Monday March 25, 2019
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Social Media Giants To US Lawmakers Over Political Issues

Trump faulted Twitter on July 26, without citing any evidence, for limiting the visibility of prominent Republicans through a practice known as shadow banning.

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Facebook releases Messenger redesign on Android, iOS. Pixabay

Top Twitter and Facebook executives will defend their companies before U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday, with Facebook insisting it takes election interference seriously and Twitter denying its operations are influenced by politics.

But no executive from Alphabet’s Google is expected to testify, after the company declined the Senate Intelligence Committee’s request to send one of its most senior executives, frustrating lawmakers.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, appearing alongside Twitter Chief Executive Jack Dorsey, will say that her company’s efforts to combat foreign influence have improved since the 2016 U.S. election, according to written testimony released Tuesday.

“The actions we’ve taken in response … show our determination to do everything we can to stop this kind of interference from happening,” Sandberg said.

The company is getting better at finding and removing “inauthentic” content and now has more than 20,000 people working on safety and security, she said.

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Facebook ads linked to a Russian effort to disrupt the American political process are displayed as Google, Facebook and Twitter officials testify during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 1, 2017. Top Twitter and Facebook executives will defend their companies before U.S. lawmakers. VOA

Technology executives have repeatedly testified in Congress over the past year, on the defensive over political influence activity on their sites as well as concerns about user privacy.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has been looking into efforts to influence U.S. public opinion for more than a year, after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Kremlin-backed entities sought to boost Republican Donald Trump’s chances of winning the White House in 2016.

Moscow has denied involvement.

Google offered to send its chief legal officer, Kent Walker, to Wednesday’s hearing, but he was rejected by the committee, which said it wanted to hear from corporate decision-makers.

‘Don’t understand the problem’

Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina, the committee’s Republican chairman, said he expected the hearing would focus on solutions to the problem of foreign efforts to influence U.S. elections and sow political discord, with a jab at Google.

“You don’t understand the problem if you don’t see this as a large effort from whole of government and the private sector,” Burr told reporters at the Senate.

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Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C., speaks at a committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

Google said Walker would be in Washington on Wednesday and be available to meet with lawmakers. On Tuesday it released written “testimony” describing the company’s efforts to combat influence operations.

Twitter’s Dorsey also will testify at a House of Representatives hearing on Wednesday that the company “does not use political ideology to make any decisions,” according to written testimony also made public Tuesday.

Dorsey will appear before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, addressing Republican concerns about how the social media platform polices content.

“From a simple business perspective and to serve the public conversation, Twitter is incentivized to keep all voices on the platform,” Dorsey said.

Conservative Republicans in Congress have criticized social media companies for what they say are politically motivated practices in removing some content, a charge the companies have repeatedly rejected.

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Facebook, Twitter to Face US Lawmakers Over Politics, Internet Pixabay

Trump faulted Twitter on July 26, without citing any evidence, for limiting the visibility of prominent Republicans through a practice known as shadow banning.

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Democratic Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island blasted Wednesday’s hearing and his Republican colleagues, calling claims of political bias baseless.

“There is no evidence that the algorithms of social networks or search results are biased against conservatives. It is a made-up narrative pushed by the conservative propaganda machine to convince voters of a conspiracy that does not exist,” Cicilline said.

Next Story

Should Live Broadcast on Social Media Platforms be Banned?

Facebook earlier faced flak for the live streaming of suicides on its platform from different parts of the world, including India

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Facebook earlier faced flak for the live streaming of suicides on its platform from different parts of the world, including India. Pixabay

Would you want your teenager to watch terrorists killing people in the real world or someone committing suicide? No one, in their right mind, would ever want their kids to get exposed to such events, simply for the repercussions that such content can have on young impressionable minds.

But with a smartphone on their hand and Facebook installed in it, chances of them watching such horrific content some day cannot be denied, especially because the social media giant allows all its users to go live.

The 28-year-old Australian who sprayed bullets on innocent people who were praying at mosques in New Zealand on March 15 decided to broadcast his act on Facebook.

Facebook said the video was viewed fewer than 200 times during the live broadcast, but it was watched about 4,000 times before being removed from the platform. By that time, copies of the 17-minute video were later shared in millions on other social media platforms, including Twitter and YouTube.

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The 28-year-old Australian who sprayed bullets on innocent people who were praying at mosques in New Zealand on March 15 decided to broadcast his act on Facebook. Pixabay

Facebook earlier faced flak for the live streaming of suicides on its platform from different parts of the world, including India. So does that mean that live broadcast on social media platforms should be banned?

“What happened in New Zealand was one-of-a-kind heinous exhibition of brutality and terror. I don’t think the world has become so bad that we should see such things occurring repetitively,” Faisal Kawoosa, Chief Analyst at market research firm techARC, told IANS.

“Live streaming is an essential part of social media platforms and as video becomes the default mode of communication over digital platforms, live streaming empowers users to be real time on these platforms,” he added.

Youngsters also find the facility, which is also available on YouTube and Instagram, useful for broadcasting their travelling adventures and tutorials.

“The ‘live’ feature on social networking platforms could be good for people who want to publicise stuff like their travel, fashion or subject tutorials,” said 25-year-old Rijul Rajpal who works with a film production company.

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The social media giant may face similar questions from lawmakers in other countries in the coming days. Pixabay

Many even find it helpful for connecting with their favourite film stars and music icons. But despite the usefulness of the feature, one cannot deny the potential of misuse of the feature, especially because the social media companies have still not developed a technology that can prevent the broadcast of live shooting.

Facebook said that its Artificial Intelligence (AI) system could not automatically detect the New Zealand shooting video as the system was not properly trained. It promised to improve its technology so that broadcast of such videos can be prevented in the future.

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But policy makers are not impressed. In the US, tech firms have already been asked to brief the Congress on March 27 regarding their response to dissemination of the video of the New Zealand terrorists attack on their platforms.

The social media giant may face similar questions from lawmakers in other countries in the coming days. (IANS)