Senators attack Facebook and Twitter over labeling election misinformation

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Senators hammered the CEOs of Facebook and Twitter on Tuesday over how their services handled election misinformation.

Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee complained that warnings the companies affixed to posts, like those by President Trump that falsely claimed to have been reelected, were unfair. Democrats, in turn, said the labels didn’t go far enough and worried that leaving posts up would cause the public to doubt the democratic process. 

“As we speak, Donald Trump is waging an all-out war on the truth…and one of his weapons of choice in this disinformation war is social media,” Democratic New Jersey Sen. Corey Booker told the CEOs, who attended via a video call. “You have the tools to prevent him from weaponizing these platforms.” 

Twitter and Facebook both recently introduced the labels to combat the expected onslaught of election-related lies. The companies also included links in those warnings to more credible sources, such as official results and news articles.

Almost as soon as the labels appeared during the lead up to the election, lawmakers went on the offensive against them. In fact, the labels are one rare thing that both parties agree on in their dislike, though for different reasons.

Tuesday’s hearing came three weeks after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey testified before the Senate about Section 230, a law the protects Internet companies from being held liable for what their users post.

In their repeat performance, the CEOs defended their companies’ various election efforts, including labels that they said provided context to conversations. They insisted that their actions helped limit the spread of election misinformation. 

“We believe the labels point to a broader conversation so that people can see what’s happening with the election and with the results,” Twitter’s Dorsey responded under fire. 

Dorsey said Twitter applied more than 300,000 labels to tweets between Oct. 27 to Nov. 11, or 2.2% of all U.S. election tweets. Zuckerberg didn’t disclose how many labels Facebook added to election-related posts. 

Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican, suggested by adding labels, the two companies are choosing what is fact and fiction, and therefore are picking sides. He also criticized the companies for reducing the sharing of a New York Post story that claimed to connect Joe Biden to corruption in Ukraine.

In a rapid-fire exchange with Dorsey, Cruz questioned Twitter’s decision to attach a label to posts claiming voter fraud that says voter fraud is “exceedingly rare” in the U.S. “That’s not linking to a broader conversation, that’s taking a disputed policy decision,” he said.

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska argued that the companies are taking sides by labeling posts by conservatives as misinformation, but then don’t do the same for Democrats. He claimed that the bias is because employees of both California-based companies are mostly liberals.

“You’re applying content moderation policies in seemingly a way that’s not objective,” Sasse said. 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, questioned a number of instances that Twitter labeled Trump’s tweets for spreading election misinformation. She complained that the tweets weren’t labeled quickly enough and that their language was too weak.

Zuckerberg, in response to Feinstein’s attack on Twitter, pointed out that Facebook had added voter information atop users’ news feeds to steer them to credible sources, regardless of what their friends had posted on the service. 

“All taken together, we went really quite far to distribute reliable and accurate information,” Zuckerberg said. 

Facebook and Twitter plan to continue their election labeling policies through the Georgia runoff election in January, when the Senate majority will be determined.  

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Facebook admits to incorrectly labeling #EndSARS content as misinformation

Facebook has apologised for incorrectly labelling Instagram content supporting #EndSARS as false information.

The social network admitted to Euronews that posts expressing solidarity with protestors in Nigeria had been labelled as misleading in error.

Facebook said they have the mistake and stated that they had let down “their online community in such a time of need”.

The apology came after backlash from social media users on Instagram when they noticed that a warning screen had been added to images using the solidarity hashtag #EndSARS.

The false information warning over the image also directed users to an article about a separate misinformation claim.

“The amount of ‘false information’ on Instagram, and they block this?” Ashley Banjo, a TV Presenter in the UK said in his Instagram story in response to his post being censored.

Facebook third-party fact-checkers identify false information as altered content or content with missing context on Instagram.

In addition to the label warning, content flagged in this way is hidden from the ‘Explore’ options on the app, and are less visible on Instagram feeds.

“We are aware that Facebook’s automated systems were incorrectly flagging content in support of #EndSARS, and for this we are deeply sorry,” a Facebook company spokesperson told Euronews.

“This issue has since been resolved, and we apologise for letting down our community in such a time of need.”

Facebook did not respond to Euronews’ question regarding how many posts had been incorrectly labeled.

Demonstrations and unrest in Nigeria began earlier this month, as citizens protested against the police unit known as Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The force has been accused of police brutality and targeting young Nigerians.

Amnesty International say they have received “credible evidence” that peaceful protestors were shot at, and it is estimated that at least 12 people have died.

The NGO also stated they have testament of at least 82 cases of torture, ill-treatment and extra-judicial execution by SARS between January 2017 and May 2020.

The hashtag #EndSARS has been trending across the globe over the past few weeks with mounting international support for the demonstrators.

Click on the player above to watch Seana Davis’ report in The Cube.

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Twitter to begin labeling ‘state-affiliated media outlets’ – POLITICO

Twitter will start labeling state-affiliated media | Olivier Doulier/AFP via Getty Images

The new policy will initially apply to outlets linked to governments on the United Nations Security Council.

Twitter will start labeling the accounts of media outlets affiliated with the governments of countries on the U.N. National Security Council, it announced Thursday.

The new labels won’t apply to all media outlets that receive government funding — only “outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution,” according to Twitter’s blog post announcing the change.

The labels will go on the accounts for China Daily, Russia Today, Sputnik and other media outlets, a Twitter spokesperson said. But not Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, two media outlets funded by the U.S. government, or NPR and the BBC. The blog post described NPR and the BBC as “state-financed media organizations with editorial independence.”

The post implied the policy might expand to include more countries.

“For transparency and practicality, we are starting with a limited and clearly-defined group of countries before expanding to a wider range of countries in the future,” it said.

Twitter will also label the accounts of some government leaders from the five countries that are permanent members of the Security Council, including ambassadors and foreign ministers.

The move comes as social networks face unstinting criticism for its handling of foreign influence and disinformation. Russian disinformation campaigns ran rampant on Twitter and Facebook in the lead-up to the 2016 election, and internet companies have spent the past three years trying to keep from being used again. Thus far, they’ve had mixed results; videos pushing disinformation about the novel coronavirus have racked up tens of millions of views on Facebook, and high-level Chinese government officials have pushed conspiracy theories about the pandemic on Twitter.

But there have been significant changes, as POLITICO has detailed. Twitter and Facebook have worked to take down posts with disinformation about voting. And last month, Twitter yanked thousands of accounts pushing the QAnon conspiracy theory.

For Twitter in particular, any policy changes around public officials’ communications can risk blowback — especially from U.S. President Donald Trump, who uses the platform every day.

The company jousted with the Trump campaign on Wednesday when it tweeted a video of the president saying children are “almost immune” to COVID-19. Twitter locked the campaign’s account, citing rules against disinformation about the pandemic.

U.S. congressional Republicans, meanwhile, have long argued that Twitter and other social networks selectively censor conservative views — allegations the companies vehemently dispute.

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