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Facebook says it removed more than 1.3 billion fake accounts in the months surrounding the 2020 …

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  • Facebook says it removed more than 1.3 billion fake accounts in the last three months of 2020.
  • This period included heightened activity about the 2020 election.
  • Facebook’s CEO is set to testify about the platform’s role leading up to the Capitol siege.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Facebook removed more than 1.3 billion fake accounts from its platform in the last three months of 2020, the company said on Monday. That period included heightened activity around the 2020 election when misinformation about the election results and the coronavirus pandemic dominated major social platforms. 

Facebook vice president Guy Rosen shared the numbers in an opinion post for Morning Consult, later republished as a blog post on Facebook’s corporate website. In the post, Rosen revealed that Facebook had taken down more than 12 million pieces of content about COVID-19 and vaccines since the pandemic started more than a year ago.

Facebook also has more than 35,000 people working on stopping the spread of misinformation and fake news, he said.

The company released this information a few days before House lawmakers are expected to grill Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at a committee hearing. The hearing is intended to address misinformation on social media, particularly the spread of false information related to COVID-19 and the US presidential election this past year. Many critics accuse Facebook of being a driving force behind the growth of dangerous conspiracy theories like QAnon.

Although platforms like Facebook and Twitter have had to face off with the spread of “fake news” since their inception, the spread of the deadly COVID-19 virus since late 2019 has triggered a particularly massive spike in online misinformation with potentially dangerous consequences. Posts on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube in 2020 have made false claims about COVID-19’s origins and spread; shared baseless conspiracy theories about the pandemic being a hoax and COVID-19 vaccines getting funded by Bill Gates; and made profits off selling faulty COVID-19 tests and treatments.

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Further, the pandemic and the lead-up to the 2020 US presidential election compounded to create an atmosphere where online misinformation broke out visibly and dangerously in real life. Protesters railing against states’ lockdown measures in April primarily organized on Facebook Groups. Trump and his supporters used social media to spread false claims that the election was stolen and to cast doubt on Joe Biden’s victory. These hoaxes culminated in a deadly riot at the US Capitol on January 6.

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Questions around Facebook’s involvement in the riots is expected to dominate Thursday’s proceedings.

In a public appearance immediately after the Capitol siege, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg said the events at the Capitol “were largely organized” on other platforms. However, internal documents, obtained by The Wall Street Journal, have since revealed that Facebook executives were told five months before the US Capitol riot that the platform had a problem with hate speech and calls for violence. According to the Journal, the documents showed that “70% of the top 100 most active US Civic Groups are considered non-recommendable for issues such as hate, misinfo, bullying and harassment.”

Since the riots, Facebook has said it would no longer recommend civic groups to users — an action the company also took leading up to the November election but loosened once results finalized. Facebook also suspended Trump’s Facebook account “indefinitely,” but with a caveat that he may return to the platform sometime in the future.

Thursday’s hearing — where Zuckerberg will testify alongside Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Google CEO Sundar Pichai — will be the first time that tech CEOs have appeared in front of US lawmakers since the Capitol siege.

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Facebook has made a concerted effort to beef up its misinformation-fighting initiatives since the 2016 presidential election. Zuckerberg has since admitted the company didn’t do enough to prevent the spread of fake news and hate speech ahead of the election four years ago.

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Facebook-Meta Earns the ‘Worst Company of 2021’ Title in This Survey

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Facebook has had its share of controversies this year. The company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents.

Facebook parent Meta has been named the Worst Company of the Year (2021) by Yahoo Finance respondents. According to the publication, an “open-ended” survey was published on Yahoo Finance on December 4 and 5, where 1,541 respondents participated. Facebook received 8 percent of the write-in vote, but respondents were seemingly mad about the Robinhood trading app as well. Electric truck startup Nikola, which was named last year’s worst company by the same publication also faced respondents ire.

Yahoo Finance notes, “Facebook has had its share of controversies this year.” Starting in January, Meta-owned WhatsApp got caught up in a huge controversy after the messaging app announced a new privacy policy (Terms of Service). WhatsApp said it would collect user information and share it with third-party apps for a better user experience. However, the app gave users no choice but later made modifications to the policy under pressure. Similarly, the company was under more scrutiny after whistleblower and former Facebook employee Frances Haugen leaked a series of internal documents showing the company’s problematic practices. It was revealed that Meta-owned Instagram had a negative impact on teenage girls, but the company did almost nothing to rectify the problem.

Yahoo Finance even highlights, “At the same time, some critics, including conservatives, say Facebook over-policed the platform’s speech and stifled their voices.” Critics also blame Facebook and other social media platforms for not curbing hate speech that led to Capitol Building riots.

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However, around 30 percent of Yahoo Finance readers said that Facebook or Meta could redeem itself. One respondent suggested that the company could issue a formal apology for negligence and donate a sizable amount of its profits to a foundation to help reverse its harm.

On the other hand, respondents chose Microsoft as the Company of the Year (2021). The Satya Nadella-led company touched the trillion-mark this year and introduced notable upgrades. The most notable is the Windows 11 OS update that succeeds Windows 10.

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Facebook pays 1.7 Cr fine to Russia after failing to delete content Moscow deems illegal

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In the latest legal tussle with Russia over controversial social media regulation laws, Facebook paid 17 million roubles (Rs 1.7 Crore) for failing to remove content deemed illegal by Moscow. With a threat of potential larger fines looming, Facebook parent company Meta, owned by Mark Zuckerberg, is scheduled to face court next week over repeated violations of Russian legislation on content, Interfax News Agency reported. As per the latest updates, the social media giant could be fined a percentage of its annual revenue.

In October, Moscow sent state bailiffs to enforce the collection of 17 million roubles. Meanwhile, as per Interfax report citing a federal bailiffs’ database, on Sunday, there were more enforcement proceedings against the company. Apart from the popular social media app, Telegram has also paid 15 million roubles in fines for failing to comply with the Russian social media legislations that came into force in 2016.

Facebook pays $53k to Russia for refusing controversial social media laws

It is pertinent to mention that Facebook has locked horns with Moscow earlier in November, resulting in it paying 4 million roubles ($53,000) over its refusal to adhere to Russian data localisation laws, the Moscow Times reported. The Moscow court on November 25 had said that Facebook paid the fine levied in February, following which all proceedings against the US-based social media giant. The payment comes against the litigation filed against the company in 2018, alongside Twitter. The tech companies were also forced to pay an additional 3000 rubles ($40) for failing to comply with user data sharing rules as per the law. The Russian authorities have also previously blocked LinkedIn, owned by Microsoft, for failing to abide by the laws.

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Russian social media laws

As per Moscow Times, under the Russian social media regulation laws, all foreign technology companies are required to store data related to Russian customers and users on servers located in Russia. Additionally, the Russian tech companies will also have to share encryption data with the federal authorities as well as record user calls, messages and civil society group conversation records. The apparatus is said to be a severe breach of privacy rights and unfettered back-door access to personal data that could be used to harass Kremlin critics.

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

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Facebook Messenger Is Launching a Split Payments Feature for Users to Quickly Share Expenses

Meta has announced the arrival of a new Split Payments feature in Facebook Messenger. This feature, as the name suggests, will let you calculate and split expenses with others right from Facebook Messenger. This feature essentially looks to bring an easier method to share the cost of bills and expenses — for example, splitting a dinner bill with friends. Using this new Split Payment feature, Facebook Messenger users will be able to split bills evenly or modify the contribution for each individual, including their own.

The company took to its blog post to announce the new Split Payment feature in Facebook Messenger. 9to5Mac reports that this new bill splitting feature is still in beta and will be exclusive to US users at first. The rollout will begin early next week. As mentioned, it will help users share the cost of bills, expenses, and payments. This feature is especially useful for those who share an apartment and need to split the monthly rent and other expenses with their mates. It could also come handy at a group dinner with many people.

With Split Payments, users can add the number of people the expense needs to be divided with and, by default, the amount entered will be divided in equal parts. A user can also modify each person’s contribution including their own. To use Split Payments, click the Get Started button in a group chat or the Payments Hub in Messenger. Users can modify the contribution in the Split Payments option and send a notification to all the users who need to make payments. After entering a personalised message and confirming your Facebook Pay details, the request will be sent and viewable in the group chat thread.

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Once someone has made the payment, you can mark their transaction as ‘completed’. The Split Payment feature will automatically take into account your share as well and calculate the amount owed accordingly.


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Tasneem Akolawala is a Senior Reporter for Gadgets 360. Her reporting expertise encompasses smartphones, wearables, apps, social media, and the overall tech industry. She reports out of Mumbai, and also writes about the ups and downs in the Indian telecom sector. Tasneem can be reached on Twitter at @MuteRiot, and leads, tips, and releases can be sent to tasneema@ndtv.com.

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