OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – Facebook said Friday that it will flag all “newsworthy” posts from politicians that break its rules, including those from President Donald Trump.
Separately, Facebook’s stock dropped more than 8%, erasing roughly $50 billion from its market valuation, after the European company behind brands such as Ben & Jerry’s and Dove announced it would boycott Facebook ads through the end of the year over the amount of hate speech and divisive rhetoric on its platform. Later in the day, Coca-Cola also announced it joined the boycott for at least 30 days.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg had previously refused to take action against Trump posts suggesting that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud, saying that people deserved to hear unfiltered statements from political leaders. Twitter, by contrast, slapped a “get the facts” label on them.
Until Friday, Trump’s posts with identical wording to those labeled on Twitter remained untouched on Facebook, sparking criticism from Trump’s opponents as well as current and former Facebook employees. Now, Facebook is all but certain to face off with the president the next time he posts something the company deems to be violating its rules.
“The policies were implementing today are designed to address the reality of the challenges our country is facing and how theyre showing up across our community,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page announcing the changes.
Zuckerberg said the social network is taking additional steps to counter election-related misinformation. In particular, the social network will begin adding new labels to all posts about voting that will direct users to authoritative information from state and local election officials.
Facebook is also banning false claims intended to discourage voting, such as stories about federal agents checking legal status at polling places. The company also said it is increasing its enforcement capacity to remove false claims about local polling conditions in the 72 hours before the U.S. election.
Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technologys Center for Civic Media, said the changes are a “reminder of how powerful Facebook may be in terms of spreading disinformation during the upcoming election.”
He said the voting labels will depend on how good Facebooks artificial intelligence is at identifying posts to label.
“If every post that mentions voting links, people will start ignoring those links. If theyre targeted to posts that say things like Police will be checking warrants and unpaid traffic tickets at polls — a classic voter suppression disinfo tactic — and clearly mark posts as disinfo, they might be useful,” he said.
But Zuckerman noted that Facebook “has a history of trying hard not to alienate right-leaning users, and given how tightly President Trump has aligned himself with voter-suppressing misinfo, it seems likely that Facebook will err on the side of non-intrusive and ignorable labels, which would minimize impact of the campaign.”
Earlier in the day, shares of Facebook and Twitter dropped sharply after consumer-product maker Unilever announced a new ad boycott on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram through at least the end of the year.
The European company said it took the move to protest the amount of hate speech online. Unilever said the polarized atmosphere in the United States ahead of November’s presidential election placed responsibility on brands to act.
In addition to the decline in Facebook shares, Twitter ended the day more than 7% lower.
Unilever, which is based in the Netherlands and Britain, joins a raft of other advertisers pulling back from online platforms. Facebook in particular has been the target of an escalating movement to withhold advertising dollars to pressure it to do more to prevent racist and violent content from being shared on its platform.
“We have decided that starting now through at least the end of the year, we will not run brand advertising in social media newsfeed platforms Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the U.S.,” Unilever said. “Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society.”
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On Thursday, Verizon joined others in the Facebook boycott.
Unilever “has enough influence to persuade other brand advertisers to follow its lead,” said eMarketer analyst Nicole Perrin. She noted that Unilever pulled back spending “for longer, on more platforms (including Twitter) and for more expansive reasons” — in particular, by citing problems with “divisiveness” as well as hate speech.
Sarah Personette, vice president of global client solutions at Twitter, said the company’s “mission is to serve the public conversation and ensure Twitter is a place where people can make human connections, seek and receive authentic and credible information, and express themselves freely and safely.”
She added that Twitter is “respectful of our partners decisions and will continue to work and communicate closely with them during this time.”
China surveillance of journalists to use ‘traffic-light’ system
bbc– The Chinese province of Henan is building a surveillance system with face-scanning technology that can detect journalists and other “people of concern”.
Documents seen by BBC News describe a system that classifies journalists into a “traffic-light” system – green, amber and red.
Journalists in the “red” category would be “dealt with accordingly”, they say.
The Henan Public Security Bureau has not responded to a request for comment.
The documents, discovered by the surveillance analyst firm IPVM, also outline plans to surveil other “people of concern”, including foreign students and migrant women.
Human Rights Watch said: “This is not a government that needs more power to track more people… especially those who might be trying to peacefully hold it accountable.”
The documents, published on 29 July, are part of a tendering process, encouraging Chinese companies to bid for a contract to build the new system, won, on 17 September, by NeuSoft.
NeuSoft has not responded to BBC News request for comment.
The system includes facial-recognition technology linked to thousands of cameras in Henan, to alert authorities when a “person of concern” is located.
“People of concern” would be categorised into “thematic libraries” – in an already existing database of information about and images of people in the province.
The system would also connect with China’s national database.
One of the groups of interest to the Henan Public Security Bureau is journalists, including foreign journalists.
“The preliminary proposal is to classify key concerned journalists into three levels,” the documents say.
“People marked in red are the key concern.
“The second level, marked in yellow, are people of general concern.
“Level three, marked in green – are for journalists who aren’t harmful.”
And an alert would be triggered as soon as “journalists of concern”, marked as “red” – or “yellow”, if they had previous criminal charges – booked a ticket to travel into the province.
The system would also assess foreign students and divide them into three categories of risk – “excellent foreign students, general personnel, and key people and unstable personnel”.
“The safety assessment is made by focusing on the daily attendance of foreign students, exam results, whether they come from key countries, and school-discipline compliance,” the documents say.
The schools themselves would need to notify the authorities of students with security concerns.
And those considered to be of concern would be tracked.
During politically sensitive periods, such as the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress, “a wartime alarm mechanism” would be activated and tracking of “key concern” students stepped up, including tracking their cell phones.
The documents outline a desire for the system to contain information taken from:
- cell phones
- social media – such as WeChat and Weibo
- vehicle details
- hotel stays
- travel tickets
- property ownership
- photos (from existing databases)
It should also focus on “stranded women”, or non-Chinese migrant women who do not have the right to live in China.
A large number of women enter China to find work.
Others have been trafficked from neighbouring countries.
And the system would “dock” with the National Immigration Bureau, the Ministry of Public Security and Henan police, among others.
The documents were published around the time the Chinese government criticised foreign media outlets for their coverage of the Henan floods.
Conor Healy, Government Director of IPVM, said: “The technical architecture of mass surveillance in China remains poorly understood… but building custom surveillance technology to streamline state suppression of journalists is new.
“These documents shed light on what China’s public-security officials want from mass surveillance.”
China’s facial-recognition system is thought to already be in use across the country.
And last year, the Washington Post reported Huawei had tested artificial-intelligence software that could recognise people belonging to the Uighur ethnic minority and alert police.
Human Rights Watch’s China director Sophie Richardson said: “The goal is chilling, ensuring that everyone knows they can and will be monitored – and that they never know what might trigger hostile interest.”
QUALCOMM REBRANDS SNAPDRAGON CHIPS THAT POWER MANY OF THE WORLD’S PHONES IN ATTEMPT TO BE LESS CONFUSING
independent– Qualcomm has announce a major rebrand of its Snapdragon chips, in a move that could make choosing a phone vastly more simple.
The company sells its Snapdragon chips to a vast range of other companies – such as Samsung, HP and OnePlus – which use them to power devices including mobile phones, watches and laptops.
But comparing those devices can often be difficult, because of the confusing name of those Snapdragon processors, which are marked by a host of complex numbers. Since processors are at the heart of the devices, it can therefore be difficult to know whether a given phone is better than another.
But Qualcomm now says that it will simplify its branding in a host of ways, most of which bring new branding to the line.
The most obvious one is that the Qualcomm and Snapdragon brands will be separated. While they will still be owned by the same company as before, the Qualcomm will be removed from the chips itself.
More usefully, however, those complicated names will be changed.
Until now, Snapdragon products have come with three different names. Each of the numbers was intended to show where it was in the line-up: the first indicating the power, the second what generation, and the third used to separate different products within those generations.
But that was difficult to know and to compare. It also led to struggles with Snapdragon running out of names – it has a Snapdragon 695, for instance, and so only space for four more chips in that line-up.
Instead, it will move to a “new simplified and consistent naming structure for our platforms makes it easier for our customers to discover and choose devices powered by Snapdragon”, it says. “This means our mobile platforms will transition to a single-digit series and generation number, aligning with other product categories — starting with our newest flagship Snapdragon 8-series platform.”
It did not give information on what that new naming system would be, and promised more information would be revealed at another event on 30 November.
Gigabit broadband: Internet seen as top homebuyer priority
bbc– A fast internet connection is now one of the most important factors for homebuyers, according to a survey of 294 estate agents across the UK.
Questions about connectivity, usually “full fibre” broadband, are up 69% since the pandemic began, the research, by Omdia for telecoms equipment maker Huawei, suggests.
Speeds of more than 300Mbps are being sought by 34% of buyers – and, according to 33% of the estate agents, can add £5,000 to the sale price of a home – while 23% want 1Gbps.
Asked to name the single most important factor is for homebuyers:
- 23% said the size of the property
- 20% said broadband quality
- 18% said the number of bedrooms
- 10% said the age of the property is
- 9% said transport links
“In many cases, customers feel that good internet is a ‘must have’,” James Hummerstone-Pope, from Purple Bricks, said.
“And poor wi-fi and a bad mobile signal can be a deal breaker.
“Fibre broadband definitely makes properties more appealing.
“And people will sometimes walk away from a property if they feel the broadband and phone signals aren’t good enough.”
- Vodafone to offer full fibre broadband to millions
- Half-a-million homes to get broadband boost
The government has promised to “bring full-fibre and gigabit-capable broadband to every home and business across the UK by 2025”.
And research from telecoms regulator Ofcom suggests 18.2 million homes (62%) already have access to 300Mbps or faster.
But only a fraction pay for such high speeds.
And the average UK speed is actually 50.4Mbps.
In Scotland and the South West, good broadband is the most important factor for homebuyers, the survey suggests.
But London-based estate agent Foxtons said while buyers considered the internet important – “particularly since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic” – it was usually outweighed by other factors.
“Choosing which property to purchase is an incredibly complex decision that depends on numerous different factors,” a representative said.
“In our experience, the price and perceived value for money, the size and type of property, provision of outside space, as well as proximity to local amenities and schools are some of the most critical factors in the decision-making process.”
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