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Twitter Reiterates Rules Against Wishing Harm on Others as Anti-Trump Tweets Flood the Platform

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US President Donald Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis is one of the biggest stories in the world right now, and as you might expect given the divisive nature of US politics at present, many of the social media posts about Trump’s situation have not been sympathetic.

That’s prompted Twitter to reiterate its rules around wishing harm against others, which it revised back in April to incorporate threats of serious bodily harm or fatal disease against anybody, including the President.

As per Twitter:

We’ve taken significant steps to address Tweets that violate our policies on abuse without people having to report it, with more than 50% being caught through automated systems.”

Which sounds positive – yet a simple Twitter search for ‘hope he dies’ still uncovers a broad range of tweets which, under these regulations, should be removed.

Which highlights the difficulty of Twitter’s position, and indeed, the challenge that all social platforms face in policing what is and is not acceptable in common speech.

The great promise of social media platforms lies in giving everybody a voice, a platform from which to be heard, which enables people from all walks of life to connect and share. That, theoretically, should facilitate greater understanding and empathy – if everybody has a voice, then we can hear from all perspectives and broaden our world through online conversation.

This is the idealogical concept, but as we’ve seen, the reality is actually far from this utopic vision.

The flip side of this is that by giving everyone a voice, you also, inadvertently, amplify the negative. Dangerous conspiracy theories have more opportunity to take root in the minds of those open to such ideas, niche ideology can flourish by branching out to diverse, disparate, and once disconnected groups. Once you provide a means for more voices to be heard, you also allow more radical, left of center groups to expand, and that can have dangerous consequences, in varying form.

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Which is why platforms need rules. But who decides what’s acceptable and what’s not? Who decides what’s true and what isn’t? 

The longer these counter-culture groups are allowed to expand, the stronger they grow, and the more questions are raised as to who’s in charge, and who should be, and what can be done to correct the balance.

Which leaves social platforms in a difficult position. Now, rather than just facilitating connection and discussion, they also need to consider the implications of such, and police conversations accordingly. Which then limits connection, and some would say, impedes on free speech.

But what else can they do? Allowing outright hate speech is clearly not acceptable, but what about speech that’s just a little hateful? What about content that’s a just little divisive, which allows for some division to still slip through?

And when you do draw the line, how can you effectively police such, when there are so many variations on how people can share such messages?

The situation once again underlines the complex balance that social platforms now need to maintain in order to facilitate connection without providing a platform for negativity. Which is almost impossible to do – and while, right now, the focus is on the US President, there are going to be many more situations of this type in future, where platforms need to not only draw a line in the sand, but also decide where that line, exactly, should be placed.

Giving everybody a platform comes with significant risks. Is it even possible to lessen them without limiting expression? 

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Some have even questioned whether social platforms should interfere at all, as people can choose to participate or not. But by providing a means for people to amplify their messages to millions, even billions of people, the platforms do indeed play a role in such, and have a responsibility to limit negative impacts where they can. 

But there are no easy answers. Increased moderation, third-party fact-checking, external oversight groups to assist in content rulings. All of these are important, valuable elements, but none can ensure the elimination of dangerous movements, misinformation, misrepresentation and the like.

People are still going to tweet things that are against the rules, and those tweets are still going to be seen, and people are still going to respond, both emotionally and physically, even if that tweet is later removed. 

No system can stop all of these comments from being seen. So what then? How do we move forward in an increasingly divided world when social platforms continue to facilitate a means for these messages to spread?  

Can it be fixed? Would we be better off without social platforms, with more editorial gatekeepers slowing the spread of such comments? Or has such division always existed and we’re only now being more exposed to it, and we now have a means to address such by getting it all out in the open?

These will be key questions for social media platforms moving forward, especially in the wake of the coming US election. 

Socialmediatoday.com

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Meta’s Developing and ‘Ethical Framework’ for the Use of Virtual Influencers

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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.”

Some of the more well-known examples on this front are Shudu, who has more than 200k followers on Instagram, and Lil’ Miquela, who has an audience of over 3 million in the app.

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.

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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.

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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.





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Meta Publishes New Guide to the Various Security and Control Options in its Apps

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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.

Meta security guide

For Instagram, there are also general security tips, along with notes on its comment moderation tools.

Meta security guide

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.

Meta security guide

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.

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Twitter bans account linked to Iran leader over video threatening Trump

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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.

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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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