Facing immense pressure, Facebook had no choice but to ban new political ads week before election


Facebook Inc.’s first action to limit political advertising in the U.S. with a ban of news ads in the week preceding the Nov. 3 elections announced Thursday comes amid unrelenting criticism that its platform fuels misinformation and is a haven for far-right groups.

Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg, who in particular has taken heat for political manipulation of the social-media company’s platform during the 2016 U.S. elections, made the announcement early Thursday in another attempt to tamp down meddling.

“It’s important that campaigns can run ‘get out the vote campaigns’, and I generally believe the best antidote to bad speech is more speech, but in the final days of an election there may not be enough time to contest new claims,” Zuckerberg said.

The specter of voter manipulation has weighed heavily on Facebook. The company is running what it calls the largest voting information campaign in American history, with a goal of helping 4 million people to register and vote. Last month, Facebook launched a Voting Information Center to help users with accurate, easy-to-find information about voting wherever they live. The addendum will link to a new voter information hub similar to one about COVID-19 that Facebook says has been seen by billions of people globally.

See also: Facebook hardens digital defense for misinformation ahead of elections

However, Facebook’s latest election-integrity move was immediately met with skepticism from privacy groups that argue Facebook should be fact-checking and removing political ads, in addition to intentionally deceptive posts, that proliferate across its platform that includes Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger. Some openly questioned why the ban didn’t extend longer, and if money trumped principle.

“Nothing more than a PR stunt designed to distract from the fact that Facebook is the single biggest vector of dangerous misinformation and voter suppression campaigns in the United States. It falls well short of even being a half measure,” Shaunna Thomas, co-founder and executive director of national women’s organization UltraViolet, said in a statement.

Others were more positive about the new policy. “It’s a strange feeling to read something by Mark Zuckerberg and say, ‘Yup, yup, yup,’” said Claire Wardle, the U.S. director of First Draft, a nonprofit group that combats misinformation. “I’m pretty excited by it.”

Election interference remains top of mind at Facebook, which is as concerned about vote counting in the days and perhaps weeks following Nov. 3. Officials at Facebook, Twitter Inc.
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and elsewhere have hinted there could be attempts by politically motivated groups to question the legitimacy of votes, including mail-in ballots.

Read more: Facebook and Twitter are concerned about what is going to happen after Election Day

Facebook, which is under investigation for anti-competitive business practices by the Federal Trade Commission, faces immense political pressure for the torrent of information it fire-hoses to its 2.7 billion monthly active users.

Despite the relatively civil relationship between Zuckerberg and President Donald J. Trump, who has nearly 31 million followers on the social network, it might only take a mild disciplinary action by Facebook over Trump’s profile feed to raise his ire and prompt regulatory punishment, Anurag Chandra, a partner at venture-capital firm Fort Ross Ventures, told MarketWatch.

The White House said as much in a terse statement Thursday.

“In the last seven days of the most important election in our history, President Trump will be banned from defending himself on the largest platform in America,” Samantha Zager, the campaign’s deputy national press secretary, said in a statement. “When millions of voters will be making their decisions, the President will be silenced by the Silicon Valley Mafia, who will at the same time allow corporate media to run their biased ads to swing voters in key states.”

The campaign of Trump’s Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., had no immediate comment.

Facebook
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shares declined 3.8% in trading Thursday in a as tech stocks were routed in a selloff.



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Facebook and Twitter are concerned about what is going to happen after Election Day


Securing democracy on social media may be hardest after Americans vote in the presidential election.

In what is shaping up as a newfangled nightmare in their efforts to stop election interference, Facebook Inc.
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, Twitter Inc.
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and others are as concerned about misinformation and other issues in days after the U.S. election as they are in the months preceding it, including Election Day.

“How do we ensure that voters have accurate information?” as election results are counted in the days following the Nov. 3 presidential election, Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, asked during a Tuesday webinar on protecting the upcoming elections. He did not elaborate, but hinted there could be attempts by politically motivated groups to question the legitimacy of votes, including mail-in ballots.

President Donald Trump has endlessly claimed without evidence that voting by mail — expected to increase dramatically because of the pandemic — is susceptible to large-scale fraud. (Nearly one in four voters cast 2016 presidential ballots that way.)

Yoel Roth, head of site integrity at Twitter, echoed those concerns, but he added that social-media companies are better positioned this time around than four years ago. He said the micro-blogging service is promoting “credible, authoritative information” during political-party conventions, presidential and vice-presidential debates, and election results in November.

Gleicher added that Facebook is detecting more “bad actors” than in elections in 2018 and 2016, through a greater understanding of the risk, and through coordination with academia, media, and state and local officials.

Their fears come amid concerted efforts by Facebook, Twitter and others to tamp down on misinformation concerning the U.S. elections.

Facebook, which has repeatedly acknowledged its part in being exploited by foreign and domestic adversaries during the 2016 presidential election with fake news and misinformation, this month launched a Voting Information Center to help users with accurate, easy-to-find information about voting wherever they live.

Read more: Facebook hardens digital defense for misinformation ahead of elections

The addendum will link to a new voter information hub similar to one about COVID-19 that Facebook says has been seen by billions of people globally. The labels will read, “Visit the Voting Information Center for election resources and official updates.” Facebook expects the voter hub to reach at least 160 million people in the U.S. In July, the company began adding similar links to misleading posts by politicians, including Trump, about voting.

Twitter, meanwhile, has said it will roll out measures on new tools, policies and voting resources, as well as expand its “civic integrity policies” to address misrepresentations about mail-in voting. In January, the company created a feature that lets users report voter suppression and misinformation.

Among other companies, Snap Inc.
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has unveiled a “Voter Registration Mini” tool so users can register to vote directly in Snapchat. It also posted a “Voter Guide” with information about topics such as voting by mail and voter registration.



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UK plans to drop ‘Facebook tax’, Mail on Sunday says By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration

LONDON (Reuters) – British finance minister Rishi Sunak plans to drop a tax on technology companies such as Facebook (O:) and Google (O:) because it does not raise much money and could hurt a push for a U.S. trade deal, the Mail on Sunday newspaper said.

Britain introduced the digital services tax in April after slow progress in global negotiations over how to tax tech giants, many of which are U.S. companies.

The tax is expected to raise about 500 million pounds ($654 million) a year for Britain’s public finances.

That represents only a fraction of the 200 billion pounds in extra debt the country has racked up since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tax is also a potential impediment to a post-Brexit bilateral trade deal between Britain and the United States.

France and other countries have adopted or are considering similar taxes.

No one was immediately available for comment at Britain’s finance ministry.

The Mail on Sunday quoted a finance ministry representative as saying: “We’ve been clear it’s a temporary tax that will be removed once an appropriate global solution is in place, and we continue to work with our international partners to reach that goal.”

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Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.





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Exclusive: Facebook employees internally question policy after India content controversy


© Reuters. A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration

By Aditya Kalra and Munsif Vengattil

NEW DELHI/BENGALURU (Reuters) – Facebook (O:) and its top lobbying executive in India, Ankhi Das, are facing questions internally from employees over how political content is regulated in its biggest market, according to sources with direct knowledge and internal posts seen by Reuters.

The world’s largest social network is battling a public-relations and political crisis in India after the Wall Street Journal reported that Das opposed applying the company’s hate-speech rules to a politician from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party who had in posts called Muslims traitors.

In the United States and around the world, Facebook employees are raising questions about whether adequate procedures and content regulation practices were being followed by the India team, sources familiar with discussions told Reuters.

An open letter written to Facebook’s leadership by 11 employees on one internal platform, and seen by Reuters, demands company leaders acknowledge and denounce “anti-Muslim bigotry” and ensure more policy consistency.

The letter also demanded that Facebook’s “policy team in India (and elsewhere) includes diverse representation.”

“It is hard not to feel frustrated and saddened by the incidents reported … We know we’re not alone in this. Employees across the company are expressing similar sentiment,” said the letter. “The Muslim community at Facebook would like to hear from Facebook leadership on our asks.”

Facebook and Das did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Facebook has been under fire in recent years for its lax approach to fake news content, state-backed disinformation campaigns and violent content spread via its platforms.

The WSJ article said Das had told staff that applying hate-speech rules to politicians close to Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) “would damage the company’s business prospects in the country.”

Following the report, in response to Reuters queries on the matter, Facebook said it prohibits hate speech that incites violence and enforces policies without regard to political position or party affiliation.

“While we know there is more to do, we’re making progress on enforcement and conduct regular audits,” said the company, which has more than 300 million users in India.

One of the sources said Facebook’s India leadership will have to answer tough questions on what really happened, “There will be scrutiny on what really went down.”

A second source familiar with the reactions said Facebook employees were discussing whether there should be strict separation between government relations and content policy teams, and there is “an internal debate happening about the (content moderation) processes.”

After the article, Facebook India head Ajit Mohan defended Das, whose title is Director, Public Policy, India, South & Central Asia, and the company’s policies in an internal community post, also seen by Reuters.

The WSJ “article does not reflect the person I know or the extraordinarily complex issues we face everyday that benefits from Ankhi and the Public Policy team’s expertise,” Mohan wrote.

Mohan also wrote the company is “confident that the article’s claim that political affiliations influence decision making in India is inaccurate and without merit.”

A spokesman for the WSJ did not respond to a request for comment.

India’s opposition Congress Party has called for a parliamentary probe into Facebook, while BJP lawmakers in turn have accused Facebook of censoring nationalist voices.

Das, 49, is considered among India’s most influential corporate lobbying executives and has been central to Facebook’s rise in India since joining the company in 2011.

“She has created a niche for herself (in India),” said a person who has worked closely with Das on policy issues.

One former Facebook executive in Asia and a former Indian government official described Das as very sharp and politically connected. A second former employee said Das has always been outspoken about issues in the company.

Das hasn’t commented on the controversy, but her sister Rashmi, who has publicly acknowledged her own ties to a student wing close to the BJP, told the India Today TV on Tuesday, “we sisters are made of very stern stuff.”

“I’m sure Ankhi will handle it very competently,” she said.





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Facebook bashes Apple for refusing to waive commission fees, seizing on backlash By Reuters


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© Reuters. A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration

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By Katie Paul

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc (O:) said on Friday that Apple Inc (O:) had declined its request to waive a 30% commission fee the iPhone maker charges apps listed on iOS devices, taking a shot at its fellow Big Tech peer as developers challenge the policy.

The move is the latest salvo in a long-running cold war between two of the world’s most powerful tech companies, which have clashed over their approaches to user privacy as both face regulatory scrutiny over alleged anticompetitive behavior.

Facebook said it requested the waiver so that small businesses would not have to pay Apple’s cut for a new paid online events product the world’s biggest social media company is launching on its core platform.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Thursday, Apple removed popular video game “Fortnite” from its app store for violating its in-app payment guidelines, sparking a backlash online and prompting developer Epic Games to file a federal antitrust lawsuit challenging Apple’s rules.

Apple takes a cut of between 15% and 30% for most app subscriptions and payments made inside apps, though there are some exceptions for companies that already have a credit card on file for iPhone customers if they also offer an in-app payment that would benefit Apple.

Developers have long criticized the commissions, as well as Apple’s prohibitions on courting customers for outside sign-ups, and what some developers see as an opaque and unpredictable app-vetting process.

A mock-up of the new events product on iPhone, provided by Facebook, showed that the company planned to tell users that Apple would take 30% of the purchase.

Google (O:) also typically takes a 30% commission for payments within apps on its Android devices, although it was not immediately clear whether it would assess a charge in this case. In its Android mock-up, Facebook noted only that it would not take a fee, without disclosing its arrangement with Google.

Google declined to comment on its fee arrangement for the product, and Facebook did not respond to the request for comment.

Facebook also did not say whether it had tried to make use of Apple’s “multiplatform” exceptions.

The disclosure is likely to touch a nerve with Apple, whose App Store rules bar developers from discouraging the use of its in-app purchase system. Spotify (NYSE:) in the past has said Apple rejected its attempts to communicate with users about the fee structures.

Fidji Simo, who heads the core Facebook app, announced the tool in a media conference call featuring small business owners who praised it as a way to reach customers and earn revenue online during the coronavirus pandemic.

She said Facebook considered it “important to be transparent, when people are supporting small businesses,” as users might not be aware that part of their payments could be “going to an almost $2 trillion company.”

Asked if she thought Apple would approve the change, even with language about fees that could discourage users from using the in-app purchase mechanism, she said she expected to find out “in the next couple days.”

Disclaimer: Fusion Media would like to remind you that the data contained in this website is not necessarily real-time nor accurate. All CFDs (stocks, indexes, futures) and Forex prices are not provided by exchanges but rather by market makers, and so prices may not be accurate and may differ from the actual market price, meaning prices are indicative and not appropriate for trading purposes. Therefore Fusion Media doesn`t bear any responsibility for any trading losses you might incur as a result of using this data.

Fusion Media or anyone involved with Fusion Media will not accept any liability for loss or damage as a result of reliance on the information including data, quotes, charts and buy/sell signals contained within this website. Please be fully informed regarding the risks and costs associated with trading the financial markets, it is one of the riskiest investment forms possible.





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