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US Lawmakers Demand To Change The CEO Of Facebook

On Tuesday, US Lawmakers demanded to change the Facebook's CEO

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Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a joint hearing of the Senate Commerce and Judiciary committees on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA
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U.S. lawmakers on Tuesday demanded better personal data protection at Facebook, whose CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, weathered heated questions from two Senate panels over data breaches affecting tens of millions of users of the mammoth social media platform.

“There was clearly a breach of consumer trust and a likely improper transfer of data,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican.

“If you and other social media companies do not get your act in order, none of us are going to have any privacy,” the top Democrat on the Commerce Committee, Bill Nelson of Florida, said. “If Facebook and other online companies will not or cannot stop the privacy invasions, then we are going to have to — we, the Congress.”

A banner of "Fix Facebook" being raised by the Avaaz group.
Avaaz campaigners hold a banner in front of 100 cardboard cutouts of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington. VOA

Zuckerberg was called to testify after news emerged that the personal data of millions of Facebook users had been harvested without their knowledge by Cambridge Analytica, a British voter-profiling company that President Donald Trump’s campaign hired to target likely supporters in 2016.

Zuckerberg repeatedly has apologized and promised to make amends, and did so again on Capitol Hill. The social media mogul spoke with pride about Facebook’s ability to connect people for the common good, but he admitted the company had not been proactive in safeguarding its users from misuse of data or those sowing malign messages.

“It was my mistake, and I’m sorry,” Zuckerberg said. “I started Facebook, I run it. And I’m responsible for what happens here.”

Also Read: Jack Ma asks Zuckerberg to ‘fix’ Facebook

Earlier this week, Facebook began notifying 87 million users, most of them in the United States, whose personal data might have been mined by Cambridge Analytica.

Zuckerberg pledged that Facebook would scrutinize and, when necessary, block other firms from gaining access to the platform and empower its 2.2 billion users to wall off their apps from third parties.

Senators also sought assurances that Facebook and other social media platforms are blocking fake profiles originating in Russia that spread divisive messages to sow discord during and after the 2016 U.S. election.

People protesting against Facebook data breaches.
Members of the audience hold up signs and wear sunglasses that read “Stop Spying” before CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify before a joint hearing of two Senate committees on Capitol Hill in Washington. VOA

“We will be verifying the identity of any advertiser who’s running a political ad,” Zuckerberg said. “And we’re also going to do that for [Facebook user] pages … that will make it significantly harder for Russian interference efforts or other inauthentic efforts to spread misinformation through the network.”

Vermont Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy noted that misuse of Facebook extends far beyond the United States, saying that Facebook has been used to spread hate speech against Burma’s Rohingya minority.

“Recently U.N. investigators blamed Facebook for playing a role in inciting possible genocide in Myanmar, and there has been genocide there,” Leahy said.

“We’re working on this,” Zuckerberg responded. “We’re hiring dozens of more Burmese language content reviewers. Because hate speech is very language-specific, it’s hard to [detect] it without people who speak the local language, and we need to ramp up our effort there dramatically.”

Until now, social media companies have been largely self-regulating. Several senators said Congress must consider steps to protect users of the platforms.

“What do we tell our constituents, given what’s happened here, why we should let you self-regulate?” South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham asked.

Zuckerberg needed to be present at the court for the hearing of data breach matter of Facebook.
Zuckerberg at a court proceeding.

“My position is not that there should be no regulation,” Zuckerberg said. “I think the real question, as the internet becomes more important in people’s lives, is: What is the right regulation?”

The Facebook CEO promised to submit proposals for regulating social media companies and work with lawmakers to craft legislation.

Facebook faces a backlash from some consumer groups. Members of #DeleteFacebook gathered outside Tuesday’s hearing on Capitol Hill.

“We knew that they had your data, but the extent of what is being breached is a concern for me. What do they know about my children and my grandchildren?” said a woman who identified herself as Alison.

Zuckerberg is to testify before a House panel Wednesday.

Lawmakers pledged to hold separate hearings focusing on Cambridge Analytica in the near future.  VOA

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How To Deal With Online Hate Speech: A Detailed Guide By Facebook

Critics of the company, however, said Zuckerberg hasn't gone far enough to address the inherent problems of Facebook, which has 2 billion users.

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Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech
A television photographer shoots the sign outside of Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. VOA

Facebook says it is getting better at proactively removing hate speech and changing the incentives that result in the most sensational and provocative content becoming the most popular on the site.

The company has done so, it says, by ramping up its operations so that computers can review and make quick decisions on large amounts of content with thousands of reviewers making more nuanced decisions.

In the future, if a person disagrees with Facebook’s decision, he or she will be able to appeal to an independent review board.

Facebook “shouldn’t be making so many important decisions about free expression and safety on our own,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a call with reporters Thursday.

Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the keynote address at a Facebook developers conference in San Jose, California. VOA

But as Zuckerberg detailed what the company has accomplished in recent months to crack down on spam, hate speech and violent content, he also acknowledged that Facebook has far to go.

“There are issues you never fix,” he said. “There’s going to be ongoing content issues.”

Company’s actions

In the call, Zuckerberg addressed a recent story in The New York Times that detailed how the company fought back during some of its biggest controversies over the past two years, such as the revelation of how the network was used by Russian operatives in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

The Times story suggested that company executives first dismissed early concerns about foreign operatives, then tried to deflect public attention away from Facebook once the news came out.

Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech
A Facebook panel is seen during the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, in Cannes, France. VOA

Zuckerberg said the firm made mistakes and was slow to understand the enormity of the issues it faced. “But to suggest that we didn’t want to know is simply untrue,” he said.

Zuckerberg also said he didn’t know the firm had hired Definers Public Affairs, a Washington, D.C., consulting firm that spread negative information about Facebook competitors as the social networking firm was in the midst of one scandal after another. Facebook severed its relationship with the firm.

“It may be normal in Washington, but it’s not the kind of thing I want Facebook associated with, which is why we won’t be doing it,” Zuckerberg said.

The firm posted a rebuttal to the Times story.

Content removed

Facebook said it is getting better at proactively finding and removing contentsuch as spam, violent posts and hate speech. The company said it removed or took other action on 15.4 million pieces of violent content between June and September of this year, about double what it removed in the prior three months.

Facebook, India, Fake News, Hate Speech
This photo shows a Facebook app icon on a smartphone in New York. VOA

But Zuckerberg and other executives said Facebook still has more work to do in places such as Myanmar. In the third quarter, the firm said it proactively identified 63 percent of the hate speech it removed, up from 13 percent in the last quarter of 2017. At least 100 Burmese language experts are reviewing content, the firm said.

One issue that continues to dog Facebook is that some of the most popular content is also the most sensational and provocative. Facebook said it now penalizes what it calls “borderline content” so it gets less distribution and engagement.

“By fixing this incentive problem in our services, we believe it’ll create a virtuous cycle: by reducing sensationalism of all forms, we’ll create a healthier, less-polarized discourse where more people feel safe participating,” Zuckerberg wrote in a post.

Also Read: Facebook to Establish an Independent Body to Moderate Content

Critics of the company, however, said Zuckerberg hasn’t gone far enough to address the inherent problems of Facebook, which has 2 billion users.

“We have a man-made, for-profit, simultaneous communication space, marketplace and battle space and that it is, as a result, designed not to reward veracity or morality but virality,” said Peter W. Singer, strategist and senior fellow at New America, a nonpartisan think tank, at an event Thursday in Washington, D.C. (VOA)