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As advertisers revolt, Facebook commits to flagging ‘newsworthy’ political speech that violates policy

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As advertisers pull away from Facebook to protest the social networking giant’s hands-off approach to misinformation and hate speech, the company is instituting a number of stronger policies to woo them back.

In a livestreamed segment of the company’s weekly all-hands meeting, CEO Mark Zuckerberg recapped some of the steps Facebook is already taking, and announced new measures to fight voter suppression and misinformation — although they amount to things that other social media platforms like Twitter have already enahatected and enforced in more aggressive ways.

At the heart of the policy changes is an admission that the company will continue to allow politicians and public figures to disseminate hate speech that does, in fact, violate Facebook’s own guidelines — but it will add a label to denote they’re remaining on the platform because of their “newsworthy” nature.

It’s a watered-down version of the more muscular stance that Twitter has taken to limit the ability of its network to amplify hate speech or statements that incite violence.

Zuckerberg said:

A handful of times a year, we leave up content that would otherwise violate our policies if the public interest value outweighs the risk of harm. Often, seeing speech from politicians is in the public interest, and in the same way that news outlets will report what a politician says, we think people should generally be able to see it for themselves on our platforms.

We will soon start labeling some of the content we leave up because it is deemed newsworthy, so people can know when this is the case. We’ll allow people to share this content to condemn it, just like we do with other problematic content, because this is an important part of how we discuss what’s acceptable in our society — but we’ll add a prompt to tell people that the content they’re sharing may violate our policies.

The problems with this approach are legion. Ultimately, it’s another example of Facebook’s insistence that with hate speech and other types of rhetoric and propaganda, the onus of responsibility is on the user.

Zuckerberg did emphasize that threats of violence or voter suppression are not allowed to be distributed on the platform whether or not they’re deemed newsworthy, adding that “there are no exceptions for politicians in any of the policies I’m announcing here today.”

But it remains to be seen how Facebook will define the nature of those threats — and balance that against the “newsworthiness” of the statement.

The steps around election year violence supplement other efforts that the company has taken to combat the spread of misinformation around voting rights on the platform.

The new measures that Zuckerberg announced also include partnerships with local election authorities to determine the accuracy of information and what is potentially dangerous. Zuckerberg also said that Facebook would ban posts that make false claims (like saying ICE agents will be checking immigration papers at polling places) or threats of voter interference (like “My friends and I will be doing our own monitoring of the polls”).

Facebook is also going to take additional steps to restrict hate speech in advertising.

“Specifically, we’re expanding our ads policy to prohibit claims that people from a specific race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity or immigration status are a threat to the physical safety, health or survival of others,” Zuckerberg said. “We’re also expanding our policies to better protect immigrants, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers from ads suggesting these groups are inferior or expressing contempt, dismissal or disgust directed at them.”

Zuckerberg’s remarks came days of advertisers — most recently Unilever and Verizon — announced that they’re going to pull their money from Facebook as part the #StopHateforProfit campaign organized by civil rights groups.

These are small, good steps from the head of a social network that has been recalcitrant in the face of criticism from all corners (except, until now. from the advertisers that matter most to Facebook). But they don’t do anything at all about the teeming mass of misinformation that exists in the private channels that simmer below the surface of Facebook’s public facing messages, memes and commentary.

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Community work for police employee who leaked confidential files that wound up on Facebook

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Community work for police employee who leaked confidential files that wound up on Facebook

The National Intelligence Application holds a wealth of information about millions of New Zealanders. Photo / Peter McIntosh

A police employee who used intelligence software to pry into the lives of people her friend thought were suspicious has been sentenced to 80 hours community work.

Kayla Watson also took photos of four people’s secure police files and sent them to her friend, who then posted them in a Facebook chat group.

Early last year she was acting manager for the crime reporting line in Auckland when her friend contacted her about letterboxes being damaged and residents being harassed in her Massey neighbourhood.

“Dodge house was in our carpark attaching [sic] cars, breaking our letterboxes and fighting again last night,” she said to Watson over text.

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According to the Crown summary of facts supplied to NZME, Watson responded with: “What’s the address, I’ll have a look?” She then logged into the police’s National Intelligence Application (NIA) and searched the address her friend had supplied.

The NIA is a secure police record system used to store information about millions of New Zealanders. It includes flags for firearms licence holders, people known by police to be HIV (Aids) positive, and alerts for paedophiles and convicted murderers.

Access requires a security clearance and its use is audited to ensure employees aren’t misusing it. When new employees are given access, they are warned they can only use it for work purposes and must have a reason for everything they search within the system.

Alerts within the system can be placed on addresses and occupants of that same address can be linked to it.

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Watson clicked on four people associated with the address and then took photos on her phone of their files, which included the last three months of police callouts at the address.

“There is aaaalloooot [sic] against their address,” Watson said in a follow-up message to her friend. “Family violence, disorder, drug searches … the list goes on.”

She then sent the photographs she’d taken of the NIA files to her friend via Facebook messenger. Shortly after, the friend posted the images to a Facebook chat group containing 10 other people within the Massey area.

At least five of them had viewed it before police became aware. The photos were later removed from the group.

Watson’s lawyer, Todd Simmonds, told the court that he was seeking a discharge without conviction for his client and that the consequences for her employment with the police would be significant-enough as a punishment.

“Those consequences would be out of proportion to the overall gravity of what she foolishly did on the morning in question,” he told the court.

Simmonds said that it was likely Watson would be dismissed from the police if she was convicted and rejected the Crown’s submission that the offending had been premeditated.

Crown lawyer Rob MacDonald said that a key part of the offending was the harm Watson had caused to the community and the public’s trust and confidence in police and their ability to keep confidential information a secret.

He argued that there was an element of premeditation in her offending because it was several hours after her friend texted her that she logged onto NIA.

“It gave her several hours to contemplate her actions, it wasn’t knee-jerk offending reacting to events happening at that time,” he told the court this afternoon.

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“This isn’t a street fight that happened in the heat of the moment.”

MacDonald said consequences for Watson were already under way and police would be awaiting the outcome of today’s hearing to see whether she had been convicted.

“This goes to the heart of the defendant’s role at the police and the access that sworn and non-sworn officers have to private information. It’s something the police audit themselves every year as they appreciate the consequences of unauthorised access,” MacDonald said.

Ultimately in the Manukau District Court this afternoon Judge Penelope Ginnen declined to grant Watson a discharge without conviction, but she didn’t agree with the Crown’s view that her offending had been premeditated.

“It is my view there was not a great deal of premeditation, it was a spontaneous decision and you acted on it with too little thought,” she said.

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“Your position in the NZ Police requires a degree of trust to not misuse your position…you’ve breached that trust. You’ve worked for the police for a long time. You know that while things are monitored and audited the very nature of the work means it needs to be a high trust environment.”

Judge Ginnen said it was lucky that the information wasn’t shared further than the chat group.

“In this digital age it just takes a few clicks of a button for information to be distributed around the world.”

Judge Ginnen said Watson’s actions had damaged the police’s integrity, their trust within the community as well as the privacy of the individuals whose photos and files she shared.

“It was an appalling lapse of judgment on your part. But I do take into account that you didn’t do this for personal gain and you didn’t know your friend would share the information with the chat group,” she said.

“But it was a serious thing you did.”

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In sentencing Watson to 80 hours community work Judge Ginnen said she took into account Watson’s early guilty plea, complete lack of criminal history and her otherwise exemplary record during eight years working for the police.

However, the aggravating factors around the breach of privacy and the privileged position Watson was in for having access to the information in NIA meant that she could not escape a conviction.

Watson was placed on restrictive duties after the discovery of the information breach and returned to work within a month.

The police told NZME in an emailed statement that they could not comment on Watson’s case as it was still an active employment investigation.

Since the NIA was introduced in 2001, there have been several instances of police misusing the system, including one sworn police officer who gave information to gangs. Another used it to access information about his Tinder matches.

According to data released to NZME under the Official Information Act, four breaches of the NIA have resulted in criminal charges in the past five years – two of which were uniformed staff and the others were civilians, with Watson being one of those people.

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There are still 20 ongoing investigations into misuses of the NIA, with 13 of those involving sworn constabulary members.

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Facebook, Twitter, and Other Social Platforms Go Offline

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Facebook, Twitter, and Other Social Platforms Go Offline

Everything is down. Wednesday afternoon, widespread outages began to affect many of the internet’s most popular services, both social networks and otherwise. As of this writing, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pokemon Go, and the McDonald’s mobile application a just a handful of the many services suffering from log-in difficulties. According to DownDetector, there’s no regional basis for the services going offline and reports are coming in from all corners of the country.

Meta—the parent company of Facebook—is only reporting “Major disruptions” with its ad service while Twitter says all of its systems are operational. Despite the difficulties, all other status pages for the aforementioned services suggest everything is operational. Keep scrolling to see what people are saying.

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Wannabe Blackpool councillor suspended by Tories after civil service staff called 'pedos' in Facebook post

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Wannabe Blackpool councillor suspended by Tories after civil service staff called 'pedos' in Facebook post

A prospective Blackpool councillor has been suspended from the Conservative Party following a series of offensive posts on social media that called …

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