How Social Media’s Obsession with Scale Supercharged Disinformation


The attack on the U.S. Capitol building was the culmination of years of disinformation and conspiracy theories that had been weaponized on social media networks. Could that weaponization have been prevented? Perhaps. The dominant business model of these platforms, which emphasized scale over other considerations, made them particularly vulnerable to disinformation networks and related backlash against those networks — both the loss of infrastructure support, as in the case of Parler, and the threat of regulatory crackdown, as in the case of Facebook and Twitter. While the scale-centric business model paid off for these networks in the short to medium term, the overlooked risks of that model have brought these platforms to the reckoning they face today.

Over the last four years, disinformation has become a global watchword. After Russian meddling on social networks during the 2016 U.S. presidential election, experts expressed concerns that social media would continue to be weaponized — warnings that were often dismissed as hyperbolic.

But the January 6 siege on the U.S. Capitol building illustrates just how powerful a networked conspiracy can be when it’s amplified through social media. The attack was the culmination of years of disinformation from President Trump, which ramped up after Biden was declared the president-elect — and largely the product of social media companies’ inability to control the weaponization of their products.

Over the years, we’ve witnessed different approaches to weaponization take shape. While Russian meddling illustrated the potential for well-placed disinformation to spread across social media, the 2017 “Unite the Right” event in Charlottesville, Va. showed how a group of white supremacists could use social media to plan a violent rally. The Capitol siege had elements of both — it involved a wider ideological spectrum than Charlottesville, and participants had not simply coordinated over social media, but had been brought together through it. The insurrectionists were united by their support for Donald Trump and their false belief that the election had been stolen from him. At the apex of the moment, Trump used social media to message to the rabid crowd in real time from his mobile phone at a safe remove.

This has raised fundamental questions about the future of the platforms where this all played out. Mainstream platforms like Facebook and Twitter are being forced to reckon with their moderation policies and facing calls for regulation. And the conservative social media network Parler, which prides itself on its minimalist approach to content moderation, has lost all infrastructure support from Apple, Android, and Amazon Web Services over posts inciting violence, including planning and coordination around the Capitol attack. Without buy-in across infrastructure services, it can be difficult for apps and websites to stay online.

But in order to know what comes next, we need to ask: How did social media become a disinformation machine? And how do the business models of these tech companies explain how that happened?

Everything open will be exploited.

For more than a decade, the business model for today’s social media giants, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter has been to pursue scale. Great ideas, such as the video sharing platform Vine, were left behind in this pursuit, while shareholder KPIs were pegged to expanding the user base. This approach has a significant weakness: When a platform’s growth depends on openness, it’s more vulnerable to malicious use. As we can now see, this open business model can leave companies exposed in ways that these businesses are now are being forced to reckon with.

There have been a few critical phases that lead to this moment. Each, in its own way, illustrated how the vulnerability of the open, scale-centric business model of social media platforms could be exploited.

Relatively early on, the focus on growth set the conditions for the development of a shadow industry of fake followers and artificial engagement. According to insiders, this was well-known, but social media companies avoided discussions about the abuse of their products. Billions of advertising dollars were lost to fake impressions and clicks as more and more bad actors leveraged openness as a financial opportunity.

When online marketing was turned into a political tool, however, the field of bad actors expanded greatly — as did the possible damage they could do. The connection between social media and political events such as Brexit and Trump’s win became clear after Carole Cadwalladr broke the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The incident provided a case study in how data harvested from social media could be repurposed to target specific audiences with content that inflamed political tensions and fractured coalitions, not to mention plant junk news and generally make chaos and confusion reign.

That development coincided with a similar assault on the sensibility of social media users — the creation of military fan fiction known as “QAnon” in 2017. Rising from the ashes of the Pizzagate conspiracy, which claimed Hilary Clinton was part of a child-exploitation network in D.C., a mysterious account named “Q” began posting cryptic missives on a message board known for memes, anime pornography, and white supremacist organizing. While wide-ranging, the core narrative of QAnon was that Trump was secretly engaged in a war with the “deep state” to arrest Clinton and stop a Democrat-run cabal of Satan worshiping pedophiles engaged in large-scale human trafficking. For years, QAnon followers were told to “trust the plan.” (Yes, I know it sounds crazy, but the narrative pegged itself to the news cycle and every twist and turn in the media that seemed to prevent Trump from carrying out his agenda provided additional fodder.)

With QAnon, the fringe moved to the mainstream, with Q discussion threads popping up on Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter. The platforms’ growth model meant content and groups that produced high engagement were rewarded with higher priority in recommendations. In other words, QAnon communities delivered the kind of content that social networks prize and benefited accordingly. A few specific events, like the arrest of Jeffery Epstein and the Las Vegas mass shooting, generated bursts of new interest in Q’s posts and analysis of them. Q networks also incorporated the emergence of Covid-19, launching a hoax claiming the pandemic was a Democratic plot against Trump and organized several protests to this end.

Belatedly, some tech companies responded. Facebook and Twitter took some action to remove Q networks on their products this summer. Reddit did not have the same problems because they took action early to remove Q forums, and the conspiracy theory never gained a strong foothold on the platform. But by the time Twitter and Facebook took action, Q communities had already planned for deplatforming, creating redundant networks on other apps with smaller networks, like Gab and Parler.

With the election of Joe Biden in November, the effects of these trends became clear. The outcome of the election was jarring to those who were saturated by these conspiracy theories. The feeling of being alienated politically, while also isolated during a pandemic, had fired up many Q followers to the point where Trump only needed to light the match on social media to spread election conspiracies like digital wildfire.

In every instance leading up to January 6, the moral duty was to reduce the scale and pay more attention to the quality of viral content. We saw the cost of failing to do so.

Where we go from here.

In his book Anti-Social Media, Siva Vaidhyanathan writes, “If a global advertising company leverages its vast array of dossiers on its two billion users to limit competition and invite antidemocratic forces to infest its channels with disinformation, democratic states should move to break it up and to limit what companies can learn and use about citizens.” In the wake of the attack on the Capitol, we’re seeing a growing interest in doing just that.

As we, as a society, consider next steps, we should keep in mind that emphasizing scale has a trade off with safety. Furthermore, failing to act on disinformation and viral conspiracy doesn’t mean they will eventually just go away; in fact, the opposite is true. Because social media seems to move the fringe to the mainstream, by connecting people with similar interests from the mundane to the utterly bizarre, tech companies must come up with a plan for content curation and community moderation that reflects a more human scale.

Tech companies, including start-ups wary of overreach, and VCs should begin to draw up model policies for regulators to consider, bearing in mind that openness and scale pose significant risks not only to profits, but to democracies.

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AFL news 2021: Jonathon Patton allegations, lewd images, videos, women come forward, social media, Hawthorn statement


A woman who claims she was sent lewd messages by Jonathon Patton has opened up further about her interactions with the AFL star, saying she was asked to send him naked pictures of herself and photos of her feet.

The Hawthorn forward has been stood down while the club investigates allegations of inappropriate behaviour on social media after several women came forward and alleged the 27-year-old sent them unsolicited images and videos.

Patton vehemently denies sending unsolicited images and videos of himself, the Herald Sun reports.

One of the women, Elle Coonan, told Nine “from the get-go he was talking to me in such a sexual nature that I never reciprocated — he would send me photos of him in bed exposed”. She added she “would make it really clear that I didn’t want that from him”, and has now alleged Patton asked if she would travel from Brisbane to Melbourne during the height of the COVID-19 lockdown to meet him.

Round 1

Coonan said the backlash she’s received since making the allegations has been severe, but stood by her decision to go public because sending allegedly unsolicited, lewd material is “never OK”.



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Jonathon Patton allegations, lewd images, videos, women come forward, social media, Hawthorn statement


A woman who claims she was sent lewd messages by Jonathon Patton has opened up further about her interactions with the AFL star, saying she was asked to send him naked pictures of herself and photos of her feet.

The Hawthorn forward has been stood down while the club investigates allegations of inappropriate behaviour on social media after several women came forward and alleged the 27-year-old sent them unsolicited images and videos.

Patton vehemently denies sending unsolicited images and videos of himself, the Herald Sun reports.

One of the women, Elle Coonan, told Nine “from the get-go he was talking to me in such a sexual nature that I never reciprocated — he would send me photos of him in bed exposed”. She added she “would make it really clear that I didn’t want that from him”, and has now alleged Patton asked if she would travel from Brisbane to Melbourne during the height of the COVID-19 lockdown to meet him.

Coonan said the backlash she’s received since making the allegations has been severe, but stood by her decision to go public because sending allegedly unsolicited, lewd material is “never OK”.

“I didn’t sleep for over 40 hours (after going public) … I was in tears all day,’ Coonan told the Daily Mail.

“At times I regretted coming forward and wished I kept my mouth shut … but I know I did the right thing.

“He said wanted to see me in heels and kiss my feet.”

Coonan says Patton first contacted her in June last year, and alleges he sent her videos of a sexual nature without her consent. She also alleges Patton “wanted to suck my toes”.

“Even though we exchanged numbers, this was done so under the guise that he would speak to me respectfully,” she said. “It was not an invitation for him to gratify himself sexually to my discomfort.”

Coonan says she has been inundated with messages from social media trolls, who are suggesting she has to share the blame for her interactions with Patton — especially after giving him her phone number.

However, she defended her conduct and her reasons for speaking out.

“This story is bigger than money, I allowed my experience to be shared in the hopes that other women would feel safer to come forward and speak out,” she told the Daily Mail.

“I want nothing more than to see a change in people’s attitudes and for women to be treated with the respect that they deserve.”

Patton, who only joined Hawthorn from GWS ahead of last season, has deleted his social media accounts with the club confirming an investigation by its integrity committee had begun.

On Sunday night Jacqueline Kearton also alleged she was sent photos and videos via social media by Patton, which she did not want.

Kearton told Channel 7: “He just needs to be made an example of so these young guys who are coming up and looking at these older players think they’d better not do that sort of stuff.

“Unfortunately it’s not something that’s uncommon but it makes you feel uncomfortable.”

Hawthorn’s investigation was based around the allegations of another woman.

“Hawthorn Football Club is aware of allegations made on social media regarding the behaviour of Jonathon Patton,” the statement read. “The allegations are of behaviour that does not reflect the values and standards of Hawthorn Football Club.

“As soon as the club became aware of the allegations it addressed the matter with Patton directly and clearly communicated that any behaviour of this nature would not be tolerated.

“The club takes these allegations seriously and has referred the matter to Hawthorn’s Integrity Committee.

“Hawthorn advocates for equality and respect for everyone and demands this same behaviour from all involved with the club.”

Patton was an inaugural member of the GWS Giants side after being the first overall selection in the 2011 AFL National draft.

Injuries, including three knee reconstructions, restricted him to just 89 games over eight seasons but he snared 130 goals before being traded to the Hawks for the 2020 season for a future fourth-round pick.

He played six games for the Hawks in 2020 with three goals.



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Uganda bans social media ahead of presidential election


At 38, Wine is half the age of President Yoweri Museveni and has attracted a large following among young people in a nation where 80 per cent of the population are under 30, rattling the ruling National Resistance Movement party.

Wine is considered the frontrunner among 10 candidates challenging Museveni, the former guerrilla leader who seized power in 1986 and brought stability to a country after the murderous reigns of dictators Milton Obote and Idi Amin.

While security forces have intimidated the opposition at previous elections, the run up to this year’s vote has been especially violent. In November, 54 people were killed as soldiers and police quelled protests after Wine was detained.

On Tuesday, Wine said soldiers raided his home in Kampala and arrested his guards while he was giving an interview to a Kenyan radio station. He also said a team member who works mainly as a mechanic was shot dead by the military overnight.

Bobi Wine, 38, is considered the frontrunner among 10 candidates challenging Museveni.Credit:AP

Reuters was not immediately able to verify the claims and a military spokesmen did not respond to a call seeking comment.

Patrick Onyango, police spokesman for the capital Kampala, denied Wine’s home had been raided or that anyone was arrested, saying: “We were just rearranging our security posture in the area near his home, specifically removing some checkpoints.”

‘Unacceptable breaches’

A source in Uganda’s telecom sector said the government had made clear to executives at telecoms companies that the social media ban was in retaliation for Facebook blocking some pro-government accounts.

Neither Ibrahim Bbossa, Uganda Communications Commission spokesman nor government spokesman Ofwono Opondo answered calls requesting comment. An aide to Minister of Information Judith Nabakooba said she was unable to comment at the moment.

The US social media giant said on Monday it had taken down a network in Uganda linked to the country’s ministry of information for using fake and duplicate accounts to post ahead of this week’s election.

A Facebook spokeswoman said the company had no comment on reports users were facing difficulties accessing the platform.

“Any efforts to block online access to journalists or members of the public are unacceptable breaches of the right to information,” the International Press Institute, a global media watchdog, said in a statement.

Wine has been using Facebook to relay live coverage of his campaigns and news conferences after he said many media outlets had declined to host him. Most radio and TV stations are owned by government allies and Uganda’s leading daily is state-run.

Museveni, 76, has won every election since the first under his presidency in 1996, though they have been tarnished by intimidation of the opposition and accusations of vote rigging.

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Uganda is a Western ally, a prospective oil producer and is considered a stabilising force in a region where war has plagued some neighbours. It also contributes the biggest contingent of an African Union force fighting Islamist insurgents in Somalia.

Museveni said on Twitter that he would address the nation at 7pm local time on Tuesday.

The European Union is not deploying election observers as advice from previous observers about how to make the polls fair went unheeded, the bloc’s ambassador to Uganda has said. The African Union will deploy observers.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Wine and two other opposition candidates – Patrick Amuriat and Mugisha Muntu – urged Ugandans to turn out and “protect their vote” by staying at polling stations to observe counting.

Reuters

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How to Hold Social Media Accountable for Undermining Democracy


The problem with social media isn’t just what users post — it’s what the platforms decide to do with that content. Far from being neutral, social media companies are constantly making decisions about which content to amplify, elevate, and suggest to other users. Given their business model, which promotes scale above all, they’ve often actively amplified extreme, divisive content — including dangerous conspiracy theories and misinformation. It’s time for regulators to step in. A good place to start would be clarifying who should benefit from Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which has been vastly over-interpreted to provide blanket immunity to all internet companies — or “internet intermediaries” — for any third-party content they host. Specifically, it’s time to redefine what an “internet intermediary” means and create a more accurate category to reflect what these companies truly are, such as “digital curators” whose algorithms decide what content to boost, what to amplify, how to curate our content.

The storming of the U.S. Capitol Building on Wednesday by a mob of pro-Trump insurrectionists was shocking, but it was not surprising to anyone who has followed the growing prominence of conspiracy theorists, hate groups, and purveyors of disinformation online.

While the blame for President Trump’s incitement to insurrection lies squarely with him, the biggest social media companies — most prominently my former employer, Facebook — are absolutely complicit. They have not only allowed Trump to lie and sow division for years, their business models have exploited our biases and weaknesses and abetted the growth of conspiracy-touting hate groups and outrage machines. They have done this without bearing any responsibility for how their products and business decisions effect our democracy; in this case, including allowing an insurrection to be planned and promoted on their platforms.

This isn’t new information. I, for one, have written and spoken about how Facebook profits by amplifying lies, providing dangerous targeting tools to political operatives seeking to sow division and distrust, and polarizing and even radicalizing users. As we neared the 2020 election, a chorus of civil rights leaders, activists, journalists, and academics wrote recommendations, publicly condemned Facebook, and privately back channeled content policy proposals; employees resigned in protest; advertisers boycotted; legislators held hearings.

The events of last week, however, cast these facts in a new light — and demand an immediate response. In the absence of any U.S. laws to address social media’s responsibility to protect our democracy, we have ceded the decision-making about which rules to write, what to enforce, and how to steer our public square to CEOs of for-profit internet companies. Facebook intentionally and relentlessly scaled to dominate the global public square, yet it does not bear any of the responsibilities of traditional stewards of public goods, including the traditional media.

It is time to define responsibility and hold these companies accountable for how they aid and abet criminal activity. And it is time to listen to those who have shouted from the rooftops about these issues for years, as opposed to allowing Silicon Valley leaders to dictate the terms.

We need to change our approach not only because of the role these platforms have played in crises like last week’s, but also because of how CEOs have responded — or failed to respond. The reactionary decisions on which content to take down, which voices to downgrade, and which political ads to allow have amounted to tinkering around the margins of the bigger issue: a business model that rewards the loudest, most extreme voices.

Yet there does not seem to be the will to reckon with that problem. Mark Zuckerberg did not choose to block Trump’s account until after the U.S. Congress certified Joe Biden as the next president of the United States. Given that timing, this decision looks more like an attempt to cozy up to power than a pivot towards a more responsible stewardship of our democracy. And while the decision by many platforms to silence Trump is an obvious response to this moment, it’s one that fails to address how millions of Americans have been drawn into conspiracy theories online and led to believe this election was stolen — an issue that has never been truly addressed by the social media leaders.

A look through the Twitter feed of Ashli Babbit, the woman who was killed while storming the Capitol, is eye-opening. A 14-year Air Force veteran, she spent the last months of her life retweeting conspiracy theorists such as Lin Wood — who was finally suspended from Twitter the day after the attack (and therefore has disappeared from her feed) — QAnon followers, and others calling for the overthrow of the government. A New York Times profile paints her as a vet who struggled to keep her business afloat and who was increasingly disillusioned with the political system. The likelihood that social media played a significant part in steering her down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories is high, but we will never truly know how her content was curated, what groups were recommended to her, who the algorithms steered her towards.

If the public, or even a restricted oversight body, had access to the Twitter and Facebook data to answer those questions, it would be harder for the companies to claim they are neutral platforms who merely show people what they want to see. Guardian journalist Julia Carrie Wong wrote in June of this year about how Facebook algorithms kept recommending QAnon groups to her. Wong was one of a chorus of journalists, academics, and activists who relentlessly warned Facebook about how these conspiracy theorists and hate groups were not only thriving on the platforms, but how their own algorithms were both amplifying their content and recommending their groups to their users. The key point is this: This is not about free speech and what individuals post on these platforms. It is about what the platforms choose to do with that content, which voices they decide to amplify, which groups are allowed to thrive and even grow at the hand of the platforms’ own algorithmic help.

So where do we go from here?

I have long advocated that governments must define responsibility for the real-world harms caused by these business models, and impose real costs for the damaging effects they are having on our public health, our public square, and our democracy. As it stands, there are no laws governing how social media companies treat political ads, hate speech, conspiracy theories, or incitement to violence. This issue is unduly complicated by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which has been vastly over-interpreted to provide blanket immunity to all internet companies — or “internet intermediaries” — for any third-party content they host. Many argue that to solve some of these issues, Section 230, which dates back to 1996, must at least be updated. But how, and whether it alone will solve the myriad issues we now face with social media, is hotly debated.

One solution I continue to push is clarifying who should benefit from Section 230 to begin with, which often breaks down into the publisher vs. platform debate. To still categorize social media companies — who curate content, whose algorithms decide what speech to amplify, who nudge users towards the content that will keep them engaged, who connect users to hate groups, who recommend conspiracy theorists — as “internet intermediaries” who should enjoy immunity from the consequences of all this is beyond absurd. The notion that the few tech companies who steer how more than 2 billion people communicate, find information, and consume media enjoy the same blanket immunity as a truly neutral internet company makes it clear that it is time for an upgrade to the rules. They are not just a neutral intermediary.

However, that doesn’t mean that we need to completely re-write or kill Section 230. Instead, why not start with a narrower step by redefining what an “internet intermediary” means? Then we could create a more accurate category to reflect what these companies truly are, such as “digital curators” whose algorithms decide what content to boost, what to amplify, how to curate our content. And we can discuss how to regulate in an appropriate manner, focusing on requiring transparency and regulatory oversight of the tools such as recommendation engines, targeting tools, and algorithmic amplification rather than the non-starter of regulating actual speech.

By insisting on real transparency around what these recommendation engines are doing, how the curation, amplification, and targeting are happening, we could separate the idea that Facebook shouldn’t be responsible for what a user posts from their responsibility for how their own tools treat that content. I want us to hold the companies accountable not for the fact that someone posts misinformation or extreme rhetoric, but for how their recommendation engines spread it, how their algorithms steer people towards it, and how their tools are used to target people with it.

To be clear: Creating the rules for how to govern online speech and define platforms’ responsibility is not a magic wand to fix the myriad harms emanating from the internet. This is one piece of a larger puzzle of things that will need to change if we want to foster a healthier information ecosystem. But if Facebook were obligated to be more transparent about how they are amplifying content, about how their targeting tools work, about how they use the data they collect on us, I believe that would change the game for the better.

As long as we continue to leave it to the platforms to self-regulate, they will continue to merely tinker around the margins of content policies and moderation. We’ve seen that the time for that is long past — what we need now is to reconsider how the entire machine is designed and monetized. Until that happens, we will never truly address how platforms are aiding and abetting those intent on harming our democracy.



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Christensen social media posts ‘putting Qlders at risk’: MP


Pressure is mounting on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to rein in Dawson MP George Christensen over his “conspiracy theory” social media posts about Trump and COVID-19.

Mackay MP Julieanne Gilbert is the latest politician to call out Mr Christensen’s recent activity on Facebook and far-right social media platform Parler. 

It comes after the Dawson MP launched a campaign to pressure the federal communications minister to further restrict the powers of social media companies.

“We’re at a crucial time in fighting this pandemic in Queensland and yet the Federal Member for Dawson continues to mock public health advice, putting the safety of Queenslanders at risk,” Mrs Gilbert posted on her official Facebook page on Monday.

“People here aren’t stupid – they know the devastating consequences this virus can have; we only have to look at new figures which show that more than 80,000 people in the United Kingdom have died within 28 days of getting a positive test for COVID-19.

“Unfortunately, all the Federal Member for Dawson is interested in is sharing countless conspiracy theory posts saying Trump was cheated and the US election was rigged.

“Is this what we want from our elected parliamentarians?”

In recent months, several of Mr Christensen’s social media posts about Donald Trump and the pandemic have been flagged as ‘false information’.

In response, the Dawson MP attacked Mrs Gilbert’s Queensland Labor Government, saying it was “apparently going to fine Brisbanites for not wearing masks while driving their cars, even if driving alone”.

Mr Christensen went on to say this rule deserved to be ridiculed.

“They’ve now recognised how stupid that rule was and abandoned it, so I’m not sure why (Mrs) Gilbert is maintaining the rage other than maybe she still supports it,” he said.

 

Mackay MP Julieanne Gilbert’s Facebook post about George Christensen. Picture: Facebook

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The Mackay MP’s comments follow a wave of criticism against Mr Christensen and Liberal MP Craig Kelly.

Late last week, Labor Senator Kristina Keneally called on the Prime Minister via Twitter to “deal with the dangerous and extreme views” of both Mr Christensen and Mr Kelly.

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Facebook to censor ‘stop the steal’ phrase, as social media companies boot US President Donald Trump from their platforms


Facebook will remove certain content containing the phrase “stop the steal” from its social media platforms, in response to what it says are “continued attempts to organise events against the outcome of the US presidential election that can lead to violence”.

The company, which is treating the next two weeks as a “major civic event”, says it will continue to allow “robust conversations related to the election outcome”.

“But with continued attempts to organise events against the outcome of the US presidential election that can lead to violence, and use of the term by those involved in Wednesday’s violence in DC, we’re taking this additional step in the lead up to the inauguration,” the company said in a blog post.

A Facebook spokeswoman clarified the company would allow posts that clearly share the “stop the steal” phrase to either condemn baseless claims of electoral fraud or to discuss the issue neutrally.

In November, the company removed the “Stop the Steal” group in which supporters of US President Donald Trump posted violent rhetoric.

However, it did not act against similar rhetoric in the run-up to the election and faced criticism this week for failing to remove posts spurring on the siege of Capitol Hill.

It is the latest bid to crack down on baseless claims about the presidential election in the wake of the riot.

Social media companies this week decided they had finally seen enough from the President.

Facebook and Instagram suspended Mr Trump at least until president-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration on January 20.

Twitch and Snapchat also disabled Mr Trump’s accounts.

To top it all off, Twitter ended a nearly 12-year run and closed his account, severing an instant line of communication to his 89 million followers.

Some people are crying foul.

“Free Speech Is Under Attack! Censorship is happening like NEVER before! Don’t let them silence us. Sign up at http://DONJR.COM to stay connected!” his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., tweeted on Friday (local time).

Can social media companies do this?

The short answer is yes.

As the Congressional Research Service has explained in a report for federal politicians and their staff, lawsuits predicated on a website’s decision to remove content largely fail.

That’s because the free speech protections set out in the First Amendment generally apply only when a person is harmed by an action of the government.

“The First Amendment doesn’t apply to private sector organisations. That’s not how this works,” said Chris Krebs, when asked on Sunday whether censorship by social media companies violated freedom of speech protections.

Mr Krebs oversaw election cybersecurity efforts at the Department of Homeland Security until Mr Trump fired him when he disputed election fraud claims.

Trump supporters pull a police barrier from all sides as they try to break through a police line.
In the wake of the riot at the US Capitol, Twitter banned the outgoing President over concerns two tweets he sent last week could incite violence.(AP: John Minchillo)

Speaking on CBS’s Face the Nation on Sunday, he explained that companies enforce their own standards and policies for users.

That’s what happened at Twitter.

What was Twitter’s reasoning?

Twitter said after reviewing Mr Trump’s account in the context of the riot at the Capitol, it was concerned about two tweets he sent on Friday that Twitter said could incite violence.

They were:

  • “The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!”
  • “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th.”

The first tweet, the company said, was received by some supporters as further confirmation that the November 3 election was not legitimate — but in fact, the notion of widespread voter fraud is a baseless claim.

The use of the words “American Patriots” to describe some of his supporters was also interpreted as support for those committing violent acts at the Capitol.

The company said the second tweet could serve as encouragement to those considering violent acts that the inauguration would be a “safe” target since he would not be attending.

“Our determination is that the two Tweets above are likely to inspire others to replicate the violent acts that took place on January 6, 2021, and that there are multiple indicators that they are being received and understood as encouragement to do so,” Twitter wrote.

AP/Reuters

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Social Media Best Practices to Boost Your Personal Brand


A strong social media presence is the foundation from which you can build a world-conquering brand.


4 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


As per the Digital 2020 July Global Snapshot, nearly half of the world is on social media. Today, to build a personal brand, there’s nothing quite like social media. The potential audience and exposure that the platform can generate would be unimaginable to yesteryear’s advertising and marketing teams.

Through social media, brands can connect and interact with their audience on a sincere and personal level. In turn, this creates customer loyalty, generates leads, and provides the sort of marketing and advertising money cannot buy.

Social media creates its momentum and can take what once was a niche brand and make it a household name. Here are three reasons why social media has become the most formidable and powerful tool any person can leverage when building their personal brand.

Social media adds an air of authenticity to your brand

In a digital landscape where everyone is jostling for attention, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for any brand to stand out. The biggest compliment any audience can give you is to believe in your brand. They will only do this if you’re an authentic and genuine article. “Once you have authenticity on social media, the world is your oyster,” shares wealth coach Rob Coats, founder of Connect and Grow Rich Consulting Agency. Coats made his name on social media through positivity and perseverance. “People tend to follow me on social media because I break it down in simple terms how they can generate wealth, and I make their financial goals tangible,” Rob continues. 

He further adds that you should steer clear of bluff or bluster to gain your followers’ trust on social media. “You have to be honest on social media, or you’ll be called out as a fraud,” he explains.

Related: Authenticity Is Your Brand’s Greatest Social Media Asset
 

Social media elevates your brand into a way of life

Social media is a place where people who share similar lifestyles connect and broaden their horizons. Lifestyles are a tangible commodity and encompass a broad spectrum. Social media can document a lifestyle like no other medium. Founder of TripleOne Inc, James Awad, who lives the sort of lifestyle that many entrepreneurs endeavor to emulate, uses it as an example of what his social media followers can achieve if, in his words, “They commit themselves to their passion and leave no stone unturned to master it.” 

He explains, “With the rise in social media usage, individuals, as well as brands, must figure out what cult they want to build around themselves and then work harder and be more innovative than anyone else.”

Related: 3 Tips for Building Your Personal Brand on Social Media
 

Social media gives your brand worldwide exposure

The most dynamic thing about social media is its reach. It is a platform where ambition can truly thrive. In today’s world, you do not need a marketing firm or team of advertisers to make your brand a global one; you need to be social media savvy. Above all, social media is a level playing field. It doesn’t care where you’re from or what you’ve done; it just cares about where you’re at.

“Social media offers everyone a chance to make it big,” shares business coach Julian Kuschner. The millennial mentor knows all about having his back to the wall. He has survived getting kicked out of college and being fired from a series of dead-end jobs and came out the other end as someone who has achieved great success on his own terms. Julian now inspires others on social media to find the inner strength and resolve needed to build a successful business.

He explains, “Social media has given me an opportunity to help people all over the world. More and more people are financially struggling than ever before, but I believe it’s not so much the struggle but how you respond to it. Through social media, I aim to inspire people to stay positive, stay strong, and rebuild one step at a time.”

Related: Build Your Personal Brand on Social Media, Moment By Moment

 

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Sussexes turn their backs on social media


It marks a significant shift in their strategy as “progressive influencers”, and will be interpreted as being part of a wider rejection of what many see as the dark side of the unprecedented reach offered by social media giants.

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The Duchess has described her experience of online trolling and abuse as “almost unsurvivable”.

The Sussexes have been increasingly willing to speak out about the negative aspect of much social media since leaving Britain and moving to the US, with the Duchess describing herself as being “the most trolled person in the world”.

It emerged in 2019 that she had been bombarded with more than 5,000 abusive and racist tweets in two months, was subjected to threats of violence and even accused of faking her pregnancy.

The decision to turn their back on social media came the day after Twitter permanently suspended the account of Donald Trump, the US president, for his role in inciting the mob attack on the Capitol in Washington DC.

Prior to her marriage to the Duke in 2018, the Duchess had significant social media presence as an actress, with 1.9 million followers on Instagram, 350,000 Twitter followers and 800,000 likes on her Facebook page.

The couple’s final post in Instagram last March read: “Thank you to this community – for the support, the inspiration and the shared commitment to the good in the world. We look forward to reconnecting with you soon. You’ve been great! Until then, please take good care of yourselves, and of one another.”

During a virtual summit for the American publication Fortune last year, the Duchess compared social media users to “people addicted to drugs” and in an opinion piece for the American magazine Fast Company, her husband said: “The digital landscape is unwell.”

He wrote that social media had “stoked and created… a crisis of hate, a crisis of health and a crisis of truth”.

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Capitol Hill — the 9/11 moment of social media – POLITICO



Thierry Breton is European commissioner for the internal market.

We are all still shocked by the images of protesters storming the U.S. Congress to halt the certification of the next U.S. president. The attack on the U.S. Capitol — a symbol of democracy — feels like a direct assault on all of us.

Just as 9/11 marked a paradigm shift for global security, 20 years later we are witnessing a before-and-after in the role of digital platforms in our democracy.

Social media companies have blocked U.S. President Donald Trump’s accounts on the grounds that his messages threatened democracy and incited hatred and violence. In doing so, they have recognized their responsibility, duty and means to prevent the spread of illegal viral content. They can no longer hide their responsibility toward society by arguing that they merely provide hosting services.

The dogma anchored in section 230 — the U.S. legislation that provides social media companies with immunity from civil liability for content posted by their users — has collapsed.

If there was anyone out there who still doubted that online platforms have become systemic actors in our societies and democracies, last week’s events on Capitol Hill is their answer. What happens online doesn’t just stay online: It has — and even exacerbates — consequences “in real life” too.

The unprecedented reactions of online platforms in response to the riots have left us wondering: Why did they fail to prevent the fake news and hate speech leading to the attack on Wednesday in the first place? Regardless of whether silencing a standing president was the right thing to do, should that decision be in the hands of a tech company with no democratic legitimacy or oversight? Can these platforms still argue that they have no say over what their users are posting?

Last week’s insurrection marked the culminating point of years of hate speech, incitement to violence, disinformation and destabilization strategies that were allowed to spread without restraint over well-known social networks. The unrest in Washington is proof that a powerful yet unregulated digital space — reminiscent of the Wild West — has a profound impact on the very foundations of our modern democracies. 

The fact that a CEO can pull the plug on POTUS’s loudspeaker without any checks and balances is perplexing. It is not only confirmation of the power of these platforms, but it also displays deep weaknesses in the way our society is organized in the digital space.

These last few days have made it more obvious than ever that we cannot just stand by idly and rely on these platforms’ good will or artful interpretation of the law. We need to set the rules of the game and organize the digital space with clear rights, obligations and safeguards. We need to restore trust in the digital space. It is a matter of survival for our democracies in the 21st century.

Europe is the first continent in the world to initiate a comprehensive reform of our digital space through the Digital Services Act (DSA) and the Digital Markets Act, both of which the European Commission tabled in December. They are both based on one simple yet powerful premise: What is illegal offline should also be illegal online.

Our European laws and courts will continue to define what is illegal, both offline and online — from child pornography to terrorist content, from hate speech to counterfeiting, from incitement to violence to defamation — through democratic processes and with appropriate checks and balances. But currently, online platforms lack legal clarity about how they should treat illegal content on their networks. This leaves our societies with too many questions about when content should or shouldn’t be blocked.

The DSA will change that by giving online platforms clear obligations and responsibilities to comply with these laws, granting public authorities more enforcement powers and ensuring that all users’ fundamental rights are safeguarded.

With the DSA, Europe has made its opening move. Our democratic institutions will work hard and fast to finalize this reform. But the challenges faced by our societies and democracies are global in nature.

That is why the EU and the new U.S. administration should join forces, as allies of the free world, to start a constructive dialogue leading to globally coherent principles. The DSA, which has been carefully designed to answer all of the above considerations at the level of our Continent, can help pave the way for a new global approach to online platforms — one that serves the general interest of our societies. By setting a standard and clarifying the rules, it has the potential to become a paramount democratic reform serving generations to come. 



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