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54 Percent in India Turn to Social Media for Factual Info, Says OUP Study

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As many as 54 percent of people in India turn to social media when looking for factual information, according to a global study by Oxford University Press (OUP).

The research-led campaign ‘The Matter of Fact’ looked at the level of understanding of how truths are identified and sources validated.

Despite concerns around misinformation and false claims, social media users around the world continue to believe that the information they read and share on platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook is factually correct, with levels of trust highest in emerging economies, the study said.

The findings show that when looking for factual information, 37 percent turn to social media, rising to 43 percent of Mexicans and South Africans and 54 percent of Indians. Britons were less likely to look for facts using social media, with only 16 percent describing it as a preferred source, compared to nearly three in 10 (29 percent) Americans.

Overall, most of us rely heavily on Google and other search engines for information, with two-thirds (67 percent) worldwide and 62 percent in the UK finding facts this way. Three-quarters of people are confident information they share from social media is accurate.

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In India, as many as 87 percent of people who share information from social media are confident in its truthfulness, slightly above the global average of three quarters, it said.

The study takes a broad look at how people across the world seek out information and judge its accuracy, drawing on a pool of evidence bolstered by survey data collected from 5,000 people across the UK, the US, South Africa, India, and Mexico.

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It found that more than half (52 percent) said that when it came to distinguishing fact from fiction, sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram play an important role.

At the same time, reliance on books and more traditional means of gathering accurate information has declined. For example, less than a third cited non-fiction books and encyclopedias as sources when seeking facts.

There were geographical differences in the level of trust people put in social media, with almost 80 percent of Indian and 60 percent of Mexican respondents seeing these networks as an important tool for separating fact from fiction, but only 27 percent taking this view in the UK and 42 percent in the US, the study said.

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People under the age of 55 were more inclined to believe in the accuracy of the material they shared on social media while 35 percent of people aged 25 to 44 said they were ‘very confident’ they were sharing only truthful information on social media and only 13 percent of over 55s felt the same, it found.

Younger people are also more likely to rely on social media as a source of factual information, with over 44 percent of those in the 25 to 44 age-bracket turning to the platforms compared to just 12 percent of over 55s, the study said.

The pandemic does appear to have had an impact on people’s perceptions of truth, with around three in four people agreeing that they are now more cautious about the accuracy of the information they encounter – a figure that climbs to over 80 percent in India, Mexico, and South Africa, the study said.

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Notably, parents from India were much more likely than those elsewhere to use social media and WhatsApp when teaching their children, with around 30 percent citing these sources.

Speaking about the research, OUP CEO Nigel Portwood said: “With an ever-increasing number of sources to turn to for information, from books to academic texts to digital channels, and so many answers available at the touch of a button, it’s no surprise that our research presents a global picture of confusion.” OUP India MD Sumanta Datta said with over 87 percent of Indians placing their trust and confidence in information circulating on social media, there is a need to understand the potential impact of factual inaccuracies and misinformation.

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“We hope to continue to provide and increase access to tools that allow individuals to be more confident to engage in debates and discussions in their pursuit of knowledge. In a country like India, with a large young population, it is imperative to build processes and policies that help raise a well-informed, intelligent, and perceptive future generation,” he said.


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Meta Oversight Board Calls for Overhaul of ‘Cross-Check’ Programme That Prioritises VIP Users

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Meta Platforms’ Oversight Board recommended on Tuesday that the company revamp its system exempting high-profile users from its rules, saying the practice privileged the powerful and allowed business interests to influence content decisions.

The arrangement, called cross-check, adds a layer of enforcement review for millions of Facebook and Instagram accounts belonging to celebrities, politicians and other influential users, allowing them extra leeway to post content that violates the company’s policies.

Cross-check “prioritises users of commercial value to Meta and as structured does not meet Meta’s human rights responsibilities and company values,” Oversight Board director Thomas Hughes said in a statement announcing the decision.

The board had been reviewing the cross-check programme since last year, when whistleblower Frances Haugen exposed the extent of the system by leaking internal company documents to the Wall Street Journal.

Those documents revealed that the programme was both larger and more forgiving of influential users than Meta had previously told the Oversight Board, which is funded by the company through a trust and operates independently.

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Without controls on eligibility or governance, cross-check sprawled to include nearly anyone with a substantial online following, although even with millions of members it represents a tiny slice of Meta’s 3.7 billion total users.

In 2019, the system blocked the company’s moderators from removing nude photos of a woman posted by Brazilian soccer star Neymar, even though the post violated Meta’s rules against “nonconsensual intimate imagery,” according to the WSJ report.

The board at the time of the report rebuked Meta for not being “fully forthcoming” in its disclosures about cross-check.

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In the opinion it issued on Tuesday, the board said it agreed that Meta needed mechanisms to address enforcement mistakes, given the extraordinary volume of user-generated content the company moderates each day.

However, it added, Meta “has a responsibility to address these larger problems in ways that benefit all users and not just a select few.”

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It made 32 recommendations that it said would structure the programme more equitably, including transparency requirements, audits of the system’s impact and a more systematic approach to eligibility.

State actors, it said, should continue to be eligible for inclusion in the programme, but based only on publicly available criteria, with no other special preferences.

The Oversight Board’s policy recommendations are not binding, but Meta is required to respond to them, normally within 60 days.

A spokeswoman for the Oversight Board said the company had asked for and received an extension in this case, so it would have 90 days to respond.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Facebook Dating Will Allow Users to Verify Their Age Using AI Face Scanning, Meta Says

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Meta on Monday announced that it has introduced a new method for users to verify their age on its Facebook Dating service. Facebook is experimenting with methods, such as using an AI face scanner, to allow users of the platform’s dating service to verify their age.

Meta announced in a blog post that it would start prompting users on Facebook Dating to verify that they’re over 18 if the platform suspects a user is underage.

Users can then verify their age by sharing a selfie video that Facebook shares with a third-party business or by uploading a copy of their ID. According to Meta, the company, Yoti, uses facial cues to determine a user’s age without identifying them.

Meta says the new age verification systems will help stop children from accessing features meant for adults. It doesn’t appear that there are any requirements for adults to verify their age on Facebook Dating.

The US social media giant has used Yoti for other age verification purposes, including vetting Instagram users who attempt to change their birthdate to make them 18 or older.

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However, according to a report by The Verge, the system isn’t equally accurate for all people: Yoti’s data shows that its accuracy is worse for “female” faces and people with darker complexions.

Last year, Instagram announced that it had started prompting users to fill in their birthday details. The prompts could initially be dismissed but the social media giant eventually made it compulsory for users who wanted to continue using Instagram. The prompts were designed to ascertain how old users were on Instagram and prevent content that isn’t suitable for young people to appear on their feed. At the time, Instagram had stated that the information is necessary for new features it was developing to protect young people.

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Meta Threatens to Remove News From Platform if US Congress Passes Media Bill

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Facebook parent Meta Platforms on Monday threatened to remove news from its platform if the US Congress passes a proposal aimed at making it easier for news organisations to negotiate collectively with companies like Alphabet’s Google and Facebook.

Sources briefed on the matter said lawmakers are considering adding the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act to a must-pass annual defense bill as way to help the struggling local news industry. Meta spokesperson Andy Stone in a tweet said the company would be forced to consider removing news if the law was passed “rather than submit to government-mandated negotiations that unfairly disregard any value we provide to news outlets through increased traffic and subscriptions.”

He added the proposal fails to recognise that publishers and broadcasters put content on the platform because “it benefits their bottom line – not the other way around.”

The News Media Alliance, a trade group representing newspaper publishers, is urging Congress to add the bill to the defense bill, arguing that “local papers cannot afford to endure several more years of Big Tech’s use and abuse, and time to take action is dwindling. If Congress does not act soon, we risk allowing social media to become America’s de facto local newspaper.”

More than two dozen groups including the American Civil Liberties Union, Public Knowledge and the Computer & Communications Industry Association on Monday urged Congress not to approve the local news bill saying it would “create an ill-advised antitrust exemption for publishers and broadcasters” and argued the bill does not require “funds gained through negotiation or arbitration will even be paid to journalists.”

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A similar Australian law, which took effect in March 2021 after talks with the big tech firms led to a brief shutdown of Facebook news feeds in the country, has largely worked, a government report said.

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Since the News Media Bargaining Code took effect, various tech firms including Meta and Alphabet have signed more than 30 deals with media outlets, compensating them for content that generated clicks and advertising dollars, the report added.

© Thomson Reuters 2022


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