News & Insights

Digital Dive: TikTok’s Future, Meta’s AI Assistant, and Forbes’ MFA Site Drama

By Alyssa Carino

The Digital Dive - Digital Intelligence Newsletter.

The Big Story

TikTok’s Uphill Battle on Capitol Hill Continues

As promised if passed by the Senate, President Biden just signed the bill that could potentially ban Chinese-owned TikTok in the U.S. within a year, setting the stage for a significant showdown in America’s tech landscape. The law mandates ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, to divest its stake in the app or face shutdown. This move is the latest escalation in the ongoing tech war between the U.S. and China, fueled by concerns over national security and data privacy.

Bill supporters like the Chair of the Senate Commerce Committee, Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell, stated “Congress is not acting to punish ByteDance, TikTok or any other individual company. Congress is acting to prevent foreign adversaries from conducting espionage, surveillance, maligned operations, harming vulnerable Americans, our servicemen and women, and our U.S. government personnel.”

While the law doesn’t immediately impact TikTok, it will likely initiate an interesting legal battle as critics argue that such legislation encroaches on free speech while also setting a concerning precedent for government intervention in social media platforms. Minutes following the President’s signing, TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew posted a video response telling viewers “Rest assured, we aren’t going anywhere.” Chew continued, “Make no mistake, this is a ban, a ban on TikTok and a ban on you and your voice… Politicians may say otherwise. But don’t get confused.” Chew and TikTok have already vowed to take the Biden administration to court.

Selling TikTok may be easier said than done as potential buyers must navigate approval from the Chinese government, which has resisted forced sales. ByteDance’s ownership of TikTok’s algorithm further complicates matters, as Chinese export-control regulations dictate how the technology is sold, if ever.

As TikTok prepares to contest the law in court and explore potential buyers, the outcome of this battle will have far-reaching implications for the future of social media regulation, national security, and global tech competition. It represents a pivotal moment in the evolving relationship between technology, governance, and geopolitics, with TikTok at the center of the storm.

Social Updates

Meta’s AI Assistant

If you haven’t already noticed in your Instagram or Facebook apps, Meta has added their AI assistant across some of their product suite, including WhatsApp and Messenger. Recently, Meta upgraded its AI assistant, powered by the Llama 3 model, to incorporate real-time search results from both Google and Bing. This advancement enables users to seamlessly access search within Meta’s product suite. Instead of relying solely on one search engine, Meta’s AI assistant intelligently selects and displays results from either Google or Bing, providing users with a more comprehensive range of information. This integration not only enhances user experience, but also has implications for SEO strategies as publishers may need to adapt to optimize for both traditional search engines and AI assistants. Meta’s latest move further underscores the evolving landscape of the search industry as companies strive for dominance in the AI chatbot market.

Reddit Rolls Out Dynamic Product Ads

In wake of Reddit’s recent IPO, they have begun rolling out new ad features like their Dynamic Product Ads, now available in public beta. This new addition to the Reddit shopping suite aims to connect users with products that they are interested in by leveraging machine learning and advertiser product catalogs. Dynamic Product Ads promise instant campaign creation, two new targeting options (retargeting and prospecting), and support across the purchase journey. Reddit is reporting strong numbers from their initial Q1 testing, claiming a 1.9x greater Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) compared to conversion objective campaigns.

Digital Updates

Google Delays Phasing Out Cookies… For the Third Time

Can we say we’re surprised? What was initially set for 2022 is now being pushed out to 2025 as Google emphasized its ongoing collaboration with the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and other organizations. The company stated, “We recognize that there are ongoing challenges related to reconciling divergent feedback from the industry, regulators and developers, and will continue to engage closely with the entire ecosystem.” The UK’s CMA, the antitrust regulator reviewing the Chrome Privacy Sandbox, addressed concerns over the viability and potentially anti-competitive nature of Google’s Privacy Sandbox. To ensure a proper review, the CMA now has until the end of June to review all evidence and results from industry tests in order to determine a clear path forward.

California Battles Big Tech and Google Fights Back

Faced with dwindling ad revenue, staff layoffs and newspaper closures over the years, news outlets have been turning to the government to enact new regulations that require tech companies to share profits that they make from journalism organizations. In response, California politicians are pushing forth a bill that would force Google and Meta to pay news publishers every time an article is displayed in search results or on social media. Reportedly, over 350 news publishers including the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle signed a letter supporting the bill this month. To further stir the pot, Google responded by completely blocking news links for California-based news organizations from an unidentified amount of California users, calling the move a “short-term test.” Google and other tech companies are rallying together to combat this bill, claiming that it would enact a “link tax” and upend the free flow of information online.

Forbes MFA Drama

Adalytics does it again, this time exposing Forbes for operating an alternate version of its website, where ads intended for were packed into slideshows and listicle-style articles, otherwise known as a Made for Advertising site (MFA). This alternate site,, was promoted through content recommendation companies like Taboola and Outbrain, leading media buyers to pay for placements that they believed were on Outraged media buyers argue that the ads on the alternate site weren’t worth what they paid for because they reached a different audience and appeared on overcrowded pages. Chief Executive of ad-research firm DeepSee, Rocky Moss, put this into perspective by saying “Imagine if a car dealership slapped a Lexus sticker on an economy Toyota and sold it to you as a Lexus.” According to Forbes, the ad-tech company is responsible for this mishap and claimed that it only affected a small share of ad impressions. However, ad-research firms found the practice to date back to at least 2017 affecting big name brands like McDonald’s and Disney. This is the latest incident in the advertising space prompting the need for more transparency and accountability.

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