Alexander Hall is a staff writer for MRC TechWatch
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It’s the future you probably didn’t ask for -- being nagged by Artificial Intelligence to stop being “offensive” and “bullying.” Instagram touted its new anti-bullying Artificial Intelligence program in its Dec. 16 blog about the social media giant’s “long-term commitment to lead the fight against online bullying.” Instagram claims the AI program “notifies people when their captions on a photo or video may be considered offensive, and gives them a chance to pause and reconsider their words before posting.”
Facebook is taking another shot at improving its fact-check process, by adding a large group of part-time contractors to help sort information from disinformation. In an attempt to assuage the concerns of conservatives and free speech advocates wary of Big Tech bias, Facebook will be partnering with YouGov to select a politically diverse community of reviewers.
Some content creators are concerned about the direction platforms are taking after recent policy change announcements. Will free speech be allowed on social media? YouTube’s Vice President and Global Head of Trust & Safety Matt Halprin released a blog on Wednesday, Dec. 11, titled “An update to our harassment policy.” Halprin proclaimed in the blog that YouTube would be taking a harder stance on “malicious insults,” “veiled threats” via simulated violence and “hate speech.”
As the hashtag “#youtubeisoverparty” trended following a YouTube policy update, Steven Crowder warned viewers and fellow creators their days on the platform may be numbered. Yesterday, YouTube’s Vice President and Global Head of Trust & Safety Matt Halprin released a policy update titled “An update to our harassment policy,” which YouTube explained will allow it to crack down on “harassment” -- all under the guise of protecting its users.
The video sharing platform and sister organization to Google may be cracking down on free speech -- this time under the guise of protecting users from “harassment.” YouTube’s Vice President and Global Head of Trust & Safety Matt Halprin released a blog on Wednesday, Dec. 11, titled “An update to our harassment policy.” As of today, YouTube’s blog announced “a series of policy and product changes that update how we tackle harassment on YouTube” from both creators and commenters. Free speech advocates may be rightly concerned with slippery terms such as “malicious insults,” “veiled threats” via simulated violence and, of course, “hate speech.”
A Pinterest tech insider received an award for his part in blowing the whistle on Pinterest’s bias and censorship of conservative content. Whistleblower Eric Cochran received an Impact Award during the 3rd Annual Impact Awards hosted by Liberty Consulting President Ginni Thomas and by United Purpose last Wednesday. He received the prestigious award for what Project Veritas founder James O'Keefe considered a heroic act -- coming forward and blowing the whistle on how Pinterest censors conservative content.
A former Facebook employee says that social media companies “owe it to democracy” to increase restrictions on Facebook’s political advertising and “fix the mess” they allegedly created. Facebook’s former government and politics client partner Clare O’Donoghue Velikić wrote an article for The Guardian on Dec. 6 on “how to fix social media’s political ads problem.”
Sources claim that the Democratic National Committee ("DNC") directly lobbied Facebook to police the platform for “malicious actors” and “disinformation” from politicians.The DNC CEO Seema Nanda reportedly wrote the Nov. 21 letter to Facebook to “raise concerns about the company's ability to catch online trolls” and in hopes that the company would “change its political ad policy,” according to CNN. One excerpt of the letter reportedly obtained by CNN appeared to condemn Facebook’s free speech policy towards political campaign ads and warned that Facebook’s ad targeting a capabilities were a dangerous power in the hands of bad actors.
After taking a stand for free speech on several occasions, is Facebook now backsliding? Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg decided to take a pro-free speech stand and allowed political ads without fact-checking as early as October 2019, and amidst pressure from the left, the Big Tech CEO has even doubled down on his pro-free speech remarks. But according to sources speaking to The Washington Post, “Facebook has weighed whether to label political ads to indicate they have not been fact-checked, rather than vetting what candidates say, one of a series of proposals the company has floated” leading up to the 2020 election.
The liberal media likes to hype that a lack of social media censorship and free speech online are ruining our democracy. But podcast host Joe Rogan has a different take. The host of the Joe Rogan Experience Joe Rogan told Democratic Party presidential primary candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) on the Nov. 26 episode that Big Tech companies are “interfering with democracy.” And Gabbard, who is suing Google for $50 million and accused the platform of suspending her campaign’s advertising account at a critical period after a Democratic presidential primary debate, ostensibly agreed.
Dave Rubin has launched two platforms on the same day, which he believes could solve the free speech and censorship problem online. In a Dec. 4 livestream, the host of the Rubin Report Dave Rubin described two platforms he created, Locals.com and the Rubin Report app, which have gone public today. Rubin said that he created the platforms to help solve the “massive problems with Big Tech” that we all know exist, including things like deplatforming, algorithmic suppression and shadow banning. Locals.com, he said, will be where creators, as long as they are not engaging in illegal activity, will be able to establish online communities and be fundraised by their fans. “You’re going to set your rules, whatever rules you want for your community,” he said.
Even after persistent attacks by liberal critics, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg doubled down on defending one of America’s most iconic values -- free speech. Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan appeared in a “CBS This Morning” interview which aired this past Monday. During the interview, and in the face of media pressure, the couple defended Facebook’s recent policy changes in favor of free speech.
YouTube took down more than 300 ads from President Donald Trump’s election campaign in what is only the latest example of the company fighting with the right. CBS News reportedly “found that over 300 video ads were taken down by Google and YouTube, mostly over the summer, for violating company policy. But the archive doesn't detail what policy was violated.”
“60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl visited YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, California to have a scorching interview with YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki over free speech controversies online. Stahl opened the episode by saying that the internet’s biggest video platform has “come under increasing scrutiny, accused of propagating white supremacy, peddling conspiracy theories, and profiting from it all,” setting the tone for an intense interview.
Vice wrote a glowing review of a video game where players control a molotov-cocktail-throwing activist rebelling against a parody of Trump. Were you looking for the video game equivalent of the Krassenstein brothers cringeworthy book titled “How the People Trumped Ronald Plump?” Good news. The far left has made a new game just for you! “Antifa” the video game was given a no-less than gushing review in Vice’s coverage, “'Antifa' the Video Game Wants to Teach Gamers About Antifascism”:
An actor and comedian famous for his shenanigans as the character Borat blasted the Big Tech community for being “the greatest propaganda machine in history” and knocking Facebook for its recent free speech stance. Sacha Baron Cohen gave a speech at the Anti-Defamation League's 2019 Never Is Now Summit on Anti-Semitism and Hate last Thursday, claiming that “hate and violence is being facilitated by a handful of internet companies that amount to the greatest propaganda machine in history."
Countering the liberal media call to censor conservatives, the former president came out swinging against Chinese-style censorship on Big Tech platforms and took a stand for free speech online. “At a high-dollar fundraiser on Thursday” former President Barack Obama attempted to bridge the gap and ease the tensions between rising Democratic Party leaders and Big Tech companies, particularly amidst recent controversies over “misinformation,” censorship and free speech, Vox Recode reported.
Facebook has become more open to some policies that the right has fought for. “President Donald Trump hosted a previously undisclosed dinner with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook board member Peter Thiel at the White House in October,” Facebook reportedly told NBC News yesterday. A Facebook spokesman told NBC News,“As is normal for a CEO of a major U.S. company, Mark accepted an invitation to have dinner with the President and First Lady at the White House.”
Facebook has taken heat for supporting free speech and for including Breitbart in its “News” tab, and now its VP of global marketing solutions is making a stand. Yesterday, Gizmodo wrote its not-so-objective commentary that “Facebook recently announced that white supremacist propaganda site Breitbart would be considered a ‘high quality’ news source on its platform, leading to complaints that Facebook was legitimizing hate.”
In what could be perceived as a subtle barb at Facebook, and perhaps even Twitter too, Snapchat declared its commitment to battling “misinformation” with the upcoming election in mind. “We subject all advertising to review, including political advertising,” the Snap CEO Evan Spiegel said on Monday, according to CNBC. He continued, adding, “I think what we try to do is create a place for political ads on our platform, especially because we reach so many young people and first-time voters we want them to be able to engage with the political conversation, but we don’t allow things like misinformation to appear in that advertising.”