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January 20, 2022 T&S Newsletter

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T&S Early Warning News

Get ahead of new stories that are impacting the T&S industry.

Tech giants grilled on social media safety

7News | Jan 19, 2022

Company Listed: Google, Facebook Meta, TitTok, Instagram

Some of the world's biggest tech companies have been grilled on the policies and guidelines they say aim to keep users safe online.

Representatives from Google, TikTok and Meta - the company which owns Facebook and Instagram - were questioned on Thursday by a parliamentary committee over proposed laws that would hold them accountable for online harassment and abuse on their platforms.

The federal government wants to introduce the laws that would force social media platforms to take down offending posts and, in some circumstances, reveal the identity of anonymous posters.

Social media companies say they have a commercial interest in keeping Australians safe online because otherwise they would lose users.

But Reset Australia - an organisation working to address digital threats to Australian democracy - says the public don't want safety issues to be left to social media companies to regulate.

Data policy director Rys Farthing said social media companies needed to be legally held to account for the risks their platforms create, particularly for children.

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Microsoft is bigger than Google, Amazon and Facebook. But now lawmakers treat it like an ally in antitrust battles.

The Washington Posts | Jan 19, 2022

Company Listed: Google, Facebook Meta, Microsoft, Instagram

When Google announced in 2019 that it would acquire Fitbit for $2 billion, lawmakers didn’t hide their frustration.

“By attempting this deal at this moment, Google is signaling that it will continue to flex and expand its power despite this immense scrutiny,” Rep. David N. Cicilline (D-R.I.), chairman of the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee, said in a statement the same day the deal was announced.

But more than 24 hours after Microsoft announced its plans to purchase Activision for nearly $70 billion, aggressive trustbusters in Congress were uncharacteristically quiet. Core sponsors of antitrust legislation targeting the tech industry, including Cicilline, Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) did not immediately comment to The Washington Post on the deal.

The silence underscores how Microsoft has carved out a distinct reputation among policymakers, distancing itself from the political scrutiny embroiling its top competitors in Washington. As Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Google were marshaling their Washington resources to beat back competition legislation up for debate on Capitol Hill this week, Microsoft smoothly announced one of the largest acquisitions in the history of the tech industry. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

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Google and Meta on the defensive in Australian social media probe

ZDNet | Jan 19, 2022

Company Listed: Google, Facebook Meta

Tech giants Google and Meta appeared before the Australian Select Committee on Social Media and Online Safety on Thursday morning, with both companies being grilled about misinformation and cyberbullying existing across their platforms.

Google's director of government affairs and public policy Lucinda Longcroft was repeatedly asked by the committee about YouTube displaying Clive Palmer's United Australia Party (UAP) ads containing COVID-19 misinformation.

At least nine UAP ads presented incomplete extracts of a Therapeutic Goods Administration's (TGA) report on vaccinations to convey misleading COVID-19 information, according to committee deputy chair and Labor representative Tim Watts.

Conceding the existence of these ads on YouTube, Longcroft told the committee that the platform's COVID-19 misinformation policies are "robust, rapid, and effectively enforced" as it had issued one strike to the UAP for these ads, which removed the political party's YouTube privileges for a week.

YouTube has a three-strike system whereby a YouTube channel is terminated permanently if it receives three strikes within 90 days.

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Editor of BMJ slams 'ideological' Facebook for 'trying to control how people think' after social media giant labelled journal's report into alleged Pfizer Covid trial scandal 'misleading'

DailyMail | Jan 19, 2022

Company Listed: Google, Facebook Meta

The editor of the British Medical Journal has slammed Facebook for 'censoring' its report into allegations of malpractice during Pfizer's Covid vaccine trials.

Dr Kamran Abbasi accused the social media giant of suppressing 'fully fact-checked' journalism and 'trying to control how people think'.

A BMJ investigation in November warned that a contractor which ran a number of Pfizer's original jab studies may have falsified data and skewed findings.

Its report was based on dozens of internal documents, photos, audio-recordings, videos and statements from three former employees.

But when some users shared the journal entry on Facebook, their post was automatically given a 'missing context' label.

The shared article was also accompanied by a warning that said it could 'mislead people' and a link to a fact-checking website.

The BMJ is lodging a complaint with Facebook's Oversight Board this week after a failed appeal to Mark Zuckerberg to have the tags removed made via an open letter.

Dr Abbasi wrote in the BMJ today: 'We should all be very worried that Facebook, a multibillion dollar company, is effectively censoring fully fact checked journalism that is raising legitimate concerns about the conduct of clinical trials.'

He added: 'Facebook’s actions won’t stop The BMJ doing what is right, but the real question is: why is Facebook acting in this way? What is driving its world view?

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Should bad science be censored on social media?

BBC News| Jan 19, 2022

Company Listed: Google, Facebook Meta

When it comes to understanding science and making health decisions, it can have life-or-death consequences.

People dissuaded from taking vaccines as a result of reading misleading information online have ended up in hospital or even died.

And inaccurate or completely made-up claims about 5G and the origins of Covid-19 have been linked to violence and vandalism.

But completely removing information can look a lot like censorship, especially for scientists whose careers are based on the understanding that facts can and should be disputed, and that evidence changes.

The Royal Society is the world's oldest continuously operating scientific institution, and it is attempting to grapple with the challenges posed by our newest ways of communicating information.


In a new report, it advises against social media companies removing content that is "legal but harmful". Instead, the report authors believe, social media sites should adjust their algorithms to prevent it going viral - and stop people making money off false claims.


But not everyone agrees with that view - especially researchers who are experts in tracking the way misinformation spreads online, and how it harms people.


The Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) maintains there are cases when the best thing to do is to remove content when it is very harmful, clearly wrong and spreading very widely.

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TechScape: The US government may be one step closer to breaking up Meta

The Guardian | Jan 20,2022

Company Listed: Facebook Meta


Mark Zuckerberg has a fascination with ancient Rome, but last week a court decision threatened the future of another empire: his own.


Judge James Boasberg said the US competition watchdog can pursue the break up of Meta – the owner of Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp – paving the way for a costly and lengthy legal battle. Boasberg had dismissed the Federal Trade Commission’s first attempt in June, but this time he was swayed by a revised FTC complaint under its new chair, Lina Khan.


As the judge stressed in his 48-page decision, it is “anyone’s guess” whether the FTC will win its case against a $920bn (£675bn) business that can afford very decent lawyers. Boasberg, a Washington-based district judge who hears cases under federal law, has simply ruled that the FTC has a “plausible claim” under the Sherman Act, which prevents monopolistic companies from ripping off consumers.


Even so, Boasberg has given the FTC’s case a boost. He is allowing the claim to proceed even though Meta operates in what competition experts call a zero-price market. As billions of people around the world know, Meta’s services are free – how can consumers in the US be harmed economically by a service they don’t pay for?

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Misinformation Campaigns

Original insights from ongoing misinformation campaigns across the globe.


Fake WhatsApp Anniversary Financial Scam