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TikTok joins the EU’s Code of Practice on disinformation

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TikTok is the latest platform to sign up the European Union’s Code of Practice on disinformation, agreeing to a set of voluntary steps aimed at combating the spread of damaging fakes and falsehoods online.

The short video sharing platform, which is developed by Beijing based ByteDance and topped 2BN downloads earlier this year, is hugely popular with teens — so you’re a lot more likely to see dancing and lipsyncing videos circulating than AI-generated high tech ‘deepfakes’. Though, of course, online disinformation has no single medium: The crux of the problem is something false passing off as true, with potentially very damaging impacts (such as when it’s targeted at elections; or bogus health information spreading during a pandemic).

The EDiMA trade association, which counts TikTok as one of a number of tech giant members — and acts as a spokesperson for those signed up to the EU’s Code — announced today that the popular video sharing platform had formally signed up.

“TikTok signing up to the Code of Practice on Disinformation is great news as it widens the breadth of online platforms stepping up the fight against disinformation online. It shows that the Code of Practice on Disinformation is an effective means to ensure that companies do more to effectively fight disinformation online,” said Siada El Ramly, EDiMA’s director general, in a statement.

She further claimed the announcement “shows once again that internet companies take their responsibility seriously and are ready to play their part”.

In another statement, TikTok’s Theo Bertram, director of its government relations & public policy team in Europe, added: “To prevent the spread of disinformation online, industry co-operation and transparency are vital, and we’re proud to sign up to the Code of Practice on Disinformation to play our part.”

That’s the top-line PR from the platforms’ side.

However earlier this month the Commission warned that a coronavirus ‘infodemic’ had led to a flood of false and/or misleading information related to the COVID-19 pandemic in recent months — telling tech giants they must do more.

Platforms signed up to the Code of Practice must now provide monthly reports with greater detail about the counter measures they’re taking to tackle coronavirus fakes, it added — warning they need to back up their claims of action with more robust evidence that the steps they’re taking are actually working. 

The Commission said then that TikTok was on the point of signing up. It also said negotiations remain ongoing with Facebook-owned WhatsApp to join the code.  We’ve reached out to the Commission for any update.

In the almost two years since the code came into existence EU lawmakers have made repeat warnings that tech giants are not doing enough to tackle disinformation being spread on their platforms.

Commissioners are now consulting on major reforms to foundational ecommerce rules which wrap digital services, including looking at the hot button issue of content liability and asking — more broadly — how much responsibility platforms should have for the content they amplify and monetize? A draft proposal of the Digital Services Act is slated for the end of the year.

All of which incentivizes platforms to show willingness to work with the EU’s current (voluntary) anti-disinformation program — or risk more stringent and legally binding rules coming down the pipe in future. (TikTok has the additional risk of being a China-based platform, and earlier this month the Commission went so far as to name China as one of the state entities it has identified spreading disinformation in the region.)

Although the chance of hard and fast regulations to tackle fuzzy falsehoods seems unlikely.

Earlier this month the Commission’s VP for values and transparency, Věra Jourová, suggested illegal content will be the focus for the Digital Services Act. On the altogether harder-to-define problem of ‘disinformation’ she said: “I do not foresee that we will come with hard regulation on that.” Instead, she suggested lawmakers will look for an “efficient” way of decreasing the harmful impacts associated with the problem — saying they could, for example, focus on pre-election periods; suggesting there may be temporary controls on platform content ahead of major votes.

Facebook, Google, Twitter and Mozilla were among the first clutch of tech platforms and online advertisers to sign up to the Commission’s code back in 2018 — when signatories committed to take actions aimed at disrupting ad revenues for entities which spread fakes and actively support research into disinformation.

They also agreed to do more to tackle fake accounts and bots; and said they’d make political and issue ads more transparent. Empowering consumers to report disinformation and access different news sources, and improving the visibility of authoritative content were other commitments.

Since then a few more platforms and trade associations have signed up to the EU code — with TikTok the latest.

Reviews of the EU’s initiative remain mixed — including the Commission’s own regular ‘must do better’ report card for platforms. Clearly, online disinformation remains hugely problematic. Nor is there ever going to be a simply fix for such a complex human phenomenon. Although there is far less excuse for platforms’ ongoing transparency failures.

Which may in turn offer the best route forward for regulators to tackle such a thorny issue: Via enforced transparency and access to platform data.

TechCrunch

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Awkward police mishap on popular Aussie beach: ‘Not a great idea’

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Awkward police mishap on popular Aussie beach: 'Not a great idea'

Two police officers were left with bruised egos on Saturday after their car became bogged at a popular beach in Western Australia.

The male officers were new to the Esperance area, Western Australia Police revealed in a post on Facebook, and their interesting attempt to meet the locals left the masses amused.

Pictures of the incident were shared online and show the Toyota Camry — a front-wheel drive — parked up nice and close to the water’s edge at the popular Wharton Beach. The officers are seen trying to free the wheels of their car from the sand but eventually turned to locals for help.

Police officers became bogged in the sand at a Wharton beach in WA. Source: Facebook/WA Police Force

The beach is popular for surfing and allows vehicle access, but only for 4WD cars as smaller cars may struggle. So it’s no surprise their Toyota Camry got stuck. Another beachgoer helped the police car to safety with a video showing the white 4WD pulling the police vehicle from the sand using a rope.

The unusual scenes caught the attention of dozens of beachgoers who watched as the car was being towed. Photos were also shared on a popular Facebook page ‘Bogged’ where it racked up thousands of likes and comments from amused social media users.

WA police responds to amusing beach blunder

Esperance Police has increased patrols over the holiday period in response to an increased number of “hoon drivers” on popular beaches in the area. It’s believed these officers were carrying out their patrol when they became stuck. Goldfields-Esperance District WA Police shared details of the ordeal on Facebook and thanked those who rushed to the officers’ aid.

“Esperance Police would like to welcome SC Neville to the team who started today and found a new way to engage with our wonderful local community,” the post said, alongside photos of the incident.

No one was injured and no damage was done to the car, police said. The egos of the officers involved, however, “are in for repair” the police force joked after their beach blunder was made public.

Locals on the beach rushed to the aid of the police officers after car got bogged on sand.

Locals on the beach rushed to the aid of the officers. Source: Facebook/WA Police Force

“Imagine driving a Camry on the beach,” one person mocked on Facebook with others agreeing it’s “not a great idea” to be driving a two-wheeled-drive on the sand.

“When you’re asked to ‘patrol the beaches’ and you take it literally….,” another joked.

“Hahaha they’re only human too… good to see the locals and tourists helping where needed! Well done,” one other said.

A beachgoer in a white 4WD helped tow the police car off the sand.

A beachgoer in the white 4WD helped tow the police car off the sand. Source: Facebook/Bogged

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‘Fire-breathing demon’: shelter opts for honesty in adoption ad for ‘full-jerk’ dog | Dogs

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Maybe he’s born with it, maybe he really is a “full jerk”, “fire-breathing demon” and equally adorable 26lb dog with boundary issues.

Meet Ralphie, a 14-month-old French bulldog whose owners surrendered him at the Niagara SPCA, a no-kill shelter in Niagara Falls, New York earlier this month where a very unconventional approach is being taken to finding him new owners.

In their Facebook ad for his adoption, the shelter didn’t sugarcoat Ralphie’s aggressive nature that they say would only be suitable for the “Mother of Dragons” as an owner – a reference to a fearsome character from Game of Thrones.

In a post that garnered thousands of engagement on Facebook, the shelter admitted that they try to downplay the less desirable characteristics of their dogs in adoption ads, but that this was too tough a task for Ralphie – so they decided to be brutally honest instead.

“We don’t actually have too many nice things to say so we’re just going to come out with it,” they wrote. “Ralphie is a terror in a somewhat small package.”

It could be because his previous owners may have spoiled him by giving in to all his whims, and created boundary issues, the ad said.

It appears that his adorable traits may have landed him with owners who made him “the boss” – which only led them to eventually letting him go. Within two weeks of being rehomed, the second owners had to give him up because he irritated their older dog.

But the shelter at this point knows what that could’ve actually implied: “Ralphie is a fire-breathing demon and will eat our dog, but hey, he’s only 26lb.”

“Lots of people withheld Ralphie’s less than desirable traits, but we’re going to tell you all about it,” the ad read. “He’s a whole jerk – not even half.

“If you show a moment of weakness, prepare to be exploited.”

Turns out that the honesty in the post is what appealed to people.

“I’d like to donate toward his adoption fee,” one Facebook user responded to the ad. “I’m bossy and too much for some people too, so he’s a little bit my spirit animal.”

Others chimed in with their own (not so polite) theories.

“Sometimes it’s not an upbringing, rather genetic and chemical imbalance. He would have to be placed with someone who understands mental illness in dogs,” wrote one person. “Not all dogs can be cured with hugs and kisses.”

“So in human terms, Ralphie is a spoiled brat?” commented another person. “He was given a mile and took two instead. There is someone out there that would take Ralphie and all his quirks. He just has to learn his boundaries and his human stick to them.”

Many commended the shelter for their honesty in the post.

Last week, the shelter shared another update, and it looks like he is getting better – even though it’s in very tiny steps.

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Swedish Woman Flies To India To Marry Facebook Friend In UP’s Etah

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Swedish Woman Flies To India To Marry Facebook Friend In UP's Etah

Christen Liebert reportedly met Pawan Kumar on Facebook in 2012.

Etah:

It is said that love has no boundaries. The people of Etah in Uttar Pradesh witnessed something similar when a Swedish woman married a local resident recently.

Christen Liebert flew to India to marry Pawan Kumar, who she met on Facebook, according to Hindu customs at a school in Etah on Friday, news agency ANI reported.

Video of the marriage shared by ANI showed Christen Liebert, dressed in an Indian wedding dress, putting the garland around the groom’s neck during the varmala ceremony.

Christen Liebert reportedly met Pawan Kumar on Facebook in 2012.

Pawan Kumar, who completed his B. Tech from Dehradun, works as an engineer at a firm.

His family did not have any objection to the marriage.

The groom’s father Geetam Singh said that their happiness lies in the happiness of the children. “We totally agree with this marriage,” he said.

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