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Facebook Takes Down White Nationalist and Fake Antifa Accounts

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Facebook said Tuesday it has suspended accounts associated with white nationalist groups after some advocated bringing weapons to the current wave of anti-racist protests.

Company officials also said they removed accounts falsely claiming allegiance to antifa in order to bring discredit to the anti-fascist movement.

Antifa adherents have said they focus on defending people from attacks by authorities or vigilantes, but they have been vilified by President Donald Trump who, without citing evidence, said they were instigators of anti-police violence.

Some of the removed white nationalist accounts were associated with the Proud Boys, which Facebook previously classified as a dangerous group. The others had connections to a group called the American Guard, which is now classified the same way.

Multiple Facebook executives described the action on condition they not be identified. They said they acted based on behavior, not the politics of any content, and that Facebook had not designated antifa as dangerous.

The company said it was looking closer at accounts discussing protests when it saw what it deemed white nationalist accounts encouraging violence.

The misleading antifa accounts were removed for “inauthentic behavior,” because they purported to be something they were not, Facebook said.

As with a false antifa tweet that Twitter tied to a third white nationalist group and which was widely distributed as a screen shot, the Facebook executives said Tuesday the goal of such content is often not to win thousands of followers but to plant a single false flag that can be used to sow distrust about the target group.

Facebook declined to comment on whether it had been in touch with law enforcement, which it typically does in cases of an imminent threat.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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Facebook Not Doing Enough to Fight Discrimination, Audit Says

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By Reuters | Updated: 8 July 2020

Facebook has not done enough to protect users from discrimination, falsehoods, and incitement to violence, an external civil rights audit found on Wednesday, adding to pressure on the company in the midst of an advertiser boycott.

The audit report, which Facebook commissioned two years ago, pointed to what the authors described as a series of harmful decisions, including a “terrible precedent” not to intervene in posts in recent weeks by President Donald Trump, which could allow the platform to be “weaponised to suppress voting”.

The findings come at a time when some 900 advertisers, including major brands such as Coca-Cola, have joined a boycott promoted by major US civil rights groups including the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP.

“Many in the civil rights community have become disheartened, frustrated and angry after years of engagement where they implored the company to do more to advance equality and fight discrimination, while also safeguarding free expression,” the auditors wrote.

Facebook commissioned the audit in 2018 as part of its response to a range of criticism over issues such as data privacy, voter suppression, incitement of violence, and a lack of transparency in political advertising. The audit was led by Laura Murphy, a former director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s legislative office.

The company did not immediately indicate specific steps it would take in response to the findings, but issued a statement attributed to Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg describing the audit as a “really important process for our company”.

“Facebook stands firmly against hate,” Sandberg said. “What has become increasingly clear is that we have a long way to go.”

The auditors said Facebook had been too willing to exempt politicians from its rules, letting some spread misinformation, harmful and divisive rhetoric, and even calls to violence.

Facebook has taken a hands-off approach to political speech compared to rivals, notably leaving untouched posts by Trump in recent weeks which were flagged by its rival Twitter for falsehoods and incitement of violence.

One Trump tweet, labeled by Twitter as “potentially misleading”, said voting by mail – a common procedure in US elections – would be “substantially fraudulent”.

“Allowing the Trump posts to remain establishes a terrible precedent that may lead other politicians and non-politicians to spread false information about legal voting methods, which would effectively allow the platform to be weaponized to suppress voting,” the auditors said.

Organisers of the advertising boycott met for more than an hour via video conference with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Sandberg on Tuesday. After the meeting, activists said they saw “no commitment to action” from the company.


© Thomson Reuters 2020

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Prime Minister Modi Shuts Weibo Account After China App Ban

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Sina Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter, said it has deleted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s account at the request of the Indian embassy, as tensions between the two countries continue to simmer over a border skirmish.

Since posting on Sina Weibo the first time in 2015 during a visit to China, PM Modi has been an infrequent user of the Chinese social media platform. He had more than 200,000 followers and 100 posts before the account was shut.

Sina Weibo announced the closure of the account late on Wednesday and the removal comes a few days after India banned dozens of Chinese apps, including Sina Weibo and ByteDance’s TikTok, following the border clash between the two nations.

The Indian embassy in Beijing did not immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

PM Modi was among a handful of foreign leaders with a Weibo account. Others include Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom, Justin Trudeau of Canada, and Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela.

Notably, PM Modi revealed the birth dates of both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang by wishing them “Happy Birthday” on Weibo. The discussion of senior leaders’ private lives is extremely rare in China and the exact birth dates of most of them are not revealed publicly.

In contrast, Chinese leaders are rarely active on social media. Foreign social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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Facebook Agrees to Audit Its Hate Speech Controls

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Facebook said on Monday it would submit itself to an audit of how it controls hate speech in a bid to appease a growing advertising boycott of the platform, as it prepared to address a group of advertisers on Tuesday.

The move comes as major advertisers such as Unilever and Starbucks have signed on to the “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign started by US civil rights groups, which urges brands to pause their Facebook ads in July to pressure the social media giant to do more to take down hate speech.

Media Rating Council (MRC), a media measurement firm, will conduct the audit to evaluate how it protects advertisers from appearing next to harmful content and the accuracy of Facebook’s reporting in certain areas.

The scope and timing of the audit were still being finalised, Facebook said.

Facebook hosted a call with advertisers on Tuesday, which included Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s vice president of global marketing solutions, Guy Rosen, vice president of integrity, and Neil Potts, public policy director.

The executives told the group Facebook would include a new data point about the prevalence of hate speech in its Community Standards Enforcement Report, which details how the company takes down content that violates policy, said Barry Lowenthal, chief executive of ad agency The Media Kitchen, who attended the call.

Lowenthal said while he believed Facebook had taken many steps toward tampering down hate speech, the problem has become so large that it may require more drastic measures to fix.

“Maybe they should hit pause on the platform entirely,” Lowenthal said, whose agency works with clients like Vanguard and Loews Hotels. “How much more can society handle?”

Ford Motor Co and Coca-Cola are among companies that said they would pause advertising on all social media platforms for at least 30 days.

Facebook announced last week it would label “newsworthy” content that violates its policies, but the move failed to satisfy organisers of the boycott, who plan to call on more global advertisers to join the campaign.

© Thomson Reuters 2020

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