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Trump’s hype for state lockdown protests puts Twitter and Facebook’s new COVID-19 policies to the test

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A new flurry of tweets from President Trump is pushing the limits of social platform policies designed explicitly to keep users safe from the spread of the novel coronavirus, both online and off.

In a series of rapid-fire messages on Friday morning, Trump issued a call to “LIBERATE” Virginia, Minnesota and Michigan, all states led by Democratic governors. Trump’s tweets promoted protests in those states against ongoing public safety measures, many designed by his own administration, meant to keep residents safe from the virus. Trump also shared the messages on his Facebook page.

In the case of Minnesota, the tweet was not a generic message to his supporters in the state — it referenced a Friday protest event by its name, “Liberate Minnesota.”

In Minnesota, the in-person protest event gathered a group of Trump supporters outside the St. Paul home of Minnesota Governor Tim Walz to protest the state’s ongoing lockdown. According to a reporter on the scene Friday, the protest had attracted attendees in the “low hundreds” so far and few were practicing social distancing or wearing masks. The event was organized on Facebook.

“President Trump has been very clear that we must get America back to work very quickly or the ‘cure’ to this terrible disease may be the worse option!,” the event’s Facebook description states. In a later disclaimer, event organizers encourage attendees to exercise “personal responsibility” at the protest, stating that they “are not responsible for your current health situation or future health.”

The president’s tweets contradict his administration’s own guidance, detailed yesterday in coordination with health experts, on reopening state economies. Earlier this week, Trump claimed that a president has “total authority” to reopen the national economy, a sentiment that his tweets Friday appeared to undermine.

Trump’s calls to action in support of state-based protests would also appear to potentially contradict both Twitter and Facebook’s new rules specific to the pandemic, which in both cases explicitly forbid any COVID-19 content that could result in the real-world spread of the virus.

Over the last month, Facebook and Twitter both rolled out relatively aggressive new policies designed to protect users from content contradicting the guidance of health experts, particularly anything that could result in real-world harm.

Update: According to a Twitter spokesperson, the president’s tweets do not currently violate Twitter’s rules. Twitter does not consider the tweets as worded a “clear call to action” that could pose a health risk. Twitter also did not determine that the tweets were shared with harmful intentions.

Facebook did not provide answers to questions about the protests organized on its platform by the time of publication.

In late March, Twitter updated its safety policy to prohibit any tweets that “could place people at a higher risk of transmitting COVID-19.” The stance banned tweets claiming social distancing doesn’t work as well as anything with a “call to action” that could promote risky behaviors, like encouraging people to go out to a local bar.

On April 1, Twitter again broadened its definition for the kind of harmful COVID-19 content it forbids, stating that it would “continue to prioritize removing content when it has a clear call to action that could directly pose a risk to people’s health or well-being.”

Facebook similarly expanded its platform rules to match the existential health threat posed by the coronavirus. In guidance on its policies for the pandemic, Facebook says that it “remove[s] COVID-19 related misinformation that could contribute to imminent physical harm.” As an example, the company noted that in March it began removing “claims that physical distancing doesn’t help prevent the spread of the coronavirus.”

Social media companies signaled early in the U.S. spread of the coronavirus that they would take health misinformation — and the safety of their users — more seriously than ever. In some instances, this tough talk appears to have manifested in improvements: Facebook, which has generally been more proactive about health misinformation compared to other topics, moved to promote health expertise and limit the spread of misleading coronavirus content on the platform, even announcing that it would notify anyone who had interacted with COVID-19 misinformation with a special message in their news feed.

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Woman pens love letters to Bryan Kohberger

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Woman pens love letters to Bryan Kohberger

(NewsNation) —Bryan Kohberger, the man accused of killing four University of Idaho students, has received a love letter.

A Facebook user named Brittney J. Hislope said she’s been writing and mailing Kohberger about a letter a day since his Dec. 30 arrest.

“There’s something about a dangerous man that can be appealing to some women,” psychotherapist Robi Ludwig said during an appearance Monday night on NewsNation’s “Banfield.”

Hislope calls Kohberger her “perfect man” and regularly discusses her obsession with him on Facebook.

In one recent post, she wrote, “Bryan is being kept isolated from other inmates, and so I know that we do both likely sleep alone. … I don’t mean that I reach out to him to receive anything back at all from him, since I do that from a place of caring about him, sharing my feelings, and know what a serious situation he’s in. But it’s understandable how I wonder how he feels about me.”

She claims she’s a single mom in Kentucky. NewsNation hasn’t been able to independently confirm she is a real person, but the profile has existed since January 2019, meaning the account isn’t from after the Idaho murders.

Another post reads: “I wrote Bryan a letter nights ago that was at least four pages long … I have written him another letter that is three pages front and back and almost another full page, as well as another letter that is two pages front and back. I already mailed out the one that I mentioned nights ago that I wrote, and I wish that I had more peace of mind about him receiving them. It wouldn’t be right or fair if he didn’t receive them because someone interfered even if I stayed within the rules of what’s allowed to be said in letters to an inmate.”

This is not the first time accused killers have obsessed fans. Ted Bundy and Charles Manson also lured in love interests.

Ludwig said there’s a “seductiveness” that comes with a man in prison.

“They can be very charming. The advantage of pursuing somebody who’s behind bars is you don’t have to deal with them in real life. They can’t frustrate you,” Ludwig said.

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Sam Bankman-Fried Lawyer Says Agreement Has Been Reached on Use of Messaging Apps

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Sam Bankman-Fried Lawyer Says Agreement Has Been Reached on Use of Messaging Apps

The two sides are asking the court to modify Bankman-Fried’s bail conditions to allow him to use various messaging apps, including FaceTime, Zoom, iMessage, SMS texts, emails, Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. (For WhatsApp, Bankman-Fried’s cell phone must have monitoring software installed to record those messages.)

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Kenya labor court rules that Facebook can be sued

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Kenya labor court rules that Facebook can be sued

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A judge in Kenya has ruled that Facebook’s parent company, Meta, can be sued in the East African country.

Meta tried to have the case dropped, arguing that Kenyan courts do not have jurisdiction over their operations, but the labor court judge dismissed that in a ruling on Monday.

A former Facebook moderator in Kenya, Daniel Motaung, is suing the company claiming poor working conditions.

Motaung said that while working as a moderator he was exposed to gruesome content such as rape, torture and beheadings that risked his and colleagues’ mental health.

He said Meta did not offer mental health support to employees, required unreasonably long working hours, and offered minimal pay. Motaung worked in Facebook’s African hub in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, which is operated by Samasource Ltd.

Following the judge’s decision that Meta can be sued in Kenya, the next step in case will be considered by the court on Mar. 8.

Meta is facing a separate court case in which two Ethiopians say hate speech was allowed and even promoted on Facebook amid heated rhetoric over their country’s deadly Tigray conflict.

That lawsuit alleges that Meta hasn’t hired enough content moderators to adequately monitor posts, that it uses an algorithm that prioritizes hateful content, and that it responds more slowly to crises in Africa than elsewhere in the world.

The Associated Press and more than a dozen other media outlets last year reported that Facebook had failed to quickly and effectively moderate hate speech in several places around the world, including in Ethiopia. The reports were based on internal Facebook documents leaked by former employee and whistleblower Frances Haugen.

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