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US to Probe Social Media Giants Like Facebook, Twitter Over Censorship Concern

Following the meeting, Twitter shares fell six per cent on Wednesday, CNBC reported

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British regulator fines Facebook over data protection breaches. Pixabay
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After Wednesday’s congressional hearings, Facebook and Twitter will now face questions from the Justice Department (DOJ) over allegations of political bias, an issue flagged by US President Donald Trump.

In a meeting in September, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, along with state attorneys general, would look into whether Facebook and Twitter are “intentionally stifling the free exchange of ideas on their platforms”, CNET reported on Wednesday.

The DOJ announced the meeting on a day when Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg appeared before the US Congress, admitting to the lawmakers that they were “too slow to act” and “ill-prepared” to tackle foreign interference on their platforms.

Facebook
Facebook App on a smartphone device. (VOA)

According to The Washington Post, Sandberg told the US Senate Intelligence Committee that they were too slow to spot this and too slow to act. “That’s on us.”

The social networking platforms attracted criticism for being vulnerable to Russia-linked influence campaigns.

Trump has accused Google, Facebook and Twitter of trying to “silence” conservative voices.

Appearing before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on Wednesday in a hearing on online censorship of conservative opinions and misinformation activities ahead of the 2018 mid-term elections, Dorsey said Twitter will remain an “impartial” “global town square”, and it does “not shadow-ban anyone based on political ideology”.

Twitter
Twitter on a smartphone device. VOA

“To serve the public conversation, Twitter is incentivised to keep all voices on the platform,” he said.

Twitter has constantly denied the claims by Republicans that conservative accounts were shadow-banned or their opinions were censored on the platform.

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Earlier in the day, Dorsey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Russian meddling in the 2016 US election.

Following the meeting, Twitter shares fell six per cent on Wednesday, CNBC reported. (IANS)

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Unable To Find The Source of Fake Accounts: Facebook

Sample images provided by Facebook showed posts on a wide range of issues.

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Lexi Sturdy, election war room lead, sits at her desk in the war room, where Facebook monitors election-related content on the platform, in Menlo Park, California. VOA

Facebook said Tuesday it had been unable to determine who was behind dozens of fake accounts it took down shortly before the 2018 U.S. midterm elections.

“Combined with our takedown last Monday, in total we have removed 36 Facebook accounts, 6 Pages, and 99 Instagram accounts for coordinated inauthentic behavior,” Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy, wrote on the company’s blog.

At least one of the Instagram accounts had well over a million followers, according to Facebook.

Facebook, U.S.
A man works in the war room, where Facebook monitors election-related content, in Menlo Park, Calif. VOA

A website that said it represented the Russian state-sponsored Internet Research Agency claimed responsibility for the accounts last week, but Facebook said it did not have enough information to connect the agency that has been called a troll farm.

“As multiple independent experts have pointed out, trolls have an incentive to claim that their activities are more widespread and influential than may be the case,” Gleicher wrote.

Sample images provided by Facebook showed posts on a wide range of issues. Some advocated on behalf of social issues such as women’s rights and LGBT pride, while others appeared to be conservative users voicing support for President Donald Trump.

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The viewpoints on display potentially fall in line with a Russian tactic identified in other cases of falsified accounts. A recent analysis of millions of tweets by the Atlantic Council found that Russian trolls often pose as members on either side of contentious issues in order to maximize division in the United States. (VOA)