Despite US President Donald Trump issuing an executive order for an investigation into the capacity for social media platforms to edit or add warning labels to tweets under US law, Twitter remains undeterred in its process.
Today, the platform has added a warning to yet another tweet from Trump for violating its rules against abusive behavior.
We’ve placed a public interest notice on this Tweet for violating our policy against abusive behavior, specifically, the presence of a threat of harm against an identifiable group.https://t.co/AcmW6O6d4t
— Twitter Safety (@TwitterSafety) June 23, 2020
The full tweet in question is this:
This is in response to the establishment of a six-block ‘autonomous zone’ in Seattle, which is a form of protest where citizens occupy a defined section and declare it free of government and police rule. Trump has repeatedly urged Washington officials to “take back” the zone, by force if necessary.
Domestic Terrorists have taken over Seattle, run by Radical Left Democrats, of course. LAW & ORDER!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 11, 2020
In further explaining its decision to take action on the tweet, Twitter says that Trump’s comment will remain active, but engagements with the Tweet will be limited.
“People will be able to Retweet with Comment, but not Like, Reply, or Retweet it.”
Facebook, where Trump posted the same comment, has once again opted not to take any action.
The move will likely further provoke Trump’s anger towards Twitter, potentially boosting his push for a reform of Section 230 laws which, in theory, limit social platforms for legal liability over what users post.
The Justice Department released its recommendations for Section 230 reforms last week, including this proposed amendment:
“The new statutory definition would limit immunity for content moderation decisions to those done in accordance with plain and particular terms of service and consistent with public representations. These measures would encourage platforms to be more transparent and accountable to their users.”
In other words, social platforms would not be able to make any changes to content outside of updates made specifically in line with established and communicated platform rules, in plain terms. Any changes beyond that scope would be liable for legal recourse, which could significantly complicate the enforcement of such decisions.
Most legal experts don’t expect these changes to be upheld, but it does seem likely that Section 230 will be re-shaped, in some way, to better cater to the evolving online space.
Some have also suggested that Trump’s retaliatory push for Section 230 reform is merely a bullying tactic to stop the platforms from limiting what he can say – but if that is the case, then Twitter is clearly not backing down. This is the third time within the last month that Twitter has taken enforcement action on Trump’s comments.
This also comes as Facebook comes under even more pressure over its decision not to follow Twitter’s lead and take more action against misinformation and hate speech. A coalition of civil rights groups has launched a new campaign calling on businesses to pause their Facebook ad spend in July, in protest over the company’s inaction on such, while a separate investigation this week has found that Facebook has allowed some climate change denial content to remain up on its network under the guide that it’s opinion, and therefore exempt from fact-checking.
Interestingly, Facebook has also touted its improved efforts to address hate speech, publishing a post which outlines the results of the latest European Commission tests on its hate speech policy and approach.
“The report was published this week, and it showed that we are reviewing reports of hate speech quicker than before, deleting more of it and doing it transparently.”
So Facebook, while coming under pressure for allowing hate speech from high profile users, is actually addressing the same from regular users at a higher rate than ever. Which seems like a conflicting set of results.
Allowing misinformation under the guise of ‘opinion’ (note: the information was marked as false by independent fact-checkers, a ruling that Facebook reportedly overturned) also seems flawed – particularly when you’re running a platform that over 1.7 billion people log into, and get news from, every day.
The latest action by Twitter brings this into contrast yet again, and while Facebook would prefer to take a hands-off approach with political content, and let users decide on what’s being said, clearly, there’s a need for more consideration of the best way forward on this front.
Meta’s Developing and ‘Ethical Framework’ for the Use of Virtual Influencers
With the rise of digital avatars, and indeed, fully digital characters that have evolved into genuine social media influencers in their own right, online platforms now have an obligation to establish clear markers as to what’s real and what’s not, and how such creations can be used in their apps.
The coming metaverse shift will further complicate this, with the rise of virtual depictions blurring the lines of what will be allowed, in terms of representation. But with many virtual influencers already operating, Meta is now working to establish ethical boundaries on their application.
As explained by Meta:
“From synthesized versions of real people to wholly invented “virtual influencers” (VIs), synthetic media is a rising phenomenon. Meta platforms are home to more than 200 VIs, with 30 verified VI accounts hosted on Instagram. These VIs boast huge follower counts, collaborate with some of the world’s biggest brands, fundraise for organizations like the WHO, and champion social causes like Black Lives Matter.”
At first glance, you wouldn’t necessarily realize that this is not an actual person, which makes such characters a great vehicle for brand and product promotions, as they can be utilized 24/7, and can be placed into any environment. But that also leads to concerns about body image perception, deepfakes, and other forms of misuse through false or unclear representation.
Deepfakes, in particular, may be problematic, with Meta citing this campaign, with English football star David Beckham, as an example of how new technologies are evolving to expand the use of language, as one element, for varying purpose.
The well-known ‘DeepTomCruise’ account on TikTok is another example of just how far these technologies have come, and it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where they could be used to, say, show a politician saying or doing something that he or she actually didn’t, which could have significant real world impacts.
Which is why Meta is working with developers and experts to establish clearer boundaries on such use – because while there is potential for harm, there are also beneficial uses for such depictions.
“Imagine personalized video messages that address individual followers by name. Or celebrity brand ambassadors appearing as salespeople at local car dealerships. A famous athlete would make a great tutor for a kid who loves sports but hates algebra.”
Such use cases will increasingly become the norm as VR and AR technologies are developed, with these platforms placing digital characters front and center, and establishing new norms for digital connection.
It would be better to know what’s real and what’s not, and as such, Meta needs clear regulations to remove dishonest depictions, and enforce transparency over VI use.
But then again, much of what you see on Instagram these days is not real, with filters and editing tools altering people’s appearance well beyond what’s normal, or realistic. That can also have damaging consequences, and while Meta’s looking to implement rules on VI use, there’s arguably a case for similar transparency in editing tools applied to posted videos and images as well.
That’s a more complex element, particularly as such tools also enable people to feel more comfortable in posting, which no doubt increases their in-app activity. Would Meta be willing to put more focus on this element if it could risk impacting user engagement? The data on the impact of Instagram on people’s mental health are pretty clear, with comparison being a key concern.
Should that also come under the same umbrella of increased digital transparency?
It’s seemingly not included in the initial framework as yet, but at some stage, this is another element that should be examined, especially given the harmful effects that social media usage can have on young women.
But however you look at it, this is no doubt a rising element of concern, and it’s important for Meta to build guardrails and rules around the use of virtual influencers in their apps.
You can read more about Meta’s approach to virtual influencers here.
Meta Publishes New Guide to the Various Security and Control Options in its Apps
Meta has published a new set of safety tips for journalists to help them protect themselves in the evolving online connection space, which, for the most part, also apply to all users more broadly, providing a comprehensive overview of the various tools and processes that it has in place to help people avoid unwanted attention online.
The 32-page guide is available in 21 different languages, and provides detailed overviews of Meta’s systems and profile options for protection and security, with specific sections covering Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp.
The guide begins with the basics, including password protections and enabling two-factor authentication.
It also outlines tips for Page managers in securing their business profiles, while there are also notes on what to do if you’ve been hacked, advice for protection on Messenger and guidance on bullying and harassment.
For Instagram, there are also general security tips, along with notes on its comment moderation tools.
While for WhatsApp, there are explainers on how to delete messages, how to remove messages from group chats, and details on platform-specific data options.
There are also links to various additional resource guides and tools for more context, providing in-depth breakdowns of when and how to action the various options.
It’s a handy guide, and while there are some journalist-specific elements included, most of the tips do apply to any user, so it could well be a valuable resource for anyone looking to get a better handle on your various privacy tools and options.
Definitely worth knowing either way – you can download the full guide here.
Twitter bans account linked to Iran leader over video threatening Trump
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with relatives of slain commander Qasem Soleimani ahead of the second anniverary of his death in a US drone strike in Iraq – Copyright POOL/AFP/File Tom Brenner
Twitter said Saturday it had permanently suspended an account linked to Iran’s supreme leader that posted a video calling for revenge for a top general’s assassination against former US president Donald Trump.
“The account referenced has been permanently suspended for violating our ban evasion policy,” a Twitter spokesperson told AFP.
The account, @KhameneiSite, this week posted an animated video showing an unmanned aircraft targeting Trump, who ordered a drone strike in Baghdad two years ago that killed top Iranian commander General Qassem Soleimani.
Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s main accounts in various languages remain active. Last year, another similar account was suspended by Twitter over a post also appearing to reference revenge against Trump.
The recent video, titled “Revenge is Definite”, was also posted on Khamenei’s official website.
According to Twitter, the company’s top priority is keeping people safe and protecting the health of the conversation on the platform.
The social media giant says it has clear policies around abusive behavior and will take action when violations are identified.
As head of the Quds Force, the foreign operations arm of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Soleimani was the architect of its strategy in the Middle East.
He and his Iraqi lieutenant were killed by a US drone strike outside Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020.
Khamenei has repeatedly promised to avenge his death.
On January 3, the second anniversary of the strike, the supreme leader and ultraconservative President Ebrahim Raisi once again threatened the US with revenge.
Trump’s supporters regularly denounce the banning of the Republican billionaire from Twitter, underscoring that accounts of several leaders considered authoritarian by the United States are allowed to post on the platform.
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