Facebook, Twitter remove Trump posts for making ‘false claims’ about coronavirus


President Donald Trump answers a question during a press conference in the White House on Wednesday.


AFP/Getty Images

Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. on Wednesday removed posts by President Donald Trump that violated their coronavirus misinformation policies.

The identical posts were a video clip from a Fox News interview with Trump about reopening schools, in which he wrongly claimed children are “virtually immune” to COVID-19.

While children appear to be generally less affected by the coronavirus, they are not “virtually immune,” and a number have died. The state of California, for example, has recorded more than 48,000 cases of COVID-19 in patients 17 and younger.

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spokesperson said in an email: “This video includes false claims that a group of people is immune from COVID-19 which is a violation of our policies around harmful COVID misinformation.” 

However, that message was not included on Facebook’s site. The post was replaced by a message reading “This content isn’t available right now,” which does not explain why it was removed or that its content was inaccurate.

It was the first time Facebook has taken down a Trump post for violating its coronavirus rules. In June, Facebook took down Trump campaign ads that included a Nazi symbol, and in March took down Trump campaign ads that were misleading about the census.

Trump’s official campaign account — which Trump retweeted — posted the same video on Twitter, which has been more active than Facebook at taking down presidential posts that violate guidelines. It was up for at least five hours before being taken down, with a note reading: “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules.”

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spokesperson confirmed the tweet was removed for being in violation of the company’s rules on COVID-19 misinformation. Twitter added that the Trump campaign’s official account will be blocked from posting again until the video is removed.

Trump has harshly criticized social-media companies for fact-checking and removing his posts, and in July the Trump administration asked the FCC to reinterpret a 1996 law that gives broad latitude to how tech companies police content on their sites.





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Disney slashes ad spending on Facebook amid growing boycott


Walt Disney Co. has dramatically cut its advertising spending on Facebook Inc., according to people familiar with the situation, the latest setback for the technology giant as it faces a boycott from companies upset with its handling of hate speech and divisive content.

Disney
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was Facebook’s
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top U.S. advertiser for the first six months of 2020, research firm Pathmatics Inc. estimates. It joins hundreds of other companies that have paused spending, including Unilever PLC
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, Starbucks Corp.
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, Ford Motor Co.
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, Verizon Communication Inc.
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and many small marketers.

Civil-rights groups including the Anti-Defamation League and NAACP called on advertisers to pull ad spending for July, arguing Facebook hasn’t made enough progress enforcing its policies on hate speech and misinformation.

The entertainment giant, which is concerned about Facebook’s enforcement of its policies surrounding objectionable content, has paused advertising of its streaming-video service Disney+, the people familiar with the situation said. Disney has promoted the service heavily this year and it makes up a substantial portion of the company’s spending on marketing.

In the first half of this year, Disney spent an estimated $210 million on Facebook ads for Disney+ in the U.S., according to Pathmatics. Disney was the biggest ad spender during that period. Last year, it was the No. 2 Facebook advertiser in the U.S., behind Home Depot Inc.

Disney also paused spending on Facebook-owned Instagram for its sister streaming service Hulu, a person familiar with matter said. Hulu spent $16 million on Instagram from April 15 to June 30, Pathmatics said.

Other divisions of Disney are also re-examining their advertising on Facebook. Ads for ABC and Disney-owned cable networks such as Freeform have all but vanished from the site. While there are fewer shows to market during the summer, a person familiar with the matter said, it is unlikely that ads will return when new episodes need to be promoted, unless the social platform polices itself better.

Disney representatives had no immediate comment.

“We know we have more work to do,” Facebook said in a statement, adding that it would work with civil-rights groups, a leading ad trade group and other experts “to develop even more tools, technology and policies to continue this fight.”

Facebook has said it invests billions of dollars to keep its platforms safe and has banned 250 white-supremacist organizations from Facebook and Instagram. It also has said artificial intelligence helps it find nearly 90% of hate speech before anyone flags it.

Facebook has around $70 billion in annual advertising revenue, generated from over eight million advertisers. It would take a sustained boycott from its biggest advertisers to put a significant dent in the company financially.

Some marketers are reducing ad spending broadly because of financial pressures caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Many brands prefer not to cut Facebook ad spending, because they regard it as an especially effective marketing vehicle.

An expanded version of this story appears on WSJ.com.



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Facebook not doing enough to fight discrimination, audit says By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Facebook logos

(Reuters) – Facebook Inc (O:) has not done enough to fight discrimination on its platform and some of its decisions were setbacks for civil rights, according to an independent audit commissioned by the company, the New York Times reported.

The auditors’ findings are likely to add further pressure to the company which is already facing a boycott by some 900 advertisers, including major brands such as Coca-Cola (NYSE:), over what civil rights campaigners say is its promotion of hate speech.

“Many in the civil rights community have become disheartened, frustrated and angry after years of engagement where they implored the company to do more to advance equality and fight discrimination, while also safeguarding free expression,” the auditors wrote, according to the Times, which said it had obtained a prepublication report of the findings.

Facebook commissioned Laura Murphy, a former director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s legislative office, to lead the audit of its civil rights policies in 2018. It was responding to a range of criticisms over issues such as data privacy, voter suppression, incitement of violence and a lack of transparency in political advertising.

A Facebook spokesperson said the audit “has been a deep analysis of how we can strengthen and advance civil rights at every level of our company – but it is the beginning of the journey, not the end.

“What has become increasingly clear is that we have a long way to go. As hard as it has been to have our shortcomings exposed by experts, it has undoubtedly been a really important process for our company.”

The auditors said Facebook had been too willing to exempt politicians from abiding by its rules, allowing them to spread misinformation, harmful and divisive rhetoric, and even calls to violence.

Facebook has taken a hands-off approach to political speech compared to rivals, notably leaving untouched a post by President Donald Trump in May which its rival Twitter flagged as an incitement to violence.

Organizers of the advertising boycott, including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the NAACP, met for more than an hour via video conference with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg on Tuesday. After the meeting, activists said they saw “no commitment to action” from the company.

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Zuckerberg said to say of Facebook ad boycott: ‘All these advertisers will be back’ soon enough


Hundreds of companies around the world have joined a temporary ad boycott against Facebook Inc., but Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg says he’s not worried and has no intention of changing its policies, according to a new report.


“My guess is that all these advertisers will be back on the platform soon enough.”


— Mark Zuckerberg

Zuckerberg said the boycott is more of a PR issue than one that will hurt the social-media giant’s bottom line, according to a report Wednesday by The Information, which cited a transcript of remarks Zuckerberg gave at an employees-only virtual town hall Friday.

“We’re not gonna change our policies or approach on anything because of a threat to a small percent of our revenue, or to any percent of our revenue,” he said, according to The Information.

While generating headlines, the boycott involves only a tiny fraction of Facebook’s roughly 8 million advertisers. The company generates almost all of its revenue from ads.

Read: Here are the major brands that have pulled ads from Facebook

The #StopHateForProfit campaign was started by civil rights groups last month, calling for major companies to stop their Facebook ad spending for July to protest the company’s inability to rein in hate speech, threats of violence and misinformation on its platform.

A portion of Friday’s virtual town hall was streamed to the public from Zuckerberg’s Facebook page, where he announced some policy changes to crack down on hateful content and voting misinformation. But he was reportedly more blunt in private remarks to employees, saying Facebook would not cave to pressure.

“You know, we don’t technically set our policies because of any pressure that people apply to us,” he said, according to The Information. “And, in fact, usually I tend to think that if someone goes out there and threatens you to do something, that actually kind of puts you in a box where in some ways it’s even harder to do what they want because now it looks like you’re capitulating, and that sets up bad long-term incentives for others to do that [to you] as well.”

Experts told MarketWatch on Wednesday that companies joining the boycott may see a bigger boost to their brands than Facebook ads would have generated in the first place.

“By pulling ads, they save money and make a low-risk statement that results in positive publicity and marketing for their brands among constituents,” Gerard Francis Corbett, a communications strategy consultant based in Silicon Valley, told MarketWatch. “The Facebook boycott is a lower-risk way for CEOs to make a [political] statement.”

Earlier this week, Rohit Kulkarni, executive director at MKM Partners, wrote in a note to clients that the ad boycott would affect less than 5% of Facebook’s revenue.

Facebook shares
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surged nearly 5% on Wednesday, and are up about 16% year to date, compared to the S&P 500’s
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3.5% decline.



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Facebook Must Grow Up In Order To Become A Better Investment (NASDAQ:FB)


Introduction

In my dividend growth portfolio, I always look for a way to increase my exposure to the information technology sector. The companies in this sector are less likely to pay dividends as many of them are still in the rapid growth stage and use the cash generated to build their business and improve the fundamentals.

Therefore, I find myself many times left with the companies with lower growth rate. I have long-term goals for my portfolio as I am a young investor. I am willing to invest in companies for their future dividends. I look for companies in the sector that have grown their free cash flow and have plenty of cash in their balance sheet.

Eventually, these companies will consider paying dividends, as their cash position will keep growing. This is the same process that happened with Cisco (CSCO) and Apple (AAPL). As part of this strategy, I own shares in Alphabet (GOOG) (GOOGL) and Facebook (FB) as both companies grow their FCF and, I believe, will eventually share their wealth with their shareholders.

Facebook is a great company, but it is still immature and looking for guidance and a solid plan. The problem with Facebook is not with the fundamentals, or the risk to its business model and even not from future growth opportunities. The problem is with trust. It cannot gain the investors’ trust due to a series of scandals. It has to choose its path and grow up.

Current ad boycott scandal

When I talk about scandals, I’d like to note that I am not talking about the current advertisers’ boycott. I believe that this is a public relation move by several brands who want to get some good publicity with certain demographics, and I find this move legitimate, but I do not believe it is really intended to hurt Facebook.

Everybody knows that FB is a bad erratic boy, so they take advantage of it. When you are the bad boy, you may be blamed for everything so others can avoid criticism, or gain good PR.

We are practically in a recession. The coronavirus is here to stay for the next quarters, and the level of uncertainty is high. During recession, companies tend to cut expenses, and that includes advertising expenses. They advertise less online, but also in television, radio and newspaper. The only difference here is that, due to Facebook’s reputation, they were able to cut expenses and still get free publicity. It’s a win-win for these firms, and they just capitalized on this opportunity. I doubt it really comes from an ideologic position.

Scandals in Israel and America

In Israel where I reside, Facebook is under consistent pressure. Itai Leshem is suing the company for colluding with the government. He petitioned even to the Supreme Court in Israel in his attempt to uncover the company’s possibly illegal behavior. The allegations are severe, and Facebook is using every tactic to delay him and bully him and other media outlets, according to him.

On the other end of the political map, we have right-wing users who claim they’re suspended and punished for publishing information which is uncomfortable for other people. This is not just about bots or unknown people. Even Professor Gadi Taub, a right-wing lecturer from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem showed today that he was warned by Facebook. He claimed that every opinion which is not aligned with the “right” opinion is being silenced.

(Source: Gadi Taub’s Twitter Account)

The examples above are just two examples, which I believe most reads aren’t aware of as it happens in Israel and hurt public opinion on both sides of the political field. I am sure most people are aware of the Cambridge Analytica scandal where a company harvested information in order to use it for political gains to the highest bidder while Facebook did almost nothing to prevent it in real time.

While this scandal influenced the Brexit and the 2016 presidential elections, we have now a new scandal and constant debates over the current November elections. Facebook is blamed on the one hand for spreading hate speech and racism by the left, and on the other hand, the right blames Facebook for censorship. Every side brings some good examples to censorship and hate speech, and this happens due to Facebook’s lack of direction.

The need of a philosophy

Facebook is immature. It tries to please everyone even when it’s obvious it can’t. When we grow up, we choose our path, and our goals, and understand that we might aggravate people on the way. However, when we communicate our goals and ideology well, it is easier for others, and soothe any friction. When you try to always appease everyone, you end up aggravating everyone.

When a company grows and matures, it also chooses its path. The people and customers understand it and make their choice whether they want to associate themselves with the company. Even companies with controversial products like Coca-Cola (KO), Altria (MO), and Las Vegas Sands (LVS), avoid major scandals. They do it not because they stopped selling controversial products or services, but by being clear about their services and their goals.

Facebook should adopt a business plan and a philosophy and stick to it. If Facebook wants to be neutral, it will go ahead communicate it and deal with the backlash and the consequences. If Facebook wants to limit certain types of messages, again it will go ahead, communicate it and deal with the consequences. The lack of a clear philosophy is critical here. We only hear from its leadership new age texts with no clear boundaries.

At the end of the day, Facebook is an advertising platform. Advertisers need stability and understand what crowd is present. You use different commercials in Fox News and in MSNBC, and there’s nothing bad about it. If Facebook matures, decides what it expects from itself and the users, set clear boundaries, it will attract more advertisers and increase user satisfaction.

Conclusions

FB must grow up. It must explain thoroughly its ethic, ground rules, what kind of speech is welcomed and what is not welcomed on the platform. Then, it will suffer some consequences from users and advertisers alike. No matter what it chooses, it will suffer in the short term, but after the initial blast, people will know what to expect and what will they see, and Facebook will be able to keep focusing on the business and not on dealing with an infinite number of scandals.

This way, it may be able to attract new investors who don’t want their companies constantly in the news cycle. Investors like me want a boring company that works quietly to grow its free cash flow and hopefully pay dividends. The leadership should be more professional and clearer about its intentions both ethically and financially, or else it should be replaced. The current fundamentals are strong, but due to the never-ending scandals that hurt the brand constantly, I will not be adding to my position.

Disclosure: I am/we are long FB, MO, KO, CSCO.AAPL. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.





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