You are here

Twitter’s Transparency Center Reveals Where Enforcement Stands

Many parents are pressing social media companies to clamp down on cyberbullying and misinformation and most social media sites give lots of lips service to the fact that they are doing more about it or stepping up enforcement. But what does that actually look like? Take a look at Twitter’s new Transparency Report with sections dedicated to various elements of enforcement. Over the most recent six months, Twitter has been working to enforce various elements of concern, including discussion around the #BlackLivesMatter movement, misinformation around COVID-19, and controversial, divisive political content - including commentary from the US President

Misinformation Complicating the Fight Against COVID 19

Public health officials and health care professionals say their advice is being undermined and their jobs are complicated by rampant misinformation on social media about the novel coronavirus. A study estimates that at least 800 people worldwide died in the first quarter of this year after following advice on social media to drink highly concentrated alcohol to kill the virus, and physicians say patients are demanding unproven treatments and accusing them of lying. Keep talking to your kids about misinformation online and how to vet and evaluate sources.

TikTok Fights Misinformation

TikTok, the video sharing app, takes a lot of heat for falsehoods and propaganda that often shows up in user-created content. To help rehabilitate its image, TikTok has partnered with the National Association for Media Literacy Education to launch a "Be Informed" campaign that features top influencers in humorous infomercial-style videos educating users about how to identify misinformation. The five videos cover topics including "Fact vs. Opinion," "Question the Source" and "When to Share vs. When to Report."

The Dangers of Domestic Disinformation

Here are some factoids that might highlight the ballooning issue of disinformation for you: Facebook took down 3 billion fake accounts in 2019. 3 billion. One study suggested that 15% of Twitter’s 330 million monthly users are bots. Bots have a massive multiplier effect on disinformation because they are far more prolific than humans, tweeting hundreds of times a day. Some studies estimate that more than 60% of Trump’s 80+ million followers are bots.

People often talk about how we should be worried about Russian trolls on social media sites and Twitter, but the fact is that it is domestic disinformation that is running rampant. Americans are intentionally feeding other Americans with wrong or factually inaccurate information about Covid-19, the George Floyd demonstrations and other conspiracy theories, and we are going to see much more as the election approaches.

As a parent, what can you do to help your kids navigate all of this “fake news”? First we need to recognize that many conspiracy theories are very seductive. We often want to go along with that particular explanation because it goes along with our own (sometimes hidden) prejudices and biases. Second, you and your kids need to learn to vet information and not to be satisfied with what comes up as one of the first few entries in a web search. Be prepared to search and read different viewpoints on a topic to get at the facts.

Trust in Social Media Platforms Waning

A recent study conducted by OpenX and The Harris Poll points to shifting consumer sentiment regarding social media platforms. The study found 61% of respondents first use the web browsers like Google to discover "high-quality content," while 31% first turn to major platforms like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Compared to last year, 31% say they use Facebook less, while 26% say they'll decrease their Facebook time going forward.

Maps Are Extremely Easy to Fake or Manipulate

For all the talk these days about "fake news" and "deep fake" videos, there hasn't been much chatter about fake maps. Information on a map is easy to manipulate, and most people just glance at maps and don't dive into the data sets that serve as their source material. Using maps related to the coronavirus as an example, theconversation.com highlights some key questions you and your kids should ask whenever you look to a map for information.

Groups Urge Facebook Advertisers to Boycott Platform Over Hate Speech

Civil Rights Groups including The Anti-Defamation League, Color of Change, Common Sense Media, Free Press, the NAACP and Sleeping Giants, are launching a social media campaign, #StopHateForProfit, to urge large Facebook advertisers to boycott the platform unless it makes formal moves to curtail the proliferation of hate speech on its platform. The group is also requesting Facebook to take steps such as removing ads labeled as misinformation or hateful, and informing advertisers when their media buys appear near harmful content and grant refunds. The list of those companies taking part is growing by the day, although critics have questioned the effectiveness, pointing out these companies are not taking down their pages and will most likely buy more ads on Facebook after July.

These actions are one example of recent backlash against Facebook, which seemed to intensify when a flurry of misinformation appeared on the social platform amid worldwide protests against racism and police brutality. The company declined to take action against posts from President Trump — despite Twitter flagging that same content as misleading or glorifying violence. Facebook did remove ads from Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign that featured a symbol used by the Nazis during World War II. The company also announced that it would gradually allow users to opt out of seeing political ads, and has acknowledged in a blog post that its enforcement of content rules “isn’t perfect.”

Google Will Fact Check Images

With the amount of fake images flooding social media and even mainstream media platforms, Google is introducing fact check labels for images in its search results to help crack down on manipulated photos. When you conduct a search on Google Images, you may see a ‘Fact Check’ label under the thumbnail image results. Tapping the label will give you a summary on the 'dubiousness' of the image. The tech giant says these labels may also appear for search results that show both articles about specific images as well as articles that include an image in the story. "Starting today, we are surfacing fact check information in Google Images globally to help people navigate these issues and make more informed judgments about what they see on the web. This builds on the fact check features in Search and News, which people come across billions of times per year," Google said in a post.

Facebook to Identify Content from State Run Media

Facebook says it will start labeling content produced by at least 18 government-controlled news outlets, including Russia's RT and China's Xinhua News. The social platform will also begin labeling ads from the news outlets and plans to block their ads in the US in the near future. This is a bit of reversal for Facebook who has not been willing to label misinformation or election related materials.

The “Freedom of Reach” Question

A new term – “freedom of reach” – is in circulation among those who are concerned about how social media sites are handling misinformation and inflammatory comments. Snapchat is the latest to try to answer the question of “freedom of reach versus freedom of speech” after Twitter has decided to label tweets from President Trump that it considers misleading or “glorifying violence”, and Facebook agonized but decided to do nothing. Snapchat’s approach is to no longer promote President Trumps’s verified Snapchat account. His account, RealDonaldTrump, will remain on the platform and continue to appear on search results. But he will no longer appear in the app’s Discover tab, which promotes news publishers, elected officials, celebrities, and influencers. “We are not currently promoting the president’s content on Snapchat’s Discover platform,” Snapchat said in a statement. “We will not amplify voices who incite racial violence and injustice by giving them free promotion on Discover. Racial violence and injustice have no place in our society and we stand together with all who seek peace, love, equality, and justice in America.”

Since Snapchat is one of the social media sites used mainly by teens and young adults, the fairness of the “freedom of reach” question is one you might want to discuss with your children in the context of misinformation online. Snapchat isn’t deleting Trump’s account, and he is free to keep posting to existing followers. But to the extent that his Snapchat account grows in the future, it will be without Snapchat’s help. In Snapchat’s terms, the company has preserved Trump’s speech while making him responsible for finding his own reach. Trump’s campaign thinks this approach is unfair, but Snapchat has neatly sidestepped questions of censorship by not censoring the president at all. Instead the company has said that if you want to see the president’s snaps, you’ll have to go look for them on your own time.