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Twitter May Fail to Fight Election Misinformation, Voting Rights Experts Say

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Twitter on Thursday set out a plan to combat the spread of election misinformation that revives previous strategies, but civil and voting rights experts said it would fall short of what is needed to prepare for the upcoming US midterm elections.

The social media company said it will apply its civic integrity policy, introduced in 2018, to the November 8 midterms, when numerous US Senate and House of Representatives seats will be up for election. The policy relies on labelling or removing posts with misleading content, focused on messages intended to stop voting or claims intended to undermine public confidence in an election.

In a statement, Twitter said it has taken numerous steps in recent months to “elevate reliable resources” about primaries and voting processes. Applying a label to a tweet also means the content is not recommended or distributed to more users.

The San Francisco-based company is currently in a legal battle with billionaire Elon Musk over his attempt to walk away from his $44 billion (roughly Rs. 3.5 lakh crore) deal to acquire Twitter.

Musk has called himself a “free speech absolutist,” and has said Twitter posts should only be removed if there is illegal content, a view supported by many in the tech industry.

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But civil rights and online misinformation experts have long accused social media and tech platforms of not doing enough to prevent the spread of false content, including the idea that President Joe Biden did not win the 2020 election.

They warn that misinformation could be an even greater challenge this year, as candidates who question the 2020 election are running for office, and divisive rhetoric is spreading following an FBI search of former President Donald Trump’s Florida home earlier this week.

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“We’re seeing the same patterns playing out,” said Evan Feeney, deputy senior campaign director at Color of Change, which advocates for the rights of Black Americans.

In the blog post, Twitter said a test of redesigned labels saw a decline in users’ retweeting, liking, and replying to misleading content.

Researchers say Twitter and other platforms have a spotty record in consistently labelling such content.

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In a paper published last month, Stanford University researchers examined a sample of posts on Twitter and Meta’s Facebook that altogether contained 78 misleading claims about the 2020 election. They found that Twitter and Facebook consistently applied labels to only about 70 percent of the claims.

In a statement, Twitter said it has taken numerous steps in recent months to “elevate reliable resources” about primaries and voting processes.

Twitter’s efforts to fight misinformation during the midterms will include information prompts to debunk falsehoods before they spread widely online.

More emphasis should be placed on removing false and misleading posts, said Yosef Getachew, media and democracy program director at nonpartisan group Common Cause.

“Pointing them to other sources isn’t enough,” he said.

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Experts also questioned Twitter’s practice of leaving up some tweets from world leaders in the name of public interest.

“Twitter has a responsibility and ability to stop misinformation at the source,” Feeney said, saying that world leaders and politicians should face a higher standard for what they tweet.

Twitter leads the industry in releasing data on how its efforts to intervene against misinformation are working, said Evelyn Douek, an assistant professor at Stanford Law School who studies online speech regulation.

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Yet more than a year after soliciting public input on what the company should do when a world leader violates its rules, Twitter has not provided an update, she said.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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US Senate Panel Approves Bill Empowering News Organisations to Negotiate With Facebook, Google for Revenue

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The US Senate Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to approve a bill aimed at allowing news organizations to band together to negotiate with Alphabet’s Google and Meta’s Facebook and win more revenue.

The bill passed the committee by a vote of 15 to 7, according to a congressional aide. It must now go to the Senate for their approval. A similar bill is before the US House of Representatives.

The bill is aimed at giving news and broadcast organisations more clout after years of criticism that big tech companies use their content to attract traffic and ad revenue without fairly compensating the publishers, many of which struggle financially.

The bill, led by Democrat Amy Klobuchar, attracted some Republican support, with Senators John Kennedy and Lindsey Graham sponsoring it. Other Democrats, like Senator Alex Padilla, expressed reservations about it.

The bill hit a speed bump earlier this month when Senator Ted Cruz won backing for a plan to include provisions to address what he considers the platforms stifling conservative voices.

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On Thursday Klobuchar won support for an amendment that specified that prices for use of content was the issue.

“The goal of the bill is to allow local news organisations to get compensation when major titans, monopolies like Facebook and Google, access their content,” she said at a committee session to vote on the bill.

Unlike other bills aimed at reining in big tech, some progressive groups oppose this measure, including Public Knowledge, on the grounds that it favors big broadcasters like News Corp, Sinclair, and Comcast/NBCU.

Also opposing the bill are two technology industry trade groups that Facebook and Google belong to: the Computer & Communications Industry Association and NetChoice.

See also  Facebook, Twitter, Telegram Urged to Fight Russian Disinformation in a Better Way

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Buying an affordable 5G smartphone today usually means you will end up paying a “5G tax”. What does that mean for those looking to get access to 5G networks as soon as they launch? Find out on this week’s episode. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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WhatsApp Working to Keep Iranians Connected Amid Widespread Internet Shutdown Over Nationwide Protests

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Meta Platforms’ WhatsApp said on Thursday that it was working to keep users in Iran connected after the country restricted access to the app and social media platform Instagram.

WhatsApp “will do anything” within its technical capacity to keep the service accessible and that it was not blocking Iranian phone numbers, the messaging service said in a tweet.

We exist to connect the world privately. We stand with the rights of people to access private messaging. We are not blocking Iranian numbers. We are working to keep our Iranian friends connected and will do anything within our technical capacity to keep our service up and running

— WhatsApp (@WhatsApp) September 22, 2022

Iran on Wednesday restricted access to Instagram and WhatsApp, two of the last remaining social networks in the country, amid protests over the death of a woman in police custody, according to residents and internet watchdog NetBlocks.

Last week’s death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was arrested by morality police in Tehran for “unsuitable attire”, has unleashed anger over issues including freedom in the Islamic Republic and an economy reeling from sanctions.

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Protesters in Tehran and other Iranian cities torched police stations and vehicles earlier on Thursday as public outrage over the death showed no signs of abating, with reports of security forces coming under attack.

On Thursday, the Associated Press reported that the country had imposed a near-total Internet blackout on Wednesday on the fifth day of protests against the government over Amini’s death, after she was held by the country’s morality police for allegedly violating its strictly-enforced dress code.

Previously, a government official had hinted that security concerns might prompt measures to restrict internet access. As previously mentioned, Instagram and WhatsApp were the last major social media networks operating in Iran.

The country currently blocks Facebook, Telegram, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and WhatsApp. However, top Iranian officials have access to public accounts on these platforms, while Iranians are able to access these services using virtual private networks and proxies, according to the report.

© Thomson Reuters 2022

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Buying an affordable 5G smartphone today usually means you will end up paying a “5G tax”. What does that mean for those looking to get access to 5G networks as soon as they launch? Find out on this week’s episode. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

See also  WhatsApp Users on Android May Soon Be Able to Hide Their Online Status: Report
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Facebook Whistleblower Frances Haugen Launches ‘Beyond the Screen’ Organisation to Tackle Social Media Harms

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Whistleblower Frances Haugen – a former Facebook engineer who leaked documents suggesting the firm put profits before safety – on Thursday launched an organisation devoted to fighting harm caused by social media.

The new Beyond the Screen nonprofit said that its first project will be to document ways big tech is failing in its “legal and ethical obligations to society” and help come up with ways to solve those problems.

“We can have social media that brings out the best in us, and that’s what Beyond the Screen is working toward,” Haugen said in a statement.

“Beyond the Screen will focus on tangible solutions to help users gain control of our social media experience.”

Haugen last year leaked reams of internal studies showing executives knew of their site’s potential for harm, prompting a renewed US push for regulation.

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Haugen contended the tech titan, which has since rebranded itself as Meta, put profits over safety. Meta has fought back against the accusation.

Haugen’s nonprofit said it will collaborate with groups including Common Sense Media and Project Liberty that share a “commitment to supporting healthier social media.”

Beyond the Screen’s first project “represents a bold, inclusive, and much-needed effort to drive a seismic shift in how social media operates,” Project Liberty founder Frank McCourt said, according to Beyond the Screen’s statement.

“We look forward to working with Frances and her team to launch this new initiative and advance our shared goal of enabling healthier digital communities and stopping harmful business models.”

Since leaving Facebook in 2021, Haugen has advocated in the US and other countries for legislation meant to make social media platforms safer, particularly for young people.

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Buying an affordable 5G smartphone today usually means you will end up paying a “5G tax”. What does that mean for those looking to get access to 5G networks as soon as they launch? Find out on this week’s episode. Orbital is available on Spotify, Gaana, JioSaavn, Google Podcasts, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music and wherever you get your podcasts.

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