Facebook’s oversight board seeks details on VIPs’ treatment

Facebook is generally not bound under the oversight board’s rules to follow its recommendations. (File/AFP)
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Updated 22 October 2021

Facebook’s oversight board seeks details on VIPs’ treatment

  • Facebook's oversight board says the company has failed to fully disclose information on its VIP exemption rules
  • “XCheck,” or cross-check, is an internal system that exempts high-profile users from some or all of Facebook's content rules

WASHINGTON: Facebook’s semi-independent oversight board says the company has failed to fully disclose information on its internal system that exempts high-profile users from some or all of its content rules.
Facebook “has not been fully forthcoming” with the overseers about its “XCheck,” or cross-check, system the board said in a report Thursday. It also said it will review the system and recommend how the social network giant could change it.
The board started looking into the XCheck system last month after The Wall Street Journal reported that many VIP users abuse it, posting material that would cause ordinary users to be sanctioned — including for harassment and incitement of violence. For certain elite users, Facebook’s rules don’t seem to apply, according to the Journal article.
Facebook is generally not bound under the oversight board’s rules to follow its recommendations.
“We believe the board’s work has been impactful, which is why we asked the board for input into our cross-check system, and we will strive to be clearer in our explanations to them going forward,” Facebook said in a statement Thursday.
The report said Facebook wrongly failed to mention the XCheck system when it asked the board earlier this year to rule on its ban on former President Donald Trump’s accounts following the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol.
“Facebook only mentioned cross-check to the board when we asked whether Mr. Trump’s page or account had been subject to ordinary content-moderation processes,” the report said.
In May, the board upheld Facebook’s suspension of Trump’s accounts, which came out of concern that he incited violence leading to the Jan. 6 riot. But the overseers told Facebook to specify how long the suspension would last. Facebook later announced that Trump’s accounts would be suspended for two years, freezing his presence on the social network until early 2023, to be followed by a reassessment.
The board said Thursday that for its review, Facebook agreed to provide the internal company documents on the XCheck system that were referenced in the Journal article. Facebook documents were leaked to the newspaper by Frances Haugen, a former product manager in the company’s civic integrity unit who also provided them to Congress and went public this month with a far-reaching condemnation of the company.
Haugen’s accusations of possible serious harm to some young people from Facebook’s Instagram photo-sharing platform raised outrage among lawmakers and the public.
The board said in its report that in some cases, “Facebook failed to provide relevant information to the board, while in other instances, the information it did provide was incomplete.”
In a briefing to the board, “Facebook admitted it should not have said that (XCheck) only applied to a ‘small number of decisions,’” the report said. “Facebook noted that for teams operating at the scale of millions of content decisions a day, the numbers involved ... seem relatively small, but recognized its phrasing could come across as misleading.”


New Zealand PM says Facebook, others must do more against online hate

Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron launched a global initiative to end online hate in 2019. (File/AFP)
Updated 26 November 2021

New Zealand PM says Facebook, others must do more against online hate

  • New Zealand PM said tech giants and world leaders needed to do “much more” to stamp out violent extremism and radicalization online

LONDON: Tech giants like Meta’s Facebook and world leaders needed to do “much more” to stamp out violent extremism and radicalization online, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Friday.
Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron launched a global initiative to end online hate in 2019 after a white supremacist killed 51 people at two mosques in the New Zealand city of Christchurch while live-streaming his rampage on Facebook.
This Christchurch Call initiative has been supported by more than 50 countries, international organizations and tech firms, including Facebook, Google, Twitter and Microsoft.
Ardern said on Friday the initiative had been successful in its first aim of establishing a crisis protocol, including a 24/7 network between platforms to quickly remove content, in response to events like those in Christchurch.
“We have had real world stress-testing of those systems and they have worked very effectively,” Ardern said in an interview for the upcoming Reuters Next conference.
“I am confident that we are operating more effectively than we have before,” she added. “The next challenge though, is to go further again.”
Asked what tech companies should be doing, Ardern replied: “much more.”
Ardern said the next step was to focus on prevention, looking at how people are finding or coming across hateful or terror-motivating content online and perhaps becoming radicalized.
“That’s where we are really interested in the ongoing work around algorithms and the role that we can all play to ensure that online platforms don’t become a place of radicalization,” she said.
A Christchurch Call conference earlier this year was attended by the United States and Britain.


Tunisia court frees TV host held over comments on president

Updated 25 November 2021

Tunisia court frees TV host held over comments on president

  • Zitouna TV presenter Amer Ayad had been arrested in October along with MP Abdellatif al-Alaoui, who appeared on his show
  • Both criticised the president's Sept. 29 appointment of Najla Bouden as Tunisia's first female prime minister

TUNIS: A Tunisian military court on Thursday ordered the release of a television journalist arrested last month after strongly criticizing President Kais Saied, his lawyer said.
Zitouna TV presenter Amer Ayad had been arrested in October along with MP Abdellatif Al-Alaoui, who appeared on his show.
The pair were held on charges of “plotting against state security,” Ayad’s lawyer Samir Ben Omar said at the time.
In the show, they both criticized the president’s Sept. 29 appointment of Najla Bouden as Tunisia’s first female prime minister.
Ayad was released on parole Thursday, Ben Omar said.
His trial continues, however, and the next hearing has been scheduled for Jan. 20, the lawyer added.
Alaoui, a MP for the Al-Karama party, had been released a few days after his arrest.
Al-Karama is an ally of the Ennahdha movement which had the largest number of seats in the parliament that Saied suspended in July.
On July 25, citing an “imminent threat,” Saied also sacked the government and put himself in charge of the prosecution.
On Sept. 22, he suspended parts of the constitution and installed rule by decree.
Alaoui had branded Saied’s measures a “coup” in the show hosted by Ayad.
Zitouna TV is considered close to Ennahdha and its ally Al-Karama.


Coe calls Olympics social media survey results ‘disturbing’

Updated 25 November 2021

Coe calls Olympics social media survey results ‘disturbing’

  • The survey to gain an understanding of the level of online abuse in athletics drew its findings from a sample of 161 Twitter handles current and former athletes
  • Female athletes received 87% of all abuse

PARIS: World Athletics president Sebastian Coe described as “disturbing” the results of a study conducted during the Tokyo Olympics to identify and address targeted, abusive messages sent to athletes via social media.
The survey to gain an understanding of the level of online abuse in athletics drew its findings from a sample of 161 Twitter handles of current and former athletes involved in the Games (derived from a list of 200 athletes selected by World Athletics).
They were tracked during the study period, starting one week prior to the Olympic opening ceremony and concluding the day after the Olympic closing ceremony (July 15 — August 9).
The survey found 23 of the athletes received targeted abuse with 16 of those women — 115 of the 132 identified abusive posts were directed at female athletes.
Female athletes received 87 percent of all abuse.
Two athletes — both black and female — received 63 percent of identified abuse.
Unfounded doping accusations made up 25 percent of abusive messages, while 10 percent consisted of transphobic (9 percent) and homophobic (1 percent) posts.
89 percent of racist abuse was targeted at US athletes, despite them representing only 23 percent of the study set.
The two most common categories of abuse were of a sexist (29 percent) and/or racist (26 percent) nature, accounting for 55 percent of all identified abuse.
“This research is disturbing in so many ways,” said Coe in a statement.
“What strikes me the most is that the abuse is targeted at individuals who are celebrating and sharing their performances and talent as a way to inspire and motivate people.
“To face the kinds of abuse they have is unfathomable and we all need to do more to stop this.
“Shining a light on the issue is just the first step.”
In the study timeframe, 240,707 tweets including 23,521 images, GIFs and videos were captured for analysis.
This included text analysis through searches for slurs, offensive images and emojis and other phrases that could indicate abuse.
It also used AI-powered Natural Language Processing to detect threats by understanding the relationship between words (allowing it to determine the difference between “I’ll kill you” and “you killed it,” for example).

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Vaughan dropped by BBC over involvement in Yorkshire crisis

Updated 25 November 2021

Vaughan dropped by BBC over involvement in Yorkshire crisis

SALFORD, England: Former England cricket captain Michael Vaughan was dropped by the BBC on Wednesday because of his involvement in the racism controversy enveloping county club Yorkshire.
Vaughan has been accused of using racially insensitive comments toward a group of players of Asian ethnicity in 2009 while they were at Yorkshire.
Vaughan has denied the allegations and said his reputation has been “trashed unfairly,” calling it “the worst thing I have ever experienced.”
The BBC, which uses Vaughan as a pundit, said it wasn’t currently appropriate for him to have a role in coverage of the upcoming Ashes series against Australia and for wider elements of the sport “while he is involved in a significant story in cricket.”
“We require our contributors to talk about relevant topics,” the broadcaster said in a statement, “and his involvement in the Yorkshire story represents a conflict of interest.”
Azeem Rafiq, the whistleblower whose revelations about the racism and bullying he suffered at Yorkshire has sparked a crisis in the English game, was the first to make the allegation that Vaughan said in 2009 of the four players of Asian heritage: “There are too many of you lot; we need to do something about it.”
Rafiq was one of the four players in question. Two more — Adil Rashid and Pakistan international Rana Naved-ul-Hasan — have also said they overheard Vaughan’s alleged remarks.
Vaughan might still be heard in Britain during the Ashes through his scheduled work for Australian rights-holder Fox Sports, which will provide the audio for BT Sport’s coverage of the series.
“Very disappointed not to be commentating for TMS (Test Match Special) on the Ashes and will miss working with great colleagues & friends,” Vaughan wrote on his Instagram account, referring to the BBC radio program, “but looking forward to being behind the mic for @foxcricket in Australia.”
Vaughan said the issues facing cricket “are bigger than any individual case.”
“I want to be part of the solution, listening, educating myself and helping to make it a more welcoming sport for all,” he wrote.
The England and Wales Cricket Board has suspended Yorkshire from hosting international matches over its “wholly unacceptable” response to the racism faced by Rafiq, while some of the club’s sponsors are ending deals.
Last week, British sports minister Nigel Huddleston called for cricket to “get its house in order” and raised the possibility of independent regulation if it did not.


Five million viewers see Carlson’s Rittenhouse chat

Updated 24 November 2021

Five million viewers see Carlson’s Rittenhouse chat

  • Fox News Channel was the most-watched cable news channel in prime time, averaging 2.89 million viewers

NEW YORK: Tucker Carlson reached 5.05 million viewers for his Kyle Rittenhouse interview on Monday, the Fox News Channel opinion host's largest audience since the night of the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol.
Rittenhouse was acquitted on murder charges last week and Carlson was given the chance for the post-trial interview because of the support he had shown him, according to the 18-year-old's family.
Carlson has averaged 3.16 million viewers on a typical night this year, the Nielsen company said.
ABC News and Diane Sawyer had strong ratings for her Friday night interview with members of a California family held captive for many years by their parents. That “20/20” episode reached more than 7.4 million viewers.
Fox broadcasting was the top-rated network in prime time last week, averaging 5.4 million viewers. NBC had 4.8 million, CBS had 4.5 million, ABC had 4.1 million, Univision had 1.5 million, Telemundo had 1 million and Ion Television had 880,000.
Fox News Channel was the most-watched cable news channel in prime time, averaging 2.89 million viewers. ESPN had 2.31 million, Hallmark had 1.58 million, MSNBC had 1.18 million and HGTV had 893,000.
ABC's “World News Tonight” won the evening news ratings race with an average of 8.3 million viewers. NBC's “Nightly News” had 7.2 million and the “CBS Evening News” had 5.4 million.
For the week of Nov. 15-21, the 20 most popular programs in prime time, their networks and viewerships:
1. NFL Football: Pittsburgh at L.A. Chargers, NBC, 14.55 million.
2. NFL Football: New England at Atlanta, Fox, 13.52 million.
3. “The OT,” Fox, 11.6 million.
4. “NFL Pregame,” NBC, 11.2 million.
5. NFL Football: L.A. Rams at San Francisco, ESPN, 10.7 million.
6. “NFL Pregame,” Fox, 8.59 million.
7. “Football Night in America, Part 3,” NBC, 8.54 million.
8. “FBI,” CBS, 7.61 million.
9. “60 Minutes,” CBS, 7.58 million.
10. “Yellowstone,” Paramount, 7.42 million.
11. “20/20,” ABC, 7.41 million.
12. “Young Sheldon,” CBS, 6.95 million.
13. “The Voice” (Tuesday), NBC, 6.78 million.
14. “The Equalizer,” CBS, 6.59 million.
15. “The Voice” (Monday), NBC, 6.56 million.
16. “FBI: International,” CBS, 5.96 million.
17. “Blue Bloods,” CBS, 5.79 million.
18. “Survivor,” CBS, 5.77 million.
19. “FBI: Most Wanted,” CBS, 5.64 million.
20. “NFL Pregame,” ESPN, 5.5 million.