Disinfo Update 21/10/2019

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In the Name of Free Speech

Mark Zuckerberg has come under fire for his address given at Georgetown University last week. Zuckerberg’s speech centred on freedom of speech, citing it in defence of Facebook’s recent policy on political ads. He took the opportunity to reference Martin Luther King Jr’s imprisonment as an example of previous backlash against free expression, much to the dismay of Luther King’s daughter who said that disinformation campaigns launched by politicians “created the atmosphere for his assassination”. Interestingly, a BuzzFeed investigation has alluded to the possibility that Facebook may be circumventing its policy on political ads by removing the ads of U.S. presidential candidates for breaking other policies on profanity and fake buttons.

Democracy vs. Profit

Last week, in the EU Council’s conclusions on democracy, Member States noted that, while “the internet has been a positive force for democratisation … the economic model of digital platforms has also contributed to these challenges (i.e. disinformation and hate speech online)”. In related news, in an op-ed for Harvard Business Review, Dipayan Ghosh affirmed that it’s precisely Facebook’s business model that will prevent its Oversight Board from being effective. This is because the company profits the most from pushing the very same content that it would likely make rulings on.

In the news

  • Which government censors the tech giants the most? Comparitech has collated data to find out which governments censor online content the most and which channels are targeted by each government. For instance, India and Russia take the top two places based on their overall number of content removal requests across all channels.
  • Mozilla has begun publishing anecdotes of YouTube viewing gone wrong. This is part of Mozilla’s campaign to prod Google for more transparency. In particular, Mozilla argues that researchers should have more access to YouTube’s algorithms to figure out how the video site makes its recommendations.

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