Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Twitter's Jack Dorsey warns Donald Trump will lose protection from being banned from platform when he leaves the White House – and Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg is slammed by senators for evading answers as tech two are quizzed on 'censorship' claims

 Jack Dorsey said Tuesday that Donald Trump's tweets will no longer be protected once he's out of office and suggested he could be booted from the platform come January.

'We do have a policy around public interest where for global leaders we do make exceptions in terms of whether – if a tweet violates our terms of service, we leave it up,' Dorsey said in explaining a policy that differs between normal users and the president.

'So, if an account becomes – is not a world leader anymore, that particular policy goes away,' he said while being questioned at a Senate Judiciary hearing on social media transparency on Tuesday.


Dorsey explained during his line of question with Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono that world leaders' tweets are left up, even if they violate Twitter's terms of service, but that the sharing capabilities are limited.

'Will he still get to use your platforms to spread disinformation?' Hirono asked.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who was also called to answer questions related to Big Tech's handling of information, revealed his website also has somewhat of a different handling of accounts for politicians when compared to the general public.

'In terms of President Trump and moving forward, there are a small number of policies where we have exceptions for politicians under the principle that people should be able to hear what their elected officials are saying – and candidates for office,' he said.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday that Donald Trump could be booted from Twitter and his tweets removed once he is no longer protected under policies in place for world leaders

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey said during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday that Donald Trump could be booted from Twitter and his tweets removed once he is no longer protected under policies in place for world leaders

'We do have a policy around public interest where for global leaders we do make exceptions... if a tweet violates our terms of service, we leave it up,' Dorsey said. 'So, if an account... is not a world leader anymore, that particular policy goes away'

'We do have a policy around public interest where for global leaders we do make exceptions... if a tweet violates our terms of service, we leave it up,' Dorsey said. 'So, if an account... is not a world leader anymore, that particular policy goes away'

While Trump's tweet saying he is the true winner and questioning election integrity have not been taken down or hidden, Twitter has flagged dozens of these posts related to the election

While Trump's tweet saying he is the true winner and questioning election integrity have not been taken down or hidden, Twitter has flagged dozens of these posts related to the election

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, who also joined the hearing Tuesday, was slammed by senators for evading questions

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, who also joined the hearing Tuesday, was slammed by senators for evading questions

Senator Josh Hawley lashed out on Twitter, claiming Zuckerberg only answered with 'I don't know' and 'Let me get back to you'

Senator Josh Hawley lashed out on Twitter, claiming Zuckerberg only answered with 'I don't know' and 'Let me get back to you'

Zuckerberg, unlike Dorsey, however, said that there are no exceptions to their rules for world leaders or other politicians.

The Facebook boss also came under fire from senators for dodging questions. 

Many times, Zuckerberg responded to senators by saying he either could not recall a particular instance or would have to get back to the members of the panel regarding a specific inquiry.

'Mark Zuckerberg under oath to me today: I don't know, I can't recall, I don't remember, I'll follow up later, let me get back to you,' Missouri's Republican Senator Josh Hawley lamented on Twitter.

Dorsey also revealed Tuesday that Twitter flagged 300,000 tweets in an effort to combat disinformation in the days surrounding the presidential election this year.

'More than a year ago, the public asked us to provide additional context to help make potentially misleading information more apartment. We did exactly that, applying labels to over 300,000 tweets from October 27-November 11, which represented about .2 per cent of U.S. elected-related tweets,' Dorsey said during a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.

Of the flagged tweets, 456 were also covered by a warning message and limited in sharing capabilities. About 74 per cent of the people who viewed those tweets could only view them if they opted to after a label or warning message was applied. 

'We applied labels to add context and limit the risk of harmful election misinformation spreading without important context, because the public told us they wanted us to take these steps,' he added in his opening remarks.

Dorsey was preemptively addressing questions sure to arise over Twitter flagging dozens of President Donald Trump's tweets related to the election – especially those questioning the results.

Dorsey also revealed during the hearing Tuesday that Twitter has flagged more than 300,000 tweets related to the 2020 presidential election in the days before and after

Dorsey also revealed during the hearing Tuesday that Twitter has flagged more than 300,000 tweets related to the 2020 presidential election in the days before and after 

Dorsey along with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckberg joined senators for another hearing related to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which prevents their companies from being held liable for what their users' post

Dorsey along with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckberg joined senators for another hearing related to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which prevents their companies from being held liable for what their users' post

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said in his opening remarks: 'Section 230 as it exists today has got to give,' adding, 'change is going to come'

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said in his opening remarks: 'Section 230 as it exists today has got to give,' adding, 'change is going to come'

Drosey: 'We labeled 300,000 tweets for misinformation'
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In Chairman Lindsey Graham's opening statement, he showed a tweet from Trump's former Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley questioning the validity of mail-in ballots, which was flagged by Twitter as misleading.

He also showed a tweet from Iranian Leader Ayatollah Khamenei denying the Holocaust, which was not flagged.

Social Media's biggest giants again headed to Capitol Hill – virtually – on Tuesday to testify and face questions on Section 230 as Republicans lament Facebook and Twitter engage in selective censorship of conservative voices.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter's Jack Dorsey faced verbal assails from lawmakers as Democrats focused on their platforms' amplification of misinformation and Republicans on suppression of some of their biggest voices – including President Trump.

'Section 230 as it exists today has got to give,' Graham said, adding, 'change is going to come.'

Democrat Senator Richard Blumenthal, who joined the hearing virtually, agreed that there needs to be an overhaul of how social media is viewed in the eyes of the law. 

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act protects social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, from being held liable for what their users post – instead acting as a third party for publication of any speech.

These tech giants, however, have implemented policies where they moderate what content is permitted and fact check specific posts, even if it does not include threatening jargon.

Zuckerberg insisted that the moves taken by Facebook to stop misinformation spreading, haven't gone as far as some Democrats want because he doesn't want to act as an arbiter of truth – further distancing himself from losing Section 230 protections.

'We've created this independent fact-checking program where we work with more than 80 partners around the world to help do fact-checking because people in our community have told us they don't want to see misinformation, but they also don't want us to be deciding what's true and false,' Zuckerberg said during his line of questioning with Judiciary Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein. 

The senators are deeply divided by party over the integrity and results of the election itself.

Prominent Republican senators have refused to knock down Trump's claims of voting irregularities and fraud, as misinformation disputing Biden's victory has flourished online.

Trump said he won Pennsylvania due to ballots being excluded, which Twitter flagged with: "Multiple sources called this election differently'

Trump said he won Pennsylvania due to ballots being excluded, which Twitter flagged with: 'Multiple sources called this election differently'

They flagged other tweets from Trump claiming 'widespread voter fraud' with: 'This claim about election fraud is disputed'

They flagged other tweets from Trump claiming 'widespread voter fraud' with: 'This claim about election fraud is disputed'

Graham, a close Trump ally, has publicly urged: 'Do not concede, Mr. President. Fight hard.'

Zuckerberg and Dorsey promised lawmakers last month that they would aggressively guard their platforms from being manipulated by foreign governments or used to incite violence around the election results - and they followed through with high-profile steps that angered Trump and his supporters.

Twitter and Facebook have both slapped a misinformation label on some content from Trump, most notably his assertions linking voting by mail to fraud. 

On Monday, Twitter flagged Trump's tweet proclaiming 'I won the Election!' with the note: 'Official sources called this election differently.' 

Facebook also took moves to stop the spread of misinformation related to the election, including banning the group called 'Stop the Steal', which grew to 350,000 users in less than one day.

The group included Trump supporters who were organizing protests against the continued vote counting, which increased Biden's lead in the days following the election.

The large group, organized through Facebook, echoed Trump's allegations of a rigged election rendering the results invalid.

While the group was taken down, copycat 'Stop the Steal' groups began popping up on Facebook, and as of Monday, the social media platform appeared to have made them harder to find. 

DEMOCRATS SLAM REPUBLICANS FOR 'POLITICAL SIDESHOW'

Senator Richard Blumenthal, who delivered opening statements on behalf of Democrats Tuesday, slammed the hearing as a 'political sideshow,' claiming it's not 'serious' and more of a distraction from real issues.

'Their immunity,' Blumenthal said of tech companies, 'is way too broad, and victims of their harm deserve a day in court.

'But this hearing is certainly not the serious proceedings that we need,' he continued. 'It may become a political sideshow, a public tar and feathering.'

'The fact is that the purpose of today's hearing seems as much to bully or brownbeat you, Mr. Zuckerberg and Mr. Dorsey, from taking even more responsible action by threatening cuts to Section 230.'

Throughout the hearing, Republicans focused much on Twitter and Facebook's disproportional censorship of conservative voices while Democrats focused on the platforms' spread of misinformation.

Republican senators also used their time questioning Zuckerberg and Dorsey to lament that their assertions regarding the election being 'stolen' are being stifled.

Democrats, on the other hand, continuously repeated that Trump's claims related to the election were false – seemingly throwing it in Republicans' faces that their candidate lost reelection.

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who joined virtually, accused Republicans of calling the hearing to create a 'political sideshow' rather than actually hold a real conversation on repealing Section 230

Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal, who joined virtually, accused Republicans of calling the hearing to create a 'political sideshow' rather than actually hold a real conversation on repealing Section 230

Blumenthal is a huge critic of big tech companies, serving as a champion in the Democratic Party for internet privacy and safety – he is especially critical of Section 230, claiming it provides these platforms with too much protection.

'A series of hearings on big tech is long overdue on anti-trust issues, on privacy concerns and Section 230. I have urged, in fact a break-up of tech giants because they've misused their bigness and power,' Blumenthal said.

He suggested that Facebook be broken up from its subsidiaries WhatsApp and Instagram, and that consumers be given more protection over their data – as well as Section 230 reform going as far as a full repeal.

'My colleagues seem to want to ignore the foreign disinformation campaigns intended to interfere in our democracy,' Blumenthal said, attacking his Republican counterparts for not asking Zuckerberg and Dorsey questions about Russian interference seeking to help Trump's campaign.

'What we've seen here are fighting words, and hate speech, that certainly deserve no free expression protections,' he continued.

ONLY TWO MENTIONS OF HUNTER'S LAPTOP AFTER HEARING ORDERED OVER IT

Surprisingly, Republicans only brought up twice the instance where Twitter and Facebook censored a New York Post story revealing damaging information about Joe Biden's son Hunter.

Chairman Lindsey Graham said the platforms were acting as the 'ultimate editor' by limiting distribution, flagging the article and even preventing people from posting it or risk being locked out of their account. He claimed their editorialization proves Facebook and Twitter should no longer be protected under Section 230.

'What I want to try to find out is, if you're not a newspaper at Twitter or Facebook, then why do you have editorial control over The New York Post?' Graham questioned early on in the hearing. 'They decided, and maybe for a good reason, I don't know, that the New York Post articles about Hunter Biden needed to be flagged, excluded from distribution or hard to find.'

'That to me seems like, you're the ultimate editor,' the South Carolina Republican said. 'The editorial decision at the New York Post to run the story, was overridden by Twitter and Facebook in different fashions to prevent its dissemination.'

'Now, if that's not an editorial decision, I don't know what would be,' Graham said.

The second mention of the Hunter Biden story came during Republican Senator John Cornyn's line of questioning toward Twitter's Dorsey.

He asked Dorsey under what authority he suppressed distribution of the story on Hunter Biden's laptop, to which the Twitter boss said it was 'under our terms of service' regarding the 'policy around distribution of hacked materials.'

'We do not want Twitter to become a distribution point for hacked materials,' Dorsey said.

In his opening remarks, Dorsey said that the article was originally prevented from being posted because Twitter assessed that it contained information that was obtained through a hack, which is against its rules.

He conceded that they were wrong in their assessment after it became clear that Hunter's laptop had been turned over to the FBI and also to Republicans, who then leaked that information to The Post.

'Well you do realize that by taking down that story, you probably gave it more prominence and more visibility than it even would have gotten had you left it alone,' Cornyn said.

'We realize that. And we recognize it as a mistake that we made both in terms of the intention of the policy and also the enforcement action of not allowing people to share it publicly or privately, which is why we corrected it within 24 hours,' Dorsey defended. 

BANNON HASN'T DONE ENOUGH TO BE KICKED OFF FACEBOOK, SAYS ZUCKERBERG

Blumenthal asserted Tuesday that Steve Bannon should be banned from Facebook for calling for the beheadings of Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray.

But Zuckerberg said that Bannon, who served as Trump's 2016 campaign chairman and the president's White House chief strategist for just six months before being fired, would not be kicked off the platform.

'Will you commit to taking down that account, Steve Bannon's account?' Blumenthal asked after referencing the comment from Bannon calling to put Fauci and Wray's heads 'on pikes.'

'No, that's not what our policies would suggest that we should do in this case,' Zuckerberg said during the hearing.

Twitter banned Bannon for the remark, which was made earlier this month on his webcast 'War Room.'

Facebook, however, only removed the video and allowed his account to remain active.

Zuckerberg said 'the content in question did violate our policies and we took it down. Having a content violation does not automatically mean your account gets taken down.'

'Steve Bannon in a Facebook Live video called for beheadings of Dr. Fauci and FBI Director Wray for not acting more favorably toward President Trump,' Blumenthal said. 'How many times is Steve Bannon allowed to call for the murder of government officials before Facebook suspends his account?'

The Facebook CEO said people who post terrorist content or child porn lose their accounts for a first offense, but that there needs to be multiple offenses for other content to get them kicked off.

Zuckerberg reportedly told his staff last week that Bannon has not committed enough infractions to justify banishment.

Bannon controversial remarks on Fauci and Wray went as so: 'I'd actually like to go back to the old times of Tudor England. I'd put the heads on pikes, right? I put them up the two corners of the White House as a warning to federal bureaucrats, you either get with the program, or you're gone.'

WHY ARE ELECTION FRAUD CLAIMS FLAGGED BUT HOLOCAUST DENIAL ISN'T, REPUBLICANS DEMAND 

Republicans demanded answers from Dorsey and Zuckerberg on why former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nation Nikki Haley's tweets on election fraud were flagged, while those sent on Holocaust denial by Iran's Ayatollah Khamenei were not labeled. 

Haley torched Twitter on Friday for flagging her claim about ballot harvesting leading to election fraud while leaving untouched a tweet from Iran 's Supreme Leader that wondered why it's 'a crime to raise doubts about the Holocaust.'

'Wow. When Iran's Ayatollah says the Holocaust didn't happen, Twitter doesn't say 'this claim is disputed.' When I say ballot harvesting makes election fraud easier, Twitter says that's disputed. Wonder why conservatives don't trust big tech?' Haley tweeted.

The Republican former U.N. Ambassador and South Carolina governor laid into the tech giant after it slapped a warning label on a tweet of hers from earlier that day, which also complained about some states' practice of mailing ballots to all voters.

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley complained Friday that Twitter had flagged her tweet about ballot harvesting (lower left) as a 'disputed claim' while leaving untouched a tweet from Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei about Holocaust 'doubts'

Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley complained Friday that Twitter had flagged her tweet about ballot harvesting (lower left) as a 'disputed claim' while leaving untouched a tweet from Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei about Holocaust 'doubts'

Lindsey Graham had a poster board behind him at the hearing during his opening remarks showing Haley and the Ayatollah's tweets

Lindsey Graham had a poster board behind him at the hearing during his opening remarks showing Haley and the Ayatollah's tweets

'Despite what the media tells us, election fraud does happen, and policies like ballot harvesting and mailing ballots to people who don't request them makes it easier. That needs to stop,' Haley wrote in the tweet that was labeled as 'disputed.'

The tweet linked to a post on the website of her advocacy group, Stand for America, that listed two examples of ballot harvesting that led to charges of voter fraud.

That included a case in Paterson, N.J., in which the state's Attorney General charged a city councilman and city councilman-elect with election fraud crimes after they allegedly submitted third-party ballots improperly for a May election.

A judge overturned the results of that election. 

Over half of U.S. states allow third parties to collect mail-in ballots from voters. Supporters say it helps ensure votes from those with limited U.S. Postal Service access are counted.

Twitter said it flagged Haley's tweet about the practice under its Civic Integrity Project, Fox News reported. The effort targets tweets with false information about voting, including 'disputed claims that could undermine faith in the process itself.'

President Trump has repeatedly made claims - without offering evidence - that massive voter fraud involving mail-in ballots cost him the election, and that Democrats were 'stealing' it. Twitter flagged a thread of his tweets expressing such claims November 7. 

Haley's tweet received a flag Friday from Twitter under a policy that labels 'disputed claims that could undermine faith in the [election] process itself'
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted in October about Holocaust 'doubts' being criminalized, but Twitter decided that did not violate its rules for world leaders

Haley's tweet received a flag Friday from Twitter under a policy that labels 'disputed claims that could undermine faith in the [election] process itself.' In October, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted about Holocaust 'doubts' being criminalized, but Twitter decided that did not violate its rules for world leaders

Nikki Haley insists America is not a racist country
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Haley's claim did not go nearly that far. By Saturday her initial tweet no longer carried the warning label.

Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's October tweet was left alone based on Twitter's World Leaders rules, according to Fox News.

Under those rules Twitter generally allows world leaders to 'saber-rattle' but not issue specific threats against people.

Another of Khamenei's tweets referred to Israel's 'Zionist regime' as a 'deadly cancerous growth.'

'Speech against our own people or a country's own citizens we believe is different and can cause more immediate harm,' Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey told a Senate committee October 28 when asked about the Ayatollah's tweets.

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