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Facebook Fails to Detect Violent Hate Speeches in Advertisements Submitted by Non-Profit Groups

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The test couldn’t have been much easier — and Facebook still failed. Facebook and its parent company Meta flopped once again in a test of how well they could detect obviously violent hate speech in advertisements submitted to the platform by the nonprofit groups Global Witness and Foxglove.

The hateful messages focused on Ethiopia, where internal documents obtained by whistleblower Frances Haugen showed that Facebook’s ineffective moderation is “literally fanning ethnic violence,” as she said in her 2021 congressional testimony. In March, Global Witness ran a similar test with hate speech in Myanmar, which Facebook also failed to detect.

The group created 12 text-based ads that used dehumanising hate speech to call for the murder of people belonging to each of Ethiopia’s three main ethnic groups — the Amhara, the Oromo and the Tigrayans. Facebook’s systems approved the ads for publication, just as they did with the Myanmar ads. The ads were not actually published on Facebook.

This time around, though, the group informed Meta about the undetected violations. The company said the ads shouldn’t have been approved and pointed to the work it has done to catch hateful content on its platforms.

A week after hearing from Meta, Global Witness submitted two more ads for approval, again with blatant hate speech. The two ads, written in Amharic, the most widely used language in Ethiopia, were approved.

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Meta said the ads shouldn’t have been approved.

“We’ve invested heavily in safety measures in Ethiopia, adding more staff with local expertise and building our capacity to catch hateful and inflammatory content in the most widely spoken languages, including Amharic,” the company said in an emailed statement, adding that machines and people can still make mistakes. The statement was identical to the one Global Witness received.

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“We picked out the worst cases we could think of,” said Rosie Sharpe, a campaigner at Global Witness. “The ones that ought to be the easiest for Facebook to detect. They weren’t coded language. They weren’t dog whistles. They were explicit statements saying that this type of person is not a human or these type of people should be starved to death.”

Meta has consistently refused to say how many content moderators it has in countries where English is not the primary language. This includes moderators in Ethiopia, Myanmar and other regions where material posted on the company’s platforms has been linked to real-world violence.

In November, Meta said it removed a post by Ethiopia’s prime minister that urged citizens to rise up and “bury” rival Tigray forces who threatened the country’s capital.

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In the since-deleted post, Abiy said the “obligation to die for Ethiopia belongs to all of us.” He called on citizens to mobilise “by holding any weapon or capacity.”

Abiy has continued to post on the platform, though, where he has 4.1 million followers. The US and others have warned Ethiopia about “dehumanising rhetoric” after the prime minister described the Tigray forces as “cancer” and “weeds” in comments made in July 2021.

“When ads calling for genocide in Ethiopia repeatedly get through Facebook’s net — even after the issue is flagged with Facebook — there’s only one possible conclusion: there’s nobody home,” said Rosa Curling, director of Foxglove, a London-based legal nonprofit that partnered with Global Witness in its investigation. “Years after the Myanmar genocide, it is clear Facebook hasn’t learned its lesson.”

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Elon Musk Hints at Plans to Increase Character Limit for Tweets in Response to Twitter User

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Twitter could expand its character limit from 280, according to a tweet by new owner Elon Musk. The world’s richest man and Twitter’s new CEO responded to a user on the microblogging platform requesting the higher character limit, stating that it was part of the company’s plan. Twitter is also working on adding encrypted direct messages (DMs), and payment services, according a set of slides recently shared by Musk on Twitter. However, it is currently unclear whether the increased character limit will be the same as the longform tweet feature teased by the company’s CEO.

On Monday, Musk responded to a Twitter user asking him to expand the 280-character limit for on tweets on Twitter to 1,000 characters. Musk responded, stating :It’s on the todo list.”

Twitter, which is referred to as a “microblogging service”, originally had a 140-character limit for tweets, which was expanded to 280 characters in 2017. At the time, the company’s blog stated that “many people Tweeted the full 280 limit because it was new and novel, but soon after behaviour normalised…We saw when people needed to use more than 140 characters, they Tweeted more easily and more often.”

The platform is one of the few services that limits users’ posts to a few hundred characters. Rival Facebook allow users to upload posts with thousands of characters.

Musk has shown interest in the idea of increasing the character limit on a number of occasions since his takeover of the platform, as per a report by Mashable.

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On November 27, a Twitter user suggested to Musk to increase the platform’s word limit from 280 to 420. “Good idea” Musk wrote in response.

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Prior to that, another user had suggested “get rid of character limits,” to which Musk responded: “Absolutely”.

Musk recently announced another major change for the platform with its multi-coloured verification system. A new three-coloured verification check mark system would replace the previous ‘Twitter Blue’ service which had to be pulled off within days of its release due to rising number of accounts impersonating well-known brands and personalities while carrying the ‘verified’ check. The new Twitter Blue verification service will tentatively be relaunched on December 2, according to Musk.


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WhatsApp ‘Message Yourself’ Feature Rolling Out on Android and iOS: Report

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WhatsApp is rolling out its Message Yourself feature to users globally. The app will now let you send a text to yourself, to store messages and files. Many users around the globe rely on WhatsApp chats to jot down quick notes or reminders, or crucial information. Until now, users would use a workaround to message themselves, or use a second WhatsApp account registered to another phone number, or rely on a chat window of a defunct WhatsApp account to store messages. WhatsApp will now let you do it easily via one of its new in-built features called Message Yourself.

According to a report by TechCrunch, the Meta owned messaging app has begun to roll out the ability to message yourself. The ‘Message Yourself’ feature will be similar to sending a text to another user, except that the message will remain in a separate chat on your phone.

Once the feature is rolled out, users will see a separate chat with their name followed by “(You)”. You will be able to jot down notes, shopping lists, keep reminders, store bookmarks. You will also be able to forward messages from other users, just like you can for other chats.

You can tap on the new chat button from the WhatsApp home screen and select your name. Once you tap on it, you will be able to send texts to yourself. If you are in another app, you can also use the sharing menu to send files, images, and other media to yourself.

WhatsApp says that the Message Yourself feature is now rolling out and should reach most Android and iOS users in the coming weeks, as per the report. Users can download the latest version of the app on Android and iOS to use the Message Yourself feature.

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Recently, the messaging app also introduced a new feature that will let iOS and Android users create polls in personal and group chats to get opinions or answers from their friends and contacts. Users’ responses to a poll’s question are protected via end-to-end encryption, according to the company.

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Facebook Fined EUR 265 Million by Irish Data Privacy Regulator After Investigation Into Data Scraping

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Ireland’s data privacy regulator imposed an EUR 265 million (roughly Rs. 2,250 crore) fine on social media giant Facebook on Monday, bringing the total it has fined parent group Meta to almost EUR 1 billion (roughly Rs. 2,250 crore). The penalty resulted from an investigation, started last year, into the discovery of a collated set of personal data that had been scraped from Facebook between May 2018 and September 2019, and made available online. Facebook was also ordered to make a range of corrective measures.

Meta said it had cooperated fully with the investigation by Ireland’s Data Privacy Commissioner (DPC) and made changes to its systems during the time in question, including removing the ability to scrape its features in this way using phone numbers.

Monday’s fine is the fourth the DPC has levied against one of Meta’s companies. It is Meta’s lead privacy regulator within the European Union, and has 13 more inquiries into the social media group outstanding.

In September the watchdog hit its Instagram subsidiary with a record fine of EUR 405 million (roughly Rs. 3,435 crore), which Meta plans to appeal. Meta added in its statement on Monday that it was reviewing the decision related to the latest fine.

The DPC regulates Apple, Google, Twitter, Tiktok and other technology giants due to the location of their EU headquarters in Ireland. It currently has 40 inquiries open into such firms, including the 13 involving Meta.

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The regulator has the power to impose fines of up to 4 percent of a company’s global revenue under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation’s (GDPR) “One Stop Shop” regime introduced in 2018.

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The DPC said mitigating factors in Monday’s decision – which had been approved by all other relevant EU regulators – included the actions Facebook had taken.

“We’ll keep going until the behaviour does change,” Ireland’s Data Privacy Commissioner (DPC) Helen Dixon told Irish national broadcaster RTE on Monday.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


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