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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 och 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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Is This the Real Reason Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft Are Having Layoffs?

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Is This the Real Reason Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft Are Having Layoffs?

Are 51,000 people losing their jobs because their employers want to shift the balance of power? Is the current wave of big-tech layoffs really intended as a way of weakening tech employees’ confidence and gaining a stronger negotiating position for their employers? That’s what several tech industry …

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Fake Facebook profile leaves Nelson auctioneer stressed and worried

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Fake Facebook profile leaves Nelson auctioneer stressed and worried

Lipscombe Auction House owner Warwick Savage with a fake Facebook account using his name he is trying to get taken down.

Martin De Ruyter/Stuff

Lipscombe Auction House owner Warwick Savage with a fake Facebook account using his name he is trying to get taken down.

Auctioneer Warwick Savage didn’t have a personal Facebook profile.

But someone pretending to be him set one up, and that person, or persons stole his identity and amassed 1500 friend by Friday – the vast majority of whom were none the wiser the man on the screen was not who they thought he was.

The profile first came to the attention of the Nelson auctioneer late last week, when a friend of his stepdaughter’s commented that she had accepted Savage’s friend request: “and she said ‘he doesn’t have a Facebook page. He doesn’t have a Facebook profile’. So all of a sudden it came to the forefront.”

What was bizarre about the fake profile is how sophisticated it was: few of Savage’s close friends twigged when sent a friend request.

READ MORE:
* Auction house owner defends decision to sell Nazi memorabilia
* Nazi flags and badges sold at Nelson auction despite protests
* Nazi memorabilia auction plan in Nelson sparks concern

The photos had been taken off the website of his business, Lipscombe Auction House, and the posts, promoting auctions, appeared legitimate. Lipscombe Auction House has a genuine Facebook page for the business and the fake and genuine pages looked similar.

On Friday after queries from Stuff meta removed the Facebook page for “for violating our policies”.

A spokesperson said it was “committed to safeguarding the integrity of our services, and worked hard to protect our community from fake accounts and other inauthentic behaviour.”

It continued to invest in AI to improve its enforcement and strengthen its review systems it said.

Someone has set up a fake account of auctioneer Warwick Savage and despite people contacting Facebook and telling them it was fake the social media company won’t take it down.

SUPPLIED/Nelson Mail

Someone has set up a fake account of auctioneer Warwick Savage and despite people contacting Facebook and telling them it was fake the social media company won’t take it down.

Savage was happy the page had finally been removed but frustrated it had taken so long for it to have occurred.

Savage had reported the profile to the police, who referred him to Netsafe. Multiple friends also wrote to Facebook asking for the page to be removed, only to receive the message that “ultimately, we decided not to take the profile down”.

“We take action on profiles that pose a danger to other people or that are harmful to the community,” the Facebook Support message read.

Savage said there should be more accountability from social media.

The profile appeared to have been uploaded on November 26, 2022, but the majority of the account activity had been this year, Savage said.

Several people who accepted his friend requests were Nelson City councillors, and other well known people in Nelson.

Someone has set up a fake account of Lipscombe Auction house owner Warwick Savage on facebook that now has over 1100 friends using information from his legitimate website.

SUPPLIED/Nelson Mail

Someone has set up a fake account of Lipscombe Auction house owner Warwick Savage on facebook that now has over 1100 friends using information from his legitimate website.

Before the media got involved Savage said there hadn’t appeared to be much interest from Facebook in doing anything about it.

“And I think it would be a huge worry for anybody. Because basically, they’ve stolen my identity.”

Savage said he was “obviously” concerned about reputational damage. But he was also concerned about having his business targeted.

“It all looks very harmless at the moment, but why would a person bother creating this to not have an end objective? Are messages going out to people there who are friends that aren’t nice messages?”

The situation has left him feeling “stressed”, he said, and particularly worried about the possibility of the person using his name posting something nasty.

“I don’t want to be going around trying to defend myself and Lipscombe’s to 1000 people,” he said.

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George Santos, Who Falsely Claimed His Grandparents Fled Hitler, Reportedly Joked About Killing “Jews and Blacks”

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George Santos, Who Falsely Claimed His Grandparents Fled Hitler, Reportedly Joked About Killing “Jews and Blacks”

One of George Santos’s biggest and most offensive lies was the one he told, on multiple occasions, about having grandparents who’d had to run for their lives during the Holocaust. In 2021, the then candidate claimed in a campaign video that his “grandparents survived the Holocaust.” Several months later, he told the Jewish News Syndicate: “I’m very proud of my grandparents’ story,” which he said included “fleeing Hitler.” Perhaps laying the groundwork for his explanation in the event he got caught in this specific fabrication, he told Fox News Digital in February: “For a lot of people who are descendants of World War II refugees or survivors of the Holocaust, a lot of names and paperwork were changed in name of survival.”

Like so many things that have come out of Santos’s mouth, the one about his grandparents and the Holocaust does not, in fact, appear to be true, as multiple genealogy records indicate his grandparents were born in Brazil and, according to one genealogist who spoke to CNN, “There’s no sign of Jewish and/or Ukrainian heritage and no indication of name changes along the way.” Perhaps another sign that Santos does not have family members who were hunted by Adolf Hitler? His alleged willingness to joke about Hitler killing Jews, and Black people too.

Patch reports that in March 2011, Santos commented on a Facebook photo shared by a friend showing “someone making what appears to be a military salute with the caption ‘something like Hitler’.” Commenting below, Santos allegedly wrote: “hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh hiiiiiiiiiiiitlerrrrrrrrrrr (hight hitler) lolololololololololololol sombody kill her!! the jews and black mostly lolllolol!!! Dum.” A former friend told the outlet they recalled seeing the offensive comment, took a screenshot and sent it along. Patch says it also “verified through another former friend, Gregory Morey-Parker, that the original Facebook post under which Santos wrote the Hitler comment existed.” Presumably that will not be the case for very long. Morey-Parker, who was also once roommates with Santos, also told Patch that the newly sworn-in congressman would regularly make offensive jokes, typically about paying the bill for meals, “but he brushed it off saying he was Jewish. He’d always say that it was okay for him to make those jokes because he was Jewish,” Morey-Parker recalled. (Santos has copped to the fact that he is not actually Jewish, by insisting he never said he was. “I never claimed to be Jewish,” he said in an interview with the New York Post shortly after many of his lies initially came to light. “I am Catholic. Because I learned my maternal family had a Jewish background I said I was ‘Jew-ish.’”)

In an email, Santos’s attorney claimed to Patch that the comment was somehow fake, writing: “the Facebook comment that you reference…is completely false, absolutely disgusting — There is absolutely nothing to talk about.”



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