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Facebook, Twitter Introduce New Guidelines For Political Ads

If people see an ad which they believe has political content and is not labelled, they can report back to Facebook

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Facebook tightens noose around fake accounts. Pixabay
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In a fresh attempt to prevent foreign interference in elections globally, Facebook and Twitter have announced new guidelines for political advertisements on their platforms, beginning with the US.

Facebook has begun labelling all political and issue ads, including a “Paid for by” disclosure from the advertiser at the top of the advertisement.

Advertisers wanting to run ads with political content in the US will also need to verify their identity and location, the social media giant said in a blog post late Thursday.

Twitter on the other hand is asking advertisers who wish to target the US with political campaigning ads to file for certification and adhere to fresh rules.

Also Read: Twitter Will Add Special Labels to Political Candidates in US

The changes, currently introduced in the US, are aimed at preventing a situation like the 2016 US presidential election when Russian advertisers created fake posts and bought ads to interfere in the election process.

According to Rob Leathern, Director of Product Management at Facebook, “when you click on the label, you’ll be taken to an archive with more information. For example, the campaign budget associated with an individual ad and how many people saw it — including their age, location and gender”.

If people see an ad which they believe has political content and is not labelled, they can report back to Facebook.

Representational image.
Representational image. Pixabay

To do so, just tap the three dots at the top right-hand corner of the ad, select “report”, and then “it refers to a political candidate or issue”.

“Facebook will review the ad, and if it falls under our Political Advertising policy, we’ll take it down and add it to the archive,” Leathern wrote.

The advertiser will then be banned from running ads with political content until they complete Facebook’s authorisation process.

Twitter said that in addition to its Ads policies, “all political advertisers must comply with applicable laws regarding disclosure and content requirements, eligibility restrictions, and blackout dates for the countries where they advertise”.

Also Read: Facebook Unveils Three-pronged Strategy to Fight Fake News

The policy applies to ads purchased by a political committee or candidate registered with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) or ads advocating for or against a clearly identified candidate for Federal office in the US.

Foreign nationals are prohibited from targeting political campaigning advertisements to the US, Twitter said.

The Twitter handle associated with the certified ads account must provide profile photo, header photo and the website must be consistent with the Twitter handle’s online presence.

“Bio must include a website that provides valid contact info. If the handle name is not related to the certified entity, the bio must include the following disclaimer: ‘Owned by (certified entity name)’,” said Twitter. (IANS)

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Social Media Giants Face Complications Dealing With Online Offensive Speech

Tech companies are known for constantly tweaking their products and software. Now it seems they are taking the same approach with speech.

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Social media. Offensive Speech
An iPhone with Twitter, Facebook and other apps, May 21, 2013. U.S. internet companies are taking a harder look at their policies that have promoted free expression around the world.. VOA

Twitter users are blocking companies like Pepsi, Nike and Uber on Twitter to pressure the social media firm to permanently ban American broadcaster Alex Jones for what they say are his abusive tweets and offensive speech.

Meanwhile, Twitter reportedly is facing a shutdown in Pakistan because of a government request to block what it deems objectionable content.

The moves come as U.S. internet companies take a harder look at their policies that have promoted free expression around the world. The companies have a mostly hands-off policy when it comes to curtailing speech, except when it comes to inciting violence and pornography. But that largely permissive approach is getting a new look.

Alex Jones
Alex Jones from Infowars.com speaks during a rally in support of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump near the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. VOA

Twitter and Alex Jones

Twitter recently slapped a seven-day ban on conservative American radio host Jones for violating its policy on abusive speech, when he appeared to call for violence against the media, something he denies.

On his show this week, Jones noted that Twitter had removed his videos.

“They took me down,” he said. “Because they will not let me have a voice.”

Earlier this month, Apple, Spotify, Facebook, YouTube and other social media limited Jones and his InfoWars media company from their sites. But InfoWars’ live-streaming app can still be found at Google and Apple’s app stores. The on-air personality has put forth conspiracy theories calling some U.S. mass shootings hoaxes.

No more hands off

Internet firms are moving away from the long-held position that they didn’t want to monitor expression on their sites too closely, Irina Raicu, director of the Internet Ethics Program at Santa Clara University, said.

“The companies are stuck in the middle and no longer trying to avoid responsibility in a way that I think they were even a few years ago when they were saying we are just neutral platforms,” Raicu said. “They are increasingly taking a more open role in determining what content moderation looks like.”

It’s not just in the U.S. where the internet companies are having to make hard decisions about speech. The firms are also grappling with extreme speech in other languages.

Comments on Facebook have been linked to violence in places like Myanmar and India. A recent article by the Reuters news agency reports that negative messages about Myanmar’s Rohingya minority group were throughout its site.

social media apps
It’s not just in the U.S. where the internet companies are having to make hard decisions about speech. Wikimedia

Some call on social media companies to do more to target and take down hate messages before they lead to violence.

“If Facebook is bent on removing abusive words and nudity, they should be focused on removing these words as well,” said Abhinay Korukonda, a student from Mumbai, India, who is studying at the University of California, Berkeley. “This comes under special kinds of abusive terms. They should take an action. They should definitely remove these.”

Objective standards

Ming Hsu studies decision-making at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. He is researching how to come up with objective standards for determining whether certain speech could lead to real-world dangers against people both in the U.S. and across the globe.

“We don’t have actionable standards for policymakers or for companies or even lay people to say, ‘This is crossing the boundaries, this is way past the boundaries and this is sort of OK,’” Hsu said.

Those calls are even harder when looking at speech in other languages and cultures, he added.

Also Read: Twitter CEO Expands on Why He Won’t Ban Alex Jones, Infowars

“We don’t really have any intuition for who’s right, who is wrong and who is being discriminated against,” Hsu said. “And that gets back to relying on common sense and how fragile that is.”

Tech companies are known for constantly tweaking their products and software. Now it seems they are taking the same approach with speech as they draw the line between free expression and reducing harm. (VOA)