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Facebook Adds “False Information” Labels and Other Tools Ahead of 2020 Election

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  • Facebook announced that it would be ramping up its measures to fight foreign interference, increase transparency, and reduce misinformation heading into the 2020 election.
  • Some of its plans include giving candidates added protection on their accounts, allowing users to see how much candidates spend on ads, and putting labels on posts that contain misinformation. 
  • This comes during a controversial time for Facebook, which removed foreign accounts because of inauthentic behavior and attempting to influence the election on the same day it announced its plans.
  • The company has also come under fire for deciding to not remove candidate’s posts that contain misinformation, though in a conference call announcing Monday’s changes, Mark Zuckerberg did say there could be exceptions.

Facebook’s New Initiatives

Facebook has announced a list of initiatives it will take to reduce misinformation and address other concerns ahead of the 2020 election.

In a Monday blog post called “Helping to Protect the 2020 US Elections,” the company broke down its plans to “protect the democratic process.”

The bottom line here is that elections have changed significantly since 2016 and Facebook has changed, too,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a conference call announcing the changes. 

The first measure the social media giant is taking aims to fight against foreign interference. The company plans to combat inauthentic behavior and add extra protection for candidate accounts. This will be done via a new tool called Facebook Protect that candidates can sign up for. Along with increasing security on the accounts, it also will monitor for hacking threats. 

The next announced plan is to increase transparency on the site. Facebook said it will make pages more transparent and show the confirmed owner of pages, label state-controlled media, and help users understand political ads. Part of this will include allowing users to see how much presidential candidates are spending on Facebook ads, and will even break down where money is being directed geographically.

The last part of their initiative is to reduce the spread of misinformation on the platform. The company plans to invest $2 million in media literacy projects so users can better understand what is on their feed. It is also banning ads that encourage people not to vote. 

Fact-checking labels will also be added to posts that contain misinformation. Third-party fact-checkers will verify whether or not the information is false or partially false. Users can then see an explanation as to why the information being presented is inaccurate. 

Source: Facebook

Recent Controversies around Facebook

These announcements come at a time when Facebook’s role in the election has been more scrutinized by the pubic than ever. As far as fact-checking misinformation, the site faced a lot of backlash when it said it would not remove posts from political leaders that broke Facebook policy, including spreading false facts. At the time, Zuckerberg said he did not think it was right for a private company to censor politicians. 

Among the critics of this choice was presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who ended up making a fake ad saying that Zuckerberg endorsed President Donald Trump in the 2020 election. She quickly said this was not true then added, “But what Zuckerberg *has* done is given Donald Trump free rein to lie on his platform — and then to pay Facebook gobs of money to push out their lies to American voters.”

On Monday’s conference call, Zuckerberg did note there were instances where exceptions to this policy would have to be made. Among possible instances where this could apply, Zuckerberg listed, “if a politician is calling for violence or inciting violence, if there is a risk of imminent physical harm, and of course voter suppression, which is calling to remove other people’s voice.” 

This sweeping plan of initiatives also came on the same day that Facebook said it had uncovered Russian and Iranian operations to influence the 2020 election. In a separate blog post, Facebook announced that it had “removed four separate networks of accounts, Pages and Groups for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior on Facebook and Instagram.”

Three of those networks came from Iran, while the other came from Russia. According to a Washington Post report, the Russian account, in particular, boasted support for Trump while laying attacks against candidate Joe Biden.

See what others are saying: (Washington Post) (The Verge) (Reuters UK)

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Tinder Plans to Roll Out Panic Button and Other Safety Features

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  • The popular dating app Tinder plans to unveil new in-app safety features for users who feel threatened during face-to-face meetups.
  • Match Group, Tinder’s parent company, is investing in a safety platform called Noonlight, which tracks users’ locations and alerts local authorities if any issues arise. 
  • The safety tools are free to use and will be introduced to U.S. Tinder users at the end of the month.
  • Match Group’s other dating apps will see the new features later this year.

Tinder’s New Features

Tinder is planning to add free in-app safety features for users whose dates go awry, including a panic button that can be pressed if something goes wrong, security check-ins, and an option to call authorities if needed.

Match Group, Tinder’s parent company who also owns Hinge and OkCupid, is making these features possible by investing in the safety platform Noonlight. Noonlight tracks users’ locations and alerts local authorities if any concerns arise.

“I think a lot about safety, especially on our platforms, and what we can do to curtail bad behavior,” Match Group CEO Mandy Ginsberg told The Wall Street Journal, who first reported the story. “There are a lot of things we tell users to do. But if we can provide tools on top of that, we should do that as well.”

Prior to in-person dates, Tinder users will have the option to manually enter information into a tool linked to Noonlight, such as details about the other party and times.

Source: The Wall Street Journal — Tinder

If at any point a user feels unsafe, they can press the alert button. Noonlight will then send a code for the user to enter. If the code isn’t entered, Noonlight will send a text. If the text goes unanswered, Noonlight will call the user. If the call is not answered or if the user confirms that they need assistance, Noonlight will alert local authorities and share the information previously entered with them, as well as the user’s location. 

Once the Noonlight tool is instated, Tinder users will also be able to add an emblem to their profiles to indicate the additional protection they have opted to take. 

The new security measures will be introduced to U.S. Tinder users at the end of January, while other Match Group dating apps will see the features in the next few months. 

Tinder is also currently testing a feature aimed to eliminate “catfishing” in which users will be required to take photos in certain poses to prove that they look like the images they upload. Profiles that pass the test will have a blue checkmark to indicate they were verified.

New Wave of Safety for Tech Platforms

While Tinder has previously monitored abusive language and images via in-app conversation, this is the first move it has taken to play a hand in regulating in-person interactions once users decide to meet up. 

This step comes after multiple cases of sexual assault and other crimes that users have traced back to relations made through the app. 

The dating app is following the lead of other platforms like Uber and Lyft, who have both rolled out additional security features in the wake of criticism for not doing enough to protect users from safety threats.

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (CNN) (The Verge)

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Facial Recognition Technology on College Campuses

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Facial Recognition Technology, better known by its acronym, FRT, has been a hot topic for nearly a decade. Most fields have some form of FRT from Taylor Swift using it to identify stalkers at her concerts to police making quicker arrests by matching faces of suspects to a database of mugshots. All forms of FRT have one way or another been contested, but some of the most controversial places that it’s being used are college campuses. 

Recently, an anti-FRT group named Fight for the Future launched the largest nation-wide student campaign to demand that universities never use FRT on their campuses. There are multiple reasons why people love and despise FRT and in this video, we’re going to show you both sides of the argument and why it’s so controversial to use on college campuses. 

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Angled Toilet Designed to Shorten Employees’ Bathroom Breaks Met With Criticism

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  • A British company, StandardToilet, has filed a patent for a toilet fixture designed with a downward-sloping seat. 
  • The product is meant to be uncomfortable to sit on for more than five minutes, in an effort to reduce bathroom breaks and increase employee productivity.
  • StandardToilet also says their product will reduce bathroom lines in public spaces and serve better for people’s health.
  • The company’s idea has been supported by some, but largely slammed by others who claim it promotes an unhealthy expectation of workplace productivity and is inconsiderate to a range of users with differing needs.

A New Type of Toilet

A British startup has developed a toilet designed to be uncomfortable to sit on for longer than five minutes in an effort to increase workplace productivity.

StandardToilet has filed a patent for a toilet fixture with a seating surface sloped forward between 11-13 degrees. The company claims that this design will decrease the time that employees spend taking bathroom breaks, thus allowing them to devote more minutes to work. 

“In modern times, the workplace toilet has become private texting and social media usage space,” StandardToilet says on their website.  

The company estimates that about £16 billion ($20.8 billion) are lost annually to the time that people are spending using the bathroom at work in the U.K. They claim that reducing time spent sitting on the toilet will save about £4 billion of that sum. 

Mahabir Gill, the founder of StandardToilet, told Wired that sitting on the angled fixture for more than five minutes will cause strain on the legs, but “not enough to cause health issues.”

“Anything higher than that would cause wider problems,” Gill said. “Thirteen degrees is not too inconvenient, but you’d soon want to get off the seat quite quickly.”   

StandardToilet says that in addition to increasing employee productivity, their design will shorten bathroom lines in public places such as shopping malls and train stations.

They also claim studies have suggested that flat-surfaced toilets used now can cause medical issues, like swollen haemorrhoids and weakening of pelvic muscles. The company says its product can reduce musculoskeletal disorder “through promoting the engagement of upper leg muscles.”

Response to StandardToilet

While news of the proposed time-saving toilet has been supported by some, like the British Toilet Association (BTA), an organization that campaigns for better toilet facilities, it was also largely met with criticism. Jennifer Kaufmann-Buhler, an assistant professor of design history at Purdue University in Indiana, expressed that the idea is a bit controlling. 

“In an office, the one space you have where you can find privacy is often the toilet,” Kaufmann-Buhler told Wired. “So, god forbid that we want to make the one place where workers should have at least some autonomy – the toilet – another place where people impose the very capitalist idea that people should always be working.”

Kaufmann-Buhler’s sentiment was echoed across Twitter, where people were upset by StandardToilet’s motive.

Others pointed out the discomfort StandardToilet’s design would bring to those with physical disabilities.

The company told HuffPost in an email that the product isn’t designed to take the place of toilets for people with disabilities. StandardToilet’s website also notes that another benefit of the slanted toilet is “reduction in overspill usage of disabled facilities.” 

Nadine Vogel is the CEO of Springboard Consulting, a company that works with other businesses on how to serve workers with disabilities. She noted to HuffPost that there are other kinds of hindrances that might justify more time in the bathroom.

Vogel brought up examples of diabetic people testing their glucose levels or others simply needing a break for their mental health.

 “The fact that the concern is extended employee breaks ― well, what about people that have some kind of mental health situation that actually need that kind of longer break?” Vogel said.

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (Guardian) (Wired)

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