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Facebook Fails to Detect Election-Related Misinformation in Ads for the Fourth Time: Report

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Facebook failed to detect blatant election-related misinformation in ads ahead of Brazil’s 2022 election, a new report from Global Witness has found, continuing a pattern of not catching material that violates its policies the group describes as “alarming.”

The advertisements contained false information about the country’s upcoming election, such as promoting the wrong election date, incorrect voting methods, and questioning the integrity of the election — including Brazil’s electronic voting system.

This is the fourth time that the London-based nonprofit has tested Meta’s ability to catch blatant violations of the rules of its most popular social media platform— and the fourth such test Facebook has flubbed. In the three prior instances, Global Witness submitted advertisements containing violent hate speech to see if Facebook’s controls — either human reviewers or artificial intelligence — would catch them. They did not.

“Facebook has identified Brazil as one of its priority countries where it’s investing special resources specifically to tackle election related disinformation,” said Jon Lloyd, senior advisor at Global Witness. “So we wanted to really test out their systems with enough time for them to act. And with the US midterms around the corner, Meta simply has to get this right — and right now.”

Brazil’s national elections will be held on October 2 amid high tensions and disinformation threatening to discredit the electoral process. Facebook is the most popular social media platform in the country. In a statement, Meta said it has “ prepared extensively for the 2022 election in Brazil.”

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“We’ve launched tools that promote reliable information and label election-related posts, established a direct channel for the Superior Electoral Court (Brazil’s electoral authority) to send us potentially-harmful content for review, and continue closely collaborating with Brazilian authorities and researchers,” the company said.

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In 2020, Facebook began requiring advertisers who wish to run ads about elections or politics to complete an authorisation process and include “paid for by” disclaimers on them, similar to what it does in the US. The increased safeguards follow the 2016 US presidential elections, when Russia used rubles to pay for political ads designed to stoke divisions and unrest among Americans.

Global Witness said it broke these rules when it submitted the test ads (which were approved for publication but were never actually published). The group placed the ads from outside Brazil, from Nairobi and London, which should have raised red flags.

It was also not required to put a “paid for by” disclaimer on the ads and did not use a Brazilian payment method — all safeguards Facebook says it had put in place to prevent misuse of its platform by malicious actors trying to intervene in elections around the world.

“What’s quite clear from the results of this investigation and others is that their content moderation capabilities and the integrity systems that they deploy in order to mitigate some of the risk during election periods, it’s just not working,” Lloyd said.

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The group is using ads as a test and not regular posts because Meta claims to hold advertisements to an “even stricter” standard than regular, unpaid posts, according to its help center page for paid advertisements.

But judging from the four investigations, Lloyd said that’s not actually clear.

“We we are constantly having to take Facebook at their word. And without a verified independent third party audit, we just can’t hold Meta or any other tech company accountable for what they say they’re doing,” he said.

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Global Witness submitted ten ads to Meta that obviously violated its policies around election-related advertising. They included false information about when and where to vote, for instance and called into question the integrity of Brazil’s voting machines — echoing disinformation used by malicious actors to destabilise democracies around the world.

In another study carried out by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, researchers identified more than two dozen ads on Facebook and Instagram, for the month of July, that promoted misleading information or attacked the country’s electronic voting machines.

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The university’s Internet and social media department, NetLab, which also participated in the Global Witness study, found that many of those had been financed by candidates running for a seat at a federal or state legislature.

This will be Brazil’s first election since far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who is seeking reelection, came to power. Bolsonaro has repeatedly attacked the integrity of the country’s electronic voting system.

“Disinformation featured heavily in its 2018 election, and this year’s election is already marred by reports of widespread disinformation, spread from the very top: Bolsonaro is already seeding doubt about the legitimacy of the election result, leading to fears of a United States-inspired January 6 ‘stop the steal’ style coup attempt,” Global Witness said.

In its previous investigations, the group found that Facebook did not catch hate speech in Myanmar, where ads used a slur to refer to people of East Indian or Muslim origin and call for their deaths; in Ethiopia, where the ads used dehumanising hate speech to call for the murder of people belonging to each of Ethiopia’s three main ethnic groups; and in Kenya, where the ads spoke of beheadings, rape and bloodshed.

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Elon Musk’s Twitter Deposition Rescheduled for October 6-7, 10 Days Ahead of the Trail

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Elon Musk’s deposition by Twitter lawyers has been rescheduled from this week to October 6-7, just 10 days before a trial over his bid to walk away from the $44 billion (nearly Rs. 3,59,600 crore) takeover, and the delay could play in the social network company’s favour.

The deposition of the world’s richest person was originally scheduled for this week but sources close to the litigation on Monday said that the timing of the interview was always subject to change given the fast-tracked nature of the litigation.

The two sides are conducting dozens of depositions and reviewing thousands of documents and communications in preparation for the five-day trial starting October 17 in Wilmington, Delaware.

Brian Quinn, a professor at Boston College Law School, said that the timing of depositions matter, and Twitter might be better off delaying the interview of Musk until after they have obtained his communications.

“You’re gonna delay your best witnesses for the end, as much as possible, so you have all the discovery,” Quinn said.

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Later on Tuesday, Twitter will ask Chancellor Kathaleen McCormick to punish Musk, who is chief executive of automotive company Tesla, for his legal team’s alleged disregard of court orders to turn over Musk’s messages about his decision to end the deal.

Musk’s response to Twitter’s motion was filed under seal. His lawyers have said in the past that the social media company was accusing Musk of withholding documents and messages to distract the court from the company’s own discovery abuses.

Musk’s deposition is expected to be a key part of the litigation. In past testimony, he has been combative under oath.

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Twitter’s attorneys are expected to try to show that Musk abandoned the deal due to falling financial markets.

Twitter wants McCormick to order Musk to close the deal at the agreed price of $54.20 (nearly Rs. 4,400) per share. The billionaire is seeking a ruling that Twitter violated the deal agreement by withholding critical information about users, allowing Musk to walk away without penalty.

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Elon Musk’s Lawyers to Argue With Twitter Attorneys Over Information Exchange

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A Delaware judge is hearing arguments over the exchange of information by lawyers for Twitter and Elon Musk in a lawsuit in which the social media giant is seeking to force Musk to carry through with his $44 billion (nearly Rs. 3,59,600 crore) acquisition of Twitter.

Tuesday’s hearing comes three weeks before a scheduled trial in the lawsuit.

Musk, the world’s richest man, agreed in April to buy Twitter and take it private, offering $54.20 (nearly Rs. 4400) a share and vowing to loosen the company’s policing of content and to root out fake accounts. In July, Musk indicated that he wanted to back away from the deal, claiming that Twitter had failed to provide him enough information about the number of fake accounts on its platform.

The hearing will begin with arguments on a motion by Musk’s attorneys to revise their answer to the lawsuit and their counterclaims against Twitter for the second time. Musk’s attorneys want to add information regarding a severance agreement and $7.75 million (nearly Rs. 63 crore) payment to former employee Peiter “Mudge” Zatko. Musk’s attorneys assert that Twitter needed his consent before making the payment but failed to do so.

Zatko is a cybersecurity expert who was the head of security for Twitter until he was fired early this year. He filed a whistleblower complaint in July with Congress, the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The complaint outlines a host of accusations against Twitter, including that CEO Parag Agrawal and other senior executives and board members have made false and misleading statements about Twitter’s cybersecurity, privacy and integrity.

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Twitter attorneys argue that the inclusion of information about Zatko’s severance should be conditioned on Musk attorneys turning over records of all communications since December among Musk, his advisers and co-investors that involve Zatko.

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The judge will also hear arguments on several other disputes regarding discovery, or the exchange of information, between attorneys for Musk and Twitter. They include efforts by Musk lawyers to obtain more data from a sampling of about 9,000 Twitter accounts in the fourth quarter of 2021, and claims that Twitter is withholding too much information as “privileged,” or confidential. Musk attorneys also claim that Twitter is improperly withholding information regarding user metrics.

Attorneys for Twitter, meanwhile, are asking the judge to sanction Musk attorneys for failing to produce responsive phone messages, and to order them to comply with a previous discovery order.


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Facebook, Instagram Integration Improved With Deeper Account Centre Integration by Meta

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Facebook and Instagram are set to offer better integration as parent company Meta announced it is testing a deeper integration across both platforms. The firm has revealed two updates that include a new user interface for the Accounts Center feature across mobile and Web platforms, and a redesigned login and onboarding experience on its mobile apps. The tests include two new features that are intended to make it easier for users to switch between and create new accounts and profiles on Facebook and Instagram. The company is also testing allowing users to receive notifications for both Facebook and Instagram profiles in the same place.

In an announcement on its blog, Meta revealed that the new interface is currently in testing and allows existing users who have added their Instagram and Facebook credentials to the same Account Center, to switch between the two apps without navigating to their phone’s home screen, multitasking menu, or app drawer. Meanwhile, a redesigned mobile login and onboarding experience being tested allows iOS and Android users to sign in or create multiple accounts from a single Instagram or Facebook credential.

Meta also confirmed that existing security features will continue to apply to the updates that include blocking unrecognized devices from using interoperating login credentials for Instagram and Facebook accounts that have the two-factor authentication feature turned on for either of the accounts.

Users will also be notified of any account activity across Facebook and Instagram accounts on a single Accounts Center section including the creation of a newly linked Facebook or Instagram account, according to the company.

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Meta says it is now testing the new user interface on iOS, Android, and the Web while the login and onboarding workflow redesign is being tested on iOS and Android. The company adds that both features are being tested across the globe. The new features are “currently limited to Facebook and Instagram,” Meta said.

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The updates have arrived post the introduction of Meta accounts in August of this year and a recently reported downturn in both revenue and user growth for the American social-media giant.


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