to your native network?

One more: your e-business is slightly tricky to manage, and requires your employees to be spread out geographically. How do they safely stay in touch with one another, communicating on a private, central platform?

With a VPN, of course, which sets you up over a tunneled server, giving you secure credentials to surf about wherever you want, however you want.


I know what you’re thinking: this breathtakingly amazing service must come at a breathtaking costly price. But to answer your quite relevant apprehension, no, it doesn’t. A virtual private network is surprisingly easy to install, and quite affordable too. Just subscribe to a reputable VPN provider, configure the service on your device, turn it on over a high-speed connection like Spectrum Internet, and you’re protected! It’s that convenient, and at a measly price of around ten dollars per month.

So what do you think?

After going through all of the benefits of a VPN, do you think it is a worthwhile measure to protect your online business with? Or do you wish to pass it over and stay exposed?

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How Facebook Marketers Can Manage Privacy to Protect Business Security

If it happened to Mark Zuckerberg, it can happen to anyone.

In June of 2016, hackers briefly took control of Zuckerberg’s personal Twitter and Pinterest accounts. Using a password they’d obtained from a LinkedIn security breach – which Zuckerberg had re-used on the other networks – they gained access, and then posted messages boasting of their success.

Facebook itself has also fallen victim to cybercrime. From 2013 to 2015 the social media giant transferred tens of millions of dollars into bank accounts belonging to a Lithuanian swindler who had forged email addresses and invoices in order to trick Facebook employees into sending him payments that they believed were going to a major Asian manufacturer of computer parts.

Both incidents were enabled by online impersonation – also called e-personation – which happens when someone takes advantage of the relative anonymity offered by digital communications to masquerade as another with the intent of causing harm or perpetrating fraud. In Zuckerberg’s case, the hackers pretended to be Zuckerberg himself in order to show off their hacking prowess – and mock his incompetence. In the Facebook scam, the criminal forged email addresses, invoices and corporate logos to divert payments from the supplier into their own accounts.

For Zuckerberg personally, and for Facebook as a company, the consequences of e-personation weren’t severe. Zuckerberg’s hacked Twitter and Pinterest accounts were mostly unused, his access was quickly restored, and his primary Facebook account was unaffected. So he lost face briefly, but little else. Facebook maintains that they were able to recover “the bulk of the funds” stolen from their company after the hacker’s arrest and the start of extradition proceedings.

The outcome can be very different for small to medium-sized businesses victimized by digital fraud, however. Not only do these companies generally have fewer resources available to prevent or combat security breaches, but they’re often less able to survive the business disruptions or financial losses that accompany them.

And the consequences of victimhood might be even more serious for you – both as an individual and as a marketer.

With Opportunity Comes Risk

E-personation scams grow and thrive on a diet of publicly available information. The more facts scammers are able to gather about potential victims, the more likely targeted phishing or fraudulent email campaigns are to succeed.

As the largest social media network in existence today, and the most widely used by advertisers, Facebook has become a virtual paradise for identity thieves, who see it as a perfect “hunting ground” for stalking potential victims and gathering intimate details about their lives and finances. As Facebook’s total user base has increased in size, the number of users with illegitimate or malicious intentions has grown as well. One report states that as many as 600,000 individual accounts may be compromised daily. Another survey found that among social media networks, Facebook is trusted least by its users.

This is especially important to you if you’re among the more than 250,000 social media marketers who use Facebook on a daily basis for professional purposes. Because all Facebook Pages (business accounts) must be maintained and administered by users with personal Profiles (individual accounts), you’re essentially mandated to use an individual asset (your private Facebook account) at work.

You probably think quite often about how to protect yourself online, but you may not have considered how your job might be putting others – your family, friends, and acquaintances – at risk. But by publicizing their relationship with you (and your employer) you might well be making them into targets.

So what can marketers do to protect themselves, their networks, and their employers on Facebook? 

Here are some simple tips:

Apply current best practices to keep your personal Profile safe

Any business Page on Facebook is only as secure as the Profiles that administer it. To protect your employer – as well as yourself – configure yours correctly. Facebook recommends that you use two-factor authentication to protect your login details, and it’s a good idea to set up email alerts to keep you informed whenever your account is accessed from a new device. Choose a strong password, change it regularly, and refrain from sharing it with others. Facebook itself offers additional guidelines on its Security Page.

The benefits of following these guidelines are more than worth the time you’ll spend reviewing them. Make sure your company’s Page has the right administrators, and that these admins have the right privileges. Because Page security depends upon the security of the Profiles that administer it, and because all admins are humans who make occasional mistakes, it’s wise to have as few administrators as possible. Do designate at least two, so that someone’s available to step in should the primary administrator’s account ever be compromised. But you don’t keep a large number of people in this role.

Periodically review the list of privileges granted to writers, editors, advertisers, consultants and others within your company (Facebook calls these Roles). Delete any users who have become inactive and limit everyone’s access to the minimum level necessary.

Don’t publish Page content using administrators’ personal profile names.

By default, postings on a Page will appear under the company’s name, not the name of the individual who created it (though other administrators will see the Profile responsible for posting the content, this information will not be visible to others). Keep this setting intact, and ensure that all other administrators are posting under the company’s name as well. Not only does this unify your messaging and keep you on-brand, but it also prevents you from becoming a target of scammers seeking specifics about your company. Such information can be used to make phishing attempts look more believable and authentic.

Carefully weigh the pros and cons of identifying Team Members on your Page and their Profiles.

One of the ways that social media engagement can benefit your company is by making your brand more personal. Using your real name and photograph online can help building your customers’ trust. And identifying in-house subject matter experts (SMEs) as team members can help you showcase the intellectual capital that your company possesses.

However, Facebook is often used by criminals trying to map individuals onto the roles they fill within their organizations. These maps are then employed to create highly targeted and specific fraudulent email campaigns like the one that victimized Facebook itself. Before identifying anyone as a Team Member on your Page, ask yourself: what objective does this identification accomplish? What are the risks? People in some industries (such as cybersecurity) are more likely to be targeted, as are those in certain departments (accounting, payroll). Identify Team Members only in ways that are limited and strategic.

Regularly audit the information that’s available about you and your company online

You probably google yourself from time to time. It’s natural to be curious about what others might be saying about you online. But this natural curiosity can also help to keep you safe. One of the most common Facebook scams involves setting up a fake profile under a name that’s almost identical to yours, complete with a photograph copied via screen shot, and then using the fake account to request money from people in your network. It’s also common to see falsified Pages on Facebook, ones with no connection to the legitimate brand or real company they appear to be advertising. Sometimes scammers use these Pages to promote fake contests or sell counterfeit products. Other times they’re merely intended to defame the real brand. In any case, you should report any fake Profiles or Pages you come across to Facebook immediately.

Hold appropriate professional boundaries.

Don’t blog or post about your employer outside of the workplace without a clear goal and express permission. Maintain a clear separation of roles, and avoid promoting your employer to your personal network.

Cooperate and create strong relationships with members of your company’s IT department.

They can provide quick and reliable answers to your most pressing security questions. What policies and procedures does your organization have in place to deal with online fraud? Is there a process for remotely deleting data from personal devices that have been lost or stolen? What endpoint security software is currently being used in your company, and how often is it changed or updated?

These might seem like technical questions, but getting good answers involves building relationships. Years ago, IT departments and marketing departments were widely separated within organizational structures, but today’s marketers depend heavily on data analytics and computing-driven insights, and can only benefit by drawing closer to IT professionals. Not only can forging these alliances help you stay safe, but it can also enable you to take better advantage of the tools at your disposal.

Help create a culture of openness and transparency.

Companies have long lamented that social media causes their employees to waste huge amounts of time at work, but when it’s your job to be present on social media regularly and for extended periods, the game has changed. Nonetheless many marketing professionals may still feel embarrassed or ashamed to admit that they’ve clicked on an infected link or installed a questionable app. All human beings make mistakes, and even the most professionally accomplished social media manager has been distracted or careless at some point. A culture of honesty and open communications can help prevent the spread of malware by allowing security personnel to combat infections soon after they occur.

Good habits can go a long way when it comes to defending against online fraud, and organizations with carefully designed policies and procedures are less likely to be at risk. Start talking and thinking about privacy and security now, and you’ll be doing your part to keep cybercriminals from gaining a dangerous foothold in your company.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

How Should Your Business Tackle the Recent Facebook Algorithm Changes

I’m guessing that by now everyone has heard the big news, right? If not, here’s the gist of it: Facebook will decrease the organic reach of Facebook pages even more.

Yes, it’s happening.

In Mark Zuckerberg’s own words, Facebook is designed “to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us”. Adam Mosseri, Head of News Feed at Facebook also spoke about meaningful interaction and about bringing people closer together.

As you can imagine, despite these carefully crafted words, outrage sparked.

People spoke of how much money they wasted on building pages with hundreds of thousands of fans. Others spoke about leaving Facebook altogether. And others spoke about Facebook simply wanting to get more money from ads.

At Idunn, the digital marketing agency I run, we also got a lot of questions from our social media management and marketing clients. [I’ll tell you what I answered and what we did for them below.]

Now that we’ve had some time to cool off, let’s see what we can really do about it (without spending a fortune, of course).

Is this really news?

I’m going to argue it’s not. We’ve known about this for quite a while. We’ve seen the organic reach decrease day after day.

Better yet, Adam Mosseri even references their experiments in October 2017 in his post from this January. If those tests didn’t make it clear that a big change for business pages was coming, I don’t know what would.

A report by BuzzSumo (published in August 2017) showed that the organic reach of pages has declined by more than 20 percent since the beginning of the year. And this is just one source. Multiple other people and companies made similar studies with similar results.

In fact, we now know that the organic reach has been constantly declining since 2012. Ogilvy even predicted a world with ZERO reach.

Did anyone really expect it to grow back?

I don’t think so!

Should we ditch business pages altogether?

Absolutely not!

Despite the rise of other social networks and the decline of organic reach, Facebook is still a goldmine for reaching both B2B and B2C customers. Marketers should continue to publish relevant content that gets the attention of their audience.

But how can you grab that attention now, you ask?

Well, let’s see.
How to survive in the era of almost zero organic reach on Facebook pages

You’ve got two important metrics now. To be fair, they were always important, but now they are crucial: comments and shares.

Comments show Facebook that people engage with your content, which will automatically boost the reach of your post. After all, if people like it, more should see it, right?

Shares also boost your reach because they help you get to the Facebook wonderland: the timelines of real people. You know, the type of users whose reach will increase.

Yes, it’s a Catch-22 situation: you have to be popular to gain popularity. It’s a virus that seems to be going around – Google also ranks websites that get a lot of visits higher.

But I digress.

It’s hard to get comments and shares when no one sees your content. However, every once in a while, you will manage to get the perfect recipe together. Look out for posts that spark comments (even one) and try to follow the same guidelines.

This should go without saying, but I’ll mention it anyway: NEVER leave a comment unanswered. Your goal is to keep the conversation going and get as much user-generated content as possible. For example: if someone comments “Lovely color” on a photo of one of your shades of lipstick, don’t just say “Thanks!” Ask them: “Did you try the matching nail polish?”

Remember that when a user engages with your posts, the activity might appear in their friend’s feeds. This means more reach for you!

Whenever you see a post performing well, boost it. Even a smidge of budget can make a world of difference.

How to use your ads budget wisely

I promised I’d tell you how we changed the Facebook strategy for our clients.

Here’s the most important thing we did: we took the budget from page likes campaigns and moved it to boost posts. So far, we saw great results.

A lot of people who engaged with the paid posts also liked the page, so we also increased the number of fans this way. Of course, the cost per fan is much higher without a dedicated campaign, but we’re still shooting two birds with one (affordable) stone.

Next, we advised all our clients to focus on more video and, most importantly, live videos. As Mark Zuckerberg says in his post, they always generate engagement.

For local and brick and mortar businesses, the “Events” feature can be a true goldmine. Events pop up in feeds for people close to the venue, so it’s very important to use it as often as possible. [OK, don’t go overboard and make your regular opening hour a Facebook event.]

Additionally, you can get great traction with groups. They are less restrictive and you can tie your business page easily with a group. Be sure to promote your new group in Facebook live broadcasts to reach a broader audience.

Finally, use Messenger bots to drive real conversations. However, be wary of over-automation. You don’t want to alienate your fans!
Don’t put all your eggs in the same basket

Facebook is not real estate you own. No, not even your business page. You’ve literally built your house on someone else’s land. So you can’t make the rules.

Invest in other social networks, too. Experiment as much as you can and keep building awesome content everywhere! More than ever, the quality of the content you create (for social networks, as well as for your own website or blog) is crucial!

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Monday, March 5, 2018

Supreme Court decides appropriate standard of review for 'insider' status

The US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] unanimously Monday in US Bank National Association v. Village at Lakeridge[SCOTUSblog materials] that the correct standard of review for determining whether an individual is an "insider" for bankruptcy proceeding purposes is clear error.

The case involves a purchase of a claim against a debtor, Robert Rabkin, who had a romantic relationship with the principal individual of the bankrupt, Kathleen Bartlett, at the time of the transaction. The Bankruptcy Code [text] identifies groups of creditors (e.g. relatives, partners, officers, directors) as "insiders" [definitions] with whom the insolvent bankrupt may partake in transactions that favor those insiders and by extension, disadvantage other, less-favored creditors. Here, the bankruptcy court [materials] determined that the romantic relationship with Bartlett was not enough to make Rabkin an enumerated insider. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] affirmed [opinion, PDF] the bankruptcy court, ruling that the review of the bankruptcy court's definition of "non-statutory insider" is a purely factual question.

The Supreme Court ultimately agreed with the Ninth Circuit's standard of review, finding that this case centered around what kind of "mixed question" of law and fact and the appropriate standard of review for a mixed question "depends on whether answering it entails primarily legal or factual work." The court found that the determination of whether Rabkin was an insider was primarily a factual question, because it depends upon whether the transaction was conducted at arms length.

Justice Elena Kagan wrote:

This [question] is about as factual sounding as any mixed question gets. Such an inquiry primarily belongs in the court that has presided over the presentation of evidence, that has heard all the witnesses, and that has both the closest and deepest understanding of the record-i.e., the bankruptcy court. One can arrive at the same point by asking how much legal work applying the arm's-length test requires. It is precious little-as shown by judicial opinions applying the familiar legal term without further elaboration. Appellate review of the arm's-length issue-even if conduct de novo-will not much clarify legal principles or provide guidance to other courts resolving other disputes. The issue is therefore one that primarily rests with a bankruptcy court, subject only to review for clear error.

The court, however, refused to rule on whether the correct legal standard was chosen to decide if someone is an insider. Rather the court used the Ninth Circuit's two-part test in deciding the correct standard of review.

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