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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.

“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.

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.

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.

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.”

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.”

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.”

NDTV Gadgets360.com

NEWS

Health Ministry Teams Up With Twitter to Respond to Queries Around COVID-19

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The Union Health Ministry has teamed up with Twitter to launch a dedicated account to respond to Indian Twitter users’ queries related to COVID-19. The new account COVID India Seve using Twitter’s Twitter Seva platform, “a customised live query redressal service.” People can put their queries forward by tweeting to @CovidIndiaSeva to get a response from the authorities. The account describes itself as “Official @MoHFW_INDIA Handle for COVID-19 Response” and it was created in March. Twitter said that the service will enable the government to interact effectively with the public during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

People in India can tweet to the @CovidIndiaSeva to seek guidance regarding steps to take if COVID-19 symptoms occur, know more about access to healthcare services, measures implemented by the government, among many other topics. According to Twitter, people will get answers to only broader questions, meaning personal queries won’t be dealt with through the new service.

Tweeting about the launch, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan wrote, “Experts will share authoritative public health information reg #COVIDー19 swiftly at scale, helping to build a direct channel for communication with citizens. Post your queries!”

@CovidIndiaSeva has been responding to the questions from Twitter users. NDTV journalist Akhilesh Sharma asked, ”Crucial question in everyone’s mind is that whether we are testing enough? What about rapid antibody based blood tests esp for COVID inflicted areas?”

Answering the question, @CovidIndiaSeva replied, “At present, 204 government labs and 86 NABL accredited private laboratory chains are involved in testing. The no. of collection centers have also been enhanced to 16,000 centers across India. We have already tested 4,05,320 people.” It went on to add, “Government of India has issued advisory to start rapid antibody based blood test for COVID-19 for areas reporting clusters (containment zone) and in large migration gatherings/evacuees centers.”

Twitter India has also been working with various state governments in the country to make the COVID-19 response management better. “It has also supported and enabled the Govt of Karnataka, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh to set-up dedicated COVID-Response accounts. Govt. of Karnataka, Maharashtra,” it said in a statement.

NDTV Gadgets360.com

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Twitter Is Down for Some Users – You Are Not Alone

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Twitter is down for many users across the globe. Reports are pouring from India, parts of Europe, Japan, as well as parts of the United States. We at Gadgets 360 are also facing issues when trying to access the micro-blogging platform, with some team members unable to the load the homepage, while others are unable to see their timelines or tweet. Twitter’s own support handle has yet to highlight the issue, though reports continue to flood in.

As seen on Down Detector, there have been hundreds of reports from across the globe, with most reports coming on for the Twitter website, with users of the Android app also reporting issues.

The Twitter status page says all systems are operational, as of a few seconds ago. As we mentioned, users are facing different problems, with some Gadgets 360 team members not affected at all, and others unable to tweet or load their timelines. The issue may be transient. To recall, the social network experienced a major outage earlier this month.

Are you facing issues with Twitter? Let us know in the comments below.

AUTHOR
Abhinav Lal You’ll most likely find Abhinav editing news stories, humouring his possibly unhealthy interest in playing Dota 2, and defending where his beliefs lie in the meritocracy vs. democracy debate. A science fiction and fantasy reader, he is sufficiently starry-eyed to look forward to a utopian future.

NDTV Gadgets360.com

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Twitter Said to Be Planning Bitcoin Payments as Tips on Its Platform

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Twitter is considering a feature that would allow users to tip one another – in Bitcoins though.

The Information reports that the micro-blogging platform is working on implementing a new payment feature to let people send money to each other.

It is not yet clear whether the Twitter tipping feature would integrate with Jack Dorsey’s other company, Square, which is a financial services, merchant services aggregator, and mobile payment company based in San Francisco.

Dorsey has made absolutely no secret of his love of Bitcoin over the years.

NewsBTC has reported on the Twitter CEO opining that Bitcoin will one day be the currency of the internet and his company Square integrating cryptocurrency payments.

“Dorsey has been a major investor in the Bitcoin micropayments solution Lightning Network,” said the report.

Dorsey will move to Africa for three-six months this year to “define the future”.

“Sad to be leaving the continent for now. Africa will define the future (especially the bitcoin one!). Not sure where yet, but I’ll be living here for 3-6 months mid-2020. Grateful I was able to experience a small part,” said the Twitter CEO.

Dorsey has also hired Bitcoin developers for his payments company.

He is an advocate of digital currency bitcoin but he also says it is “not functional as a currency”.

NDTV Gadgets360.com

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