London, Sept 14 (BBC/UNB)- Facebook has launched a new feature allowing Instagram users to flag posts they think contain fake news to its fact-checking partners for verification. But questions remain as to whether it goes far enough to counter the amount of disinformation on the image-sharing platform, reports BBC.
The move is part of a wider raft of measures the social media giant has taken to tackle the problem of fake news on social media.
Facebook announced in May that it would start reducing the reach of false content on Instagram and gradually extend its fact-checking partnership to include the image-sharing platform. It also said it would start blocking hashtags and posts that spread anti-vaccine misinformation. Most recently, it tightened its political advertising rules ahead of next year's US presidential election.
Launched in December 2016 following the controversy surrounding the impact of Russian meddling and online fake news in the US presidential election, Facebook's partnership now involves more than 50 independent fact-checkers in over 30 countries.
The new flagging feature for Instagram users was first introduced in the US in mid-August and has now been rolled out globally.
Users can report potentially false posts by clicking or tapping on the three dots that appear in the top right-hand corner, selecting "report", "it's inappropriate" and then "false information".
Facebook provides fact-checkers with a dashboard of flagged posts. Fact-checkers can also check content of their own choosing. They use a rating system to determine whether it contains false or misleading information.
The usual procedure on Facebook is that stories that are rated false, contain a mixture of accurate and inaccurate claims, or have false headlines will appear less prominent in users' news feeds. Accounts, pages and groups that repeatedly share misleading stories will be notified and face restrictions on distribution and their ability to make money from advertising.
Instagram's new flagging tool uses a similar dashboard and rating system. Posts rated as false by fact-checkers will be downgraded on its hashtag search and explore pages, two big methods people use to find new posts on the platform.
Facebook says that if a fact-checker rates a story as false on Facebook and it then appears on Instagram, an extra button can be clicked to rate it on there as well.
One notable difference is that an Instagram user whose content is reported and rated will not be notified.
Stephanie Otway, a spokeswoman for Instagram, said: "This is an initial step as we work toward a more comprehensive approach to tackling misinformation."
Washington, Sept 4 (AP/UNB) — Facebook said Tuesday that the US Department of Homeland Security would be violating the company's rules if agents create fake profiles to monitor the social media of foreigners seeking to enter the country.
"Law enforcement authorities, like everyone else, are required to use their real names on Facebook and we make this policy clear," Facebook spokeswoman Sarah Pollack told The Associated Press in a statement Tuesday. "Operating fake accounts is not allowed, and we will act on any violating accounts."
Pollack said the company has communicated its concerns and its policies on the use of fake accounts to DHS. She said the company will shut down fake accounts, including those belonging to undercover law enforcement, when they are reported.
The company's statement followed the AP's report Friday that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services had authorized its officers to use fake social media accounts in a reversal of a previous ban on the practice.
Homeland Security explained the change to the AP in a statement Friday, stating that fake accounts would make it easier for agents reviewing visa, green card and citizenship applications to search for fraud or security threats. The department didn't provide comment when asked Tuesday.
The plan would also be a violation of Twitter's rules. Twitter said Friday that it's still reviewing the new Homeland Security practice. It did not provide further comment.
The change in policy was preceded by other steps taken by the State Department, which began requiring applicants for U.S. visas to submit their social media usernames this past June, a vast expansion of the Trump administration's enhanced screening of potential immigrants and visitors.
Such a review of social media would be conducted by officers in the agency's Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate on cases flagged as requiring more investigation. The privacy assessment notes that officers can only review publicly available social media available to all users on the platform — they cannot "friend" or "follow" an individual — and must undergo annual training.
The officers are also not allowed to interact with users on the social media sites and can only passively review information, according to the DHS document.
While lots of social media activity can be viewed without an account, many platforms limit access without one.
Facebook said it has improved the ability to spot fake accounts through automation, blocking and removing millions of fake accounts daily.
Twitter and Facebook both recently shut down numerous accounts believed to be operated by the Chinese government using their platforms under false identities for information operations.
San Francisco, Aug 31 (AP/UNB) — Google will pay $150 million to $200 million to settle a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission over how it treats information from children on its YouTube video site, according to a published report Friday.
The FTC has reportedly been investigating YouTube for violating a law designed to protect kids online. Politico said the FTC voted 3-2 along party lines to approve the fine to settle the case. The report said the matter now goes to the Justice Department for review.
Federal law typically requires parental consent before online services can collect information about children under 13.
The FTC's investigation into YouTube reportedly looked into how YouTube collects data to serve personalized ads. The company says the service is intended for people ages 13 and older, but it also has many popular kids-focused video channels.
The FTC and Google declined to comment.
YouTube has a separate app for kids, and it launched a website version of YouTube Kids this week. The site asks kids to get parental consent to start viewing and offers a simple math problem as a way to gauge whether the person unlocking the website is really an adult. YouTube says it doesn't target ads to individuals' interests on its kids service.
The FTC's scrutiny of YouTube comes as Google and other big tech companies are under the microscope for the way they sell and store customers' personal information. Facebook recently agreed to pay $5 billion to settle privacy charges.
But the settlement against YouTube may not go far enough for many children's privacy advocates. The Center for Digital Democracy, a privacy advocacy group, said the reported amount against YouTube is "woefully low."
Sen. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who helped write the children's privacy law, said he was disappointed.
"Once again, this FTC appears to have let a powerful company off the hook with a nominal fine for violating users' privacy online," he said in a statement.
San Francisc, Aug 31 (AP/UNB) — Hackers briefly gained control of Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey's account Friday, sending racist and vulgar tweets to his 4.2 million followers.
Some of the tweets were up for about 30 minutes before Twitter took them down.
The tweets included messages such as "Hitler is innocent" and, using a vulgarity, asked "bald skeleton head tramp," apparently referring to Dorsey, to unsuspend certain accounts.
Twitter says it's investigating.
The San Francisco-based company suspended accounts that the hacker or hackers retweeted while they had control of Dorsey's account. It also suspended the account that appeared to be responsible for the hack.
Based on some of the tweets sent from Dorsey's account, a group called Chuckle Squad was likely responsible. Other than getting accounts unsuspended, the group has not said why it hacked Dorsey's account.
The answer may be simply that it could. Even if Dorsey used two-factor authentication for his Twitter account, hackers have learned how to get around this extra security measure. Twitter declined to comment when asked if Dorsey used a two-factor login for his account.
The incident comes as Twitter and Dorsey have promised to improve the "health" and civility of discourse on the social media service, cracking down on hate speech and abuse. Long criticized for allowing bad behavior to run rampant, Twitter has been trying to rein in the worst offenders, banning accounts that violate its terms and making others less visible.
While Twitter says it is making progress, it has met with criticism both from those who say it's not doing enough and from others who say it's going too far in limiting speech. Conservatives also complain of bias. Last year, the company permanently banned right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his Infowars show, citing abusive behavior.
This is not the first time Dorsey has been hacked. In 2016, his account was taken over by the hacker group OurMine, which also attacked other high-profile social media leaders, including the Facebook account of CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
San Francisco, Aug 29 (AP/UNB) — Facebook is tightening its rules around political advertising ahead of the 2020 U.S. presidential election, acknowledging previous misuse. But it's not clear if it will be enough to stop bad actors from abusing its system.
The changes include a tightened verification process that will require anyone wanting to run ads pertaining to elections, politics or big social issues like guns and immigration to confirm their identity and prove they are in the U.S. Beginning in mid-September, such advertisers confirm their group's identity using their organization's tax identification number or other government ID.
The verified group name will be listed on the "paid for by" disclaimers that disclose the backers of ads. Facebook says it will verify this information against government records and will note in the disclaimer for confirmed ads that they're placed by a "confirmed organization."
That process won't apply to everyone, as Facebook says it would bar some smaller but legitimate groups from advertising. But a loophole that will allow small grassroots groups and local politicians to run political ads could also continue to allow bad actors to take advantage of the process.
Advertisers who don't have tax ID numbers, government websites or registrations with the Federal Election Commission will still be able to post ads by providing an address, verifiable phone number, business email and website. These advertisers won't get a "confirmed" designation. Previously, only a U.S. address was required. But it's not inconceivable that bad actors will find a way to spoof phone numbers and email addresses.
"We've acknowledged that these tools will not be perfect," Sarah Schiff, a Facebook product manager, said in an email. "But we are committed to making it more difficult for bad actors to misuse and abuse our platform" without penalizing smaller organizations.
Schiff also reiterated the company's calls for regulation of online political advertising. Critics have said that Facebook's attempts at self-regulation are merely a way for the company to pre-empt stricter government crackdowns.
Last month, Facebook was ordered to pay a $5 billion fine to the Federal Trade Commission over privacy violations. It also faces a series of other investigations into its privacy practices in Europe and across the U.S., in addition to new investigations into its allegedly anticompetitive behavior, such as the social network's habit of buying would-be rivals like Instagram and blatantly duplicating features introduced by competing services.
While the company has beefed up its fight against misinformation and coordinated attacks by malicious nation-states, the same can be said for those trying to game its systems. After revelations that that Russians bankrolled thousands of fake political ads during the 2016 elections, Facebook and other social networks faced intense pressure to ensure that doesn't happen again.
In late 2017, Facebook said it will verify political ad buyers by requiring them to confirm their names and locations, the latter by receiving a postcard with a confirmation code at a U.S. address. Page administrators also had to be verified.
But critics said the rules were easy to evade. Last fall, for instance, Vice News was able to place ads on behalf of the likes of Vice President Mike Pence and the Islamic State, which were all approved by Facebook.