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Know How U.S. is Keeping A Check on Social Media’s Spread of Fake News

“What have you done to ensure that all your folks out there globally know the dog whistles, know the keywords, the phrasing, the things that people respond to, so we can be more responsive and be proactive in blocking some of this language?”

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"People cannot use our fundraising tools for activities involving weapons," said a Facebook spokesperson in a statement. VOA

As Notre Dame Cathedral burned, a posting on Facebook circulated – a grainy video of what appeared to be a man in traditional Muslim garb up in the cathedral.

Fact-checkers worldwide jumped into action and pointed out the video and postings were fake and the posts never went viral.

But this week, the Sri Lanka government temporarily shut down Facebook and other sites to stop the spread of misinformation in the wake of the Easter Sunday bombings in the country that killed more than 250 people. Last year, misinformation on Facebook was blamed for contributing to riots in the country.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others are increasingly being held responsible for the content on their sites as the world tries to grapple in real time with events as they unfold. From lawmakers to the public, there has been a rising cry for the sites to do more to combat misinformation particularly if it targets certain groups.

Shift in sense of responsibility

For years, some critics of social media companies, such as Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, have accused them of having done the minimum to monitor and stamp out misinformation on their platforms. After all, the internet platforms are generally not legally responsible for the content there, thanks to a 1996 U.S. federal law that says they are not publishers. This law has been held up as a key protection for free expression online.

And, that legal protection has been key to the internet firms’ explosive growth. But there is a growing consensus that companies are ethically responsible for misleading content, particularly if the content has an audience and is being used to target certain groups.

An Indian man browses through the twitter account of Alt News, a fact-checking website, in New Delhi, India, April 2, 2019.
An Indian man browses through the twitter account of Alt News, a fact-checking website, in New Delhi, India, April 2, 2019. VOA

Tuning into dog whistles

At a recent House Judiciary Committee hearing on white supremacy and hate crimes, Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, a Texas Democrat, questioned representatives from Facebook and Google about their policies.

“What have you done to ensure that all your folks out there globally know the dog whistles, know the keywords, the phrasing, the things that people respond to, so we can be more responsive and be proactive in blocking some of this language?” Garcia asked.

Each company takes a different approach.

Facebook, which perhaps has had the most public reckoning over fake news, won’t say it’s a media company. But it has taken partial responsibility about the content on its site, said Daniel Funke, a reporter at the International Fact-Checking Network at the Poynter Institute.

The social networking giant uses a combination of technology and humans to address false posts and messages that appear to target groups. It is collaborating with outside fact-checkers to weed out objectionable content, and has hired thousands to grapple with content issues on its site.

Swamp of misinformation

Twitter has targeted bots, automatic accounts that spread falsehoods. But fake news often is born on Twitter and jumps to Facebook.

“They’ve done literally nothing to fight misinformation,” Funke said.

YouTube, owned by Google, has altered its algorithms to make it harder to find problematic videos, or embed code to make sure relevant factual content comes up higher in the search. YouTube is “such a swamp of misinformation just because there is so much there, and it lives on beyond the moment,” Funke said.

Other platforms of concern are Instagram and WhatsApp, both owned by Facebook.

Some say what the internet companies have done so far is not enough.

“To use a metaphor that’s often used in boxing, truth is against the ropes. It is getting pummeled,” said Sam Wineburg, an education professor at Stanford University.

What’s needed, he said, is for the companies to take full responsibility: “This is a mess we’ve created and we are going to devote resources that will lower the profits to shareholders, because it will require a deeper investment in our own company.”

FILE - An activist wearing a Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg mask stands outside Portcullis House in Westminster as an international committee of parliamentarians met for a hearing on the impact of disinformation on democracy in London.
An activist wearing a Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg mask stands outside Portcullis House in Westminster as an international committee of parliamentarians met for a hearing on the impact of disinformation on democracy in London. VOA

Fact-checking and artificial intelligence

One of the fact-checking organizations that Facebook works with is FactCheck.org. It receives misinformation posts from Facebook and others. Its reporters check out the stories then report on their own site whether the information is true or false. That information goes back to Facebook as well.

Facebook is “then able to create a database now of bad actors, and they can start taking action against them,” said Eugene Kiely, director of FactCheck.org. Facebook has said it will make it harder to find posts by people or groups that continually post misinformation.

The groups will see less financial incentives, Kiely points out. “They’ll get less clicks and less advertising.”

Funke predicts companies will use technology to semi-automate fact-checking, making it better, faster and able to match the scale of misinformation.

Also Read: Now Google Assistant Will Help You Making Your Baby Sleep

That will cost money of course.

It also could slow the internet companies’ growth.

Does being more responsible mean making less money? Social media companies are likely to find out. (VOA)

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Instagram Helps Women to Overcome Miscarriage Distress: Study

The extent to which this loss affects women and their families, and the longevity of their grief is a blind spot for clinicians

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As far as we know, this is the first study to look at the intersection of Instagram and miscarriage. Pixabay

Despite its common occurrence, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding miscarriage and many women find that their emotional and psychological needs are unmet as they go through a devastating grieving process. But for some, Instagram has emerged as a tool to cope with such distress, a study says.

The study, published in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, found that the content posted by Instagram users included rich descriptions of the medical and physical experiences of miscarriage, and the emotional spectrum of having a miscarriage and coping with those emotions, the social aspect, and family identity.

“I find it endlessly fascinating that women are opening up to essentially strangers about things that they hadn’t even told their partners or families,” says Dr. Riley. “But this is how powerful this community is,” said Amy Henderson Riley, Assistant Professor at the Jefferson College of Population Health, Thomas Jefferson University, US.

The findings are based on a qualitative research study on 200 posts of text and pictures shared by Instagram users.

“What surprised me the most was how many women and their partners identified as parents after their miscarriage and how the miscarriage lasted into their family identity after a successful pregnancy,” said Rebecca Mercier, Assistant Professor at Thomas Jefferson University.

“The extent to which this loss affects women and their families, and the longevity of their grief is a blind spot for clinicians,” Mercier said.

These personal accounts also provided insight into patients’ perspectives of typically defined experiences.

For example, in the clinic, the typical definition of recurrent pregnancy loss is after three pregnancies. However, the researchers found that many patients who had had two or more miscarriages identified with having recurrent pregnancy loss.

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Despite its common occurrence, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding miscarriage and many women find that their emotional and psychological needs are unmet as they go through a devastating grieving process. But for some, Instagram has emerged as a tool to cope with such distress, a study says. Pixabay

“I’m hoping that this study will encourage clinicians to point patients to social media as a potential coping tool, as well as to approach this subject with bereaved and expecting parents with more respect and empathy,” Mercier said.

Social media is becoming a common avenue for patient testimonials. For example, the short video-sharing platform TikTok has recently become a home for some users to make videos sharing their personal health struggles.

ALSO READ:AI Can Better Help Doctors to Identify Cancer Cells in Human Body

“As far as we know, this is the first study to look at the intersection of Instagram and miscarriage,” Riley said.

“But this is a drop in the bucket. Social media platforms are evolving rapidly and a theoretically grounded research must follow,” she added. (IANS)