Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Ontario's Liquor Control Board will use Shopify platform for marijuana sales

The Ontario government will use Shopify's e-commerce platform for cannabis sales online and also in stores. The province intends to be the only distributor of legal recreational cannabis.

Online and mobile sales will be through the Ontario Cannabis Retail Corporation (OCRC) a subsidiary of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO).
George Soleas, the CEO of the LCBO said: “Our top priority is fulfilling the province’s framework for the safe and sensible retailing of recreational cannabis for when it is legalized by the federal government.”
READ MORE: Blockchain for Canadian cannabis industry
Shopify technology will be used not only online but also to process payments on iPads and to display product and health information in brick and mortar locations.
Another big win for Shopify
Shopify was chosen to provide the sales platform for cannabis sales back in late 2017. The announcement comes as another feather in the cap for Shopify, which has had many things to celebrate in recent years. The company claims that it has more than 500,000 merchants using its program and the total gross merchandise volume the platform handles is more than $45 billion per year.
Loren Padelford vice-president of Shopify Plus, the division the focuses on big clients, said: “Bringing this differentiator to the LCBO on this historic project to consumers of legal age across Ontario is a great example of a made-in-Canada innovation, which we are proud to be a part of,” said Loren Padelford, vice-president of Shopify Plus, the division that focuses on big clients.
Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO)
The LCBO has a quasi-monopoly of liquor sales in Ontario, Canada's most populous province having over 13 million people or about 40 percent of the country's total population. As a result LCBO is one the largest purchasers of alcohol in the world.
As of September last year the LCBO was operating 651 liquor stores.
The cannabis subsidiary OCRC said that Ontarians will have the same access to product information, use guidelines and social responsibility information online and in stores.
OCRC planning to have system ready for July of 2018
The OCRC is in the process of designing the user experience, in the hope of having operations ready for the launch of legalization of cannabis sales in July this year. As well as the online sales the OCRC plans to have 40 stores. This is expected to grow to 150 by the end of the year 2020. Unlike some other provinces such as Alberta and British Columbia sales will only be through the government online or in stores with no private sales.
Legalization bill has already passed the House of Commons
The bill was passed largely along party lines but gained the support of the opposition NDP and also the Green Party. The final vote was 200 MPs in favor as contrasted with just 82 against. One Conservative opposition member, Scott Reid, voted for the bill after polling his constituents and found a plurality favored the bill.
The bill now goes to the Senate for further study and debate.
While the Liberal government expects the bill to be approved before July it recognizes that it may take some provinces 8 to 12 weeks to roll out a system that will allow consumers to purchase legal recreational cannabis.

Previously published in Digital Journal

Thursday, February 15, 2018

PM Trudeau demands that Facebook address its "fake news" problem

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned social networking behemoth Facebook the that it must address its "fake news" problem or it would face stronger regulation by the Canadian government.

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Trudeau's meeting with Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg
Back in November Trudeau had told Sheryl Sandberg chief operating officer of Facebook that he was concerned that the company was not doing enough to address the problem of misleading information on Facebook.
Trudeau is said to have made the comments during a meeting with Sandberg at the Asia-Pacific Economic Forum in Vietnam last November. The source said that the conversation was constructive. Trudeau was particularly concerned about identifying the origin of partisan "news", posts or ads.
Neither the PM's office nor Facebook would discuss the specifics of the meeting. However, Kevin Chan Facebook's policy chief in Canada said in a statement to the Star newspaper: “We stand with the lawmakers around the world, including in Canada, in their efforts to protect the democractic process.”
Facebook has been under increasing pressure for allowing false information to masquerade as legitimate journalism. Russia has been accused of using ads on Facebook to influence the recent U.S. election that saw Donald Trump win over Hillary Clinton.
Facebook has also faced criticism for lack of transparency as to who is buying ads appearing on it.
The Trudeau government and social media
Trudeau appears to be concerned that there will be material on Facebook designed to influence the upcoming 2019 Federal election.
The federal government, including Trudeau and his cabinet ministers, issue constant Twitter posts, Instagram statements, and announcements on Facebook. At the same time, the government worries about the use of these platforms by opponents and foreign countries to influence Canadian elections using social media.
CSIS concerns
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) that deals with cybersecurity and espionage has warned that it is quite likely that outside groups will attempt to influence the elections.
CSIS even held a workshop for researchers that talked about the possible responses to "information warfare" and disinformation in the fall of 2017. Elections Canada has already taken steps to ensure cybersecurity. Global Affairs has also been taking an interest in the fake news phenomena.
Katrina Gould, Democratic Institutions Minister claimed that social media have plenty of work to do to address the problems of “cybersecurity, hate speech, and the dissemination of misinformation.” Gould said: “We encourage all social media platforms to think critically about their current practices and how they can create spaces for informed public dialogue.”
Facebook's response
Facebook points out that it already employs 10,000 people working on "safety and security" globally and plans to increase the number to 20,000.
The company also launched a "Canadian Election Integrity" initiative late in 2017. It provides a guide to MPs, candidates and parties to prevent "mischief" on line and gives a direct link to Facebook's security team. The company claims it is also providing more transparency as to who buys ads and who they are targeting.
Facebook's head of global policy management, Monika Bickert told the Canadian House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee that it had deleted thousands of fake accounts in the run-up to 2017 elections in the UK, France, and Germany. Many politicians have little faith that tech and social media companies will address the issues themselves.
Rise of tech media giants creates economic and other issues
Carolyn Wilkins, senior deputy governor of the Bank of Canada said that the rise of giant social media companies has resulted in a relentless appetite for users' data. This raises questions about privacy of the data, security and also intellectual property.
Wilkins said: “If user data are an important source of monopoly rents in the digital age, how should we regulate who owns the data and how they're shared?. We're going to need to judge wisely when it’s best to use public policy tools to manage the risks and when it's best to let private enterprise work its magic.”
The problem of "fake news" Facebook versus Twitter
There are many views of what constitutes fake news. President Trump appears to consider any report fake news if it is critical of him and his administration and he rejects it as not true. Wikipedia describes fake news as follows:Fake news is a type of yellow journalism or propaganda that consists of deliberate misinformation or hoaxes spread via traditional print and broadcast news media or online social media.[1] Fake news is written and published with the intent to mislead in order to damage an agency, entity, or person, and/or gain financially or politically,[2][3][4] often using sensationalist, dishonest, or outright fabricated headlines to increase readership, online sharing, and Internet click revenue. In the latter case, it is similar to sensational online "clickbait" headlines and relies on advertising revenue generated from this activity, regardless of the veracity of the published stories.[2] In
However, what some might consider fake news others might consider basically true if somewhat biased. In propaganda there may be many true statements. Russian ads meant to divide Americans often contain true but perhaps exaggerated accounts of race relations in the US. To expect social media companies to filter out fake news will just increase the power of the powerful to the detriment of free speech and repression of viewpoints that don't fit in with the mainstream views.
Facebook takes the view it has the responsibility to intervene to block fake news. In contrast Twitter has decided that it will not be an arbiter of what is true or of fake news.
The Facebook view
As noted earlier, Facebook already has thousands filtering out fake news from Facebook.
It has also announced a plan to crowdsource credibility ratings for news outlets. It has assembled a team of fact checkers in Italy just ahead of parliamentary elections there next month. Before the French presidential election last year in France, Facebook took out full page newspapers ads that featured tips on identifying fake news.
The Twitter view
Nick Pickles head of Twitter's public policy for the UK said in testimony in Washington said: We are not the arbiters of truth. We are not going to remove content based on the fact this is untrue. The one strength that Twitter has is it's a hive of journalists, of citizens, of activists correcting the record, correcting information.”
Pickles was among executives from Twitter, Facebook, and Google who fielded questions about fake news at George Washington University. The UK held its first ever public hearing outside the UK.
Pickles also said: "I don't think technology companies should be deciding during an election what is true and what is not true, which is what you're asking us to do. I think that's a very important principle.”
Accounts can still be cut off at Twitter if they violate terms of use. Trump seems to stay on even though many argue he constantly violates the terms of use.
Greater transparency as to who places ads and who is targeted seems to me a laudable goal and would help the reader assess the likely veracity of a post.


Previously published in Digital Journal