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Phony ‘Fact Check’ Account on Twitter Raises New Concerns

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The deception was easy to pull off and came with barely any consequences.

Britain’s Conservative Party changed the name of its press office’s Twitter account to “factcheckUK” during a televised election debate between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn this week.

The renaming made the account look like a neutral fact-checker, raising new concerns about all the creative ways groups and individuals can use social media to deceive voters.

The party hardly even got a slap on the wrist, as Twitter pledged to take “decisive corrective action” only if the Conservatives try to mislead people again.

The incident occurred after years of promises, new rules and millions of dollars spent by social media companies to prevent election interference following Russia’s meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

It shows that whatever steps tech companies have taken, users will continue to look for ways to exploit loopholes, unevenly enforced or nonexistent policies and companies’ fears of appearing partisan in their crackdowns.

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“This is dirty tricks and should be dealt with mercilessly,” said Michael Pachter, an analyst with Wedbush Securities who covers social media. “It shows how difficult it is for social media to police tricks like these.”

In one tweet, the Conservative Party account posted a short video with the words “factcheckUK verdict,” declaring Johnson the winner of the debate. The renamed account still carried the blue checkmark reserved for “verified” Twitter users.

It’s not clear if large swaths of people were misled by the fake fact-checking account. Plenty of Twitter users called out the deception while it was happening.

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The Conservative Party changed only the name that appeared at the top of the account, not the actual username that comes after the “at” symbol. Anyone who took a closer look could still see who the tweets were coming from.

Twitter declined to answer questions Wednesday on whether it is rethinking its policies to prevent similar incidents and why it didn’t suspend the offending account.

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Twitter users can easily change their account names. This is popular around Halloween, when people temporarily adopt spooky monikers. While impersonation is technically against Twitter’s policies, the rules don’t apply to parody accounts.

There is no specific rule on Twitter against calling yourself a fact-checker, even if you’re peddling anything but facts.

As for Twitter’s bigger rival Facebook, it is unclear if there’s anything to stop a verified group from changing its name on the social network to something like TheTruthUK or FactCheckUSA.

While Facebook bars impersonating the official account of a brand or a public figure, its rules are silent on names that merely describe the account’s intent.

Some journalists fear that sites that co-opt the phrase “fact check” to make political points could cause the term to lose its meaning.

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British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab defended the party’s actions, saying the Twitter account was clearly linked to the Conservatives and asserting that voters would not be perturbed by “the social media cut and thrust.”

“We make no apology for having an instant rebuttal to all the nonsense and lies put out,” Raab told the BBC.

Twitter, long known for its freewheeling and public nature, has said in the past that it cares “deeply” about misinformation and its “potentially harmful effect on the civic and political discourse that is core to our mission.”

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But it does not offer third-party fact checks like Facebook. Nor does it ban misinformation save for a few specific cases, such as instances in which people are being told the wrong time or place to vote.

Twitter cannot check every single tweet for accuracy. Instead, the company said in a 2017 blog post, its “open and real-time nature is a powerful antidote to the spreading of all types of false information.”

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Even so, the company recently banned all political ads, calling it an important step in reducing the flow of election-related misinformation. But the policy does not apply to the myriad other ways misinformation can be spread.

Tim Bajarin, president of consultancy Creative Strategies, said that while the misleading name change happened in Britain, both major parties in the U.S. will probably “go to school on how this works and how Twitter responds to this.”

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TWITTER

Elon Musk Says He’ll Pay $11 Billion in Taxes in 2021 But Twitter Wants ‘Proof’

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Elon Musk took to Twitter to clarify once and for all that he will be paying a whopping $11 billion as taxes this year.

If the number of times Elon Musk could count when someone has asked him to pay the full taxes, he would be a very rich..wait, never mind. The Tesla boss is rich beyond any private individual has been in history, reports said.

Musk has increasingly been facing criticism from many politicians and many others who insist he has not been paying taxes as compared to the profits his companies have been making. On Sunday, the SpaceX CEO took to Twitter to share that he will be paying a whopping $11 billion as taxes.

For those wondering, I will pay over $11 billion in taxes this year— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 20, 2021

But some of the questions did not stop. One person tweeted how they needed to see Musk’s tax returns while yet another asked how much percentage was that of his total income.

A few were, however scathing of the government who thought they will add that amount to their pockets rather than using it for some proper development.

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Wow that’s enough to give each person in the world almost $2 million but instead the government will just stick it in their pockets— greg (@greg16676935420) December 20, 2021

Why not $200 billion? Asking for a Senator— litquidity (@litcapital) December 20, 2021

Earlier this week, Democratic US Senator Elizabeth Warren has tweeted to say that Musk should pay taxes and stop “freeloading off everyone else” after Time magazine named him its “person of the year”.

In response, Musk shot four tweets in which he said that the senator reminded him of a friend’s angry mom who yelled at everybody. He tweeted, ““And if you opened your eyes for 2 seconds, you would realize I will pay more taxes than any American in history this year.” “Don’t spend it all at once … oh wait you did already.”

He added further, “You remind me of when I was a kid and my friend’s angry Mom would just randomly yell at everyone for no reason.”

Musk responded by saying that he “will pay more taxes than any American in history this year”. This Twitter exchange left netizens divided as even though many supported Warren and agreed that Musk should pay more taxes, others felt that he was already doing enough.

Musk’s Tesla is worth about $1 trillion. Over the last few weeks, he has sold nearly $14 billion worth of Tesla shares.

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The Tesla boss has been pushing for his colonize Mars agenda for years now, and has made it very clear in some occasions that he would rather spend the money on putting humanity on the red planet, than pay his taxes. “My plan,” the SpaceX founder tweeted about his fortune, “is to use the money to get humanity to Mars and preserve the light of consciousness.”

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Twitter Admits Policy ‘Errors’ After Far-Right Abuse Its New Rules of Posting Pictures

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Twitter’s new picture permission policy was aimed at combating online abuse, but US activists and researchers said Friday that far-right backers have employed it to protect themselves from scrutiny and to harass opponents.

Even the social network admitted the rollout of the rules, which say anyone can ask Twitter to take down images of themselves posted without their consent, was marred by malicious reports and its teams’ own errors.

It was just the kind of trouble anti-racism advocates worried was coming after the policy was announced this week.

Their concerns were quickly validated, with anti-extremism researcher Kristofer Goldsmith tweeting a screenshot of a far-right call-to-action circulating on Telegram: “Due to the new privacy policy at Twitter, things now unexpectedly work more in our favor.”

“Anyone with a Twitter account should be reporting doxxing posts from the following accounts,” the message said, with a list of dozens of Twitter handles.

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Gwen Snyder, an organizer and researcher in Philadelphia, said her account was blocked this week after a report to Twitter about a series of 2019 photos she said showed a local political candidate at a march organized by extreme-right group Proud Boys.

Rather than go through an appeal with Twitter she opted to delete the images and alert others to what was happening.

“Twitter moving to eliminate (my) work from their platform is incredibly dangerous and is going to enable and embolden fascists,” she told AFP.

In announcing the privacy policy on Tuesday, Twitter noted that “sharing personal media, such as images or videos, can potentially violate a person’s privacy, and may lead to emotional or physical harm.”

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But the rules don’t apply to “public figures or individuals when media and accompanying Tweets are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.”

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By Friday, Twitter noted the roll out had been rough: “We became aware of a significant amount of coordinated and malicious reports, and unfortunately, our enforcement teams made several errors.”

“We’ve corrected those errors and are undergoing an internal review to make certain that this policy is used as intended,” the firm added.

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Jack Dorsey Post Twitter Is Chasing His Crypto, Fintech Dream

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At a packed Miami conference in June, Jack Dorsey, mused in front of thousands of attendees about where his real passion lay: “If I weren’t at Square or Twitter, I’d be working on Bitcoin.”

On Monday, Dorsey made good on one part of that, announcing he would leave Twitter for the second time, handing the CEO position to a 10-year veteran at the firm. The 45-year-old entrepreneur, who is often described as an enigma with varied interests from meditation to yoga to fashion design, plans to pursue his passion which include focusing on running Square and doing more philanthropic work, according to a source familiar with his plan.

Well before the surprise news, Dorsey had laid the groundwork for his next chapter, seeding both companies with cryptocurrency-related projects.

Underlying Dorsey’s broader vision is the principle of “decentralisation,” or the idea that technology and finance should not be concentrated among a handful of gatekeepers, as it is now, but should, instead, be steered by the hands of the many, either people or entities.

The concept has played out at Square, which has built a division devoted to working on projects and awarding grants with the aim of growing Bitcoin’s popularity globally. Bitcoin price in India stood at Rs. 44.52 lakh as of 12:50pm IST on December 1.

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Dorsey has been a longtime proponent of Bitcoin, and the appeal is that the cryptocurrency will allow for private and secure transactions with the value of Bitcoin unrelated to any government.

The idea has also underpinned new projects at Twitter, where Dorsey tapped a top lieutenant – and now the company’s new CEO Parag Agrawal – to oversee a team that is attempting to construct a decentralised social media protocol, which will allow different social platforms to connect with one another, similar to the way email providers operate.

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The project called Bluesky will aim to allow users control over the types of content they see online, removing the “burden” on companies like Twitter to enforce a global policy to fight abuse or misleading information, Dorsey said in 2019 when he announced Bluesky.

Bitcoin has also figured prominently at both of his companies. Square became one of the first public companies to own Bitcoin assets on its balance sheet, having invested $220 million (roughly Rs. 1,650 crore) in the cryptocurrency.

In August, Square created a new business unit called TBD to focus on Bitcoin. The company is also planning to build a hardware wallet for Bitcoin, a Bitcoin mining system, as well as a decentralised Bitcoin exchange.

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Twitter allows users to tip their favourite content creators with Bitcoin and has been testing integrations with non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a type of digital asset that allows people to collect unique digital art.

Analysts see the transition as a positive signal for Square, the fintech platform he co-founded in 2009. Square’s core Cash App, after a bull run in its share in 2020, has experienced slower growth in the most recent quarter. It is also trying to digest the $29 billion (roughly Rs. 2,17,240 crore) acquisition of Buy Now Pay Later provider Afterpay, its largest acquisition ever.

But these ambitions will not pay off until years from now, analysts cautioned.

“The blockchain platform they’re trying to develop is great but also fraught with technical challenges and difficult to scale for consumers. I think he’ll focus more on Square and crypto will be part of that,” said Christopher Brendler, an analyst at DA Davidson.

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© Thomson Reuters 2021

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Interested in cryptocurrency? We discuss all things crypto with WazirX CEO Nischal Shetty and WeekendInvesting founder Alok Jain on Orbital, the Gadgets 360 podcast. Orbital is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

Cryptocurrency is an unregulated digital currency, not a legal tender and subject to market risks. The information provided in the article is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, trading advice or any other advice or recommendation of any sort offered or endorsed by NDTV. NDTV shall not be responsible for any loss arising from any investment based on any perceived recommendation, forecast or any other information contained in the article.

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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