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Trump Threatens to “Close Down” Twitter After It Fact-Checks Him for the First Time Ever

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  • Twitter slapped President Donald Trump with a fact check warning on Tuesday after he falsely claimed that increased access to mail-in voting will lead to extensive voter fraud.
  • This is the first time Twitter has labeled a tweet from the president with a warning, despite facing pressure to do so for years. 
  • By Wednesday morning, Trump threatened to “close down” Twitter and other social media sites, though it is unclear how he would involve the federal government or if this is simply meant to put pressure on the platform.

Twitter Slaps Trump With Fact-Check Warning

President Donald Trump is threatening to involve the federal government and potentially “close down” social media sites like Twitter after the platform issued a fact-check label on a post he made regarding mail-in voting.

While Twitter has been increasing its usage of fact-check warnings ahead of the 2020 presidential elections, this is the first time Twitter has directly labeled a tweet from the president. 

“There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent,” Trump said in the first of two tweets on Tuesday. “Mail boxes will be robbed, ballots will be forged & even illegally printed out & fraudulently signed. The Governor of California is sending Ballots to millions of people, anyone…..”

“….living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there, will get one,” he continued in the second tweet. “That will be followed up with professionals telling all of these people, many of whom have never even thought of voting before, how, and for whom, to vote. This will be a Rigged Election. No way!”

Near the bottom of both of those tweets, Twitter has issued the hyperlinked warning: “Get the facts about mail-in ballots.” Clicking that link redirects users to a page featuring a series of related articles from outlets like CNN, The Hill, and The Washington Post.

Additionally, in a bulleted section above that, Twitter issued several statements highlighting why it decided to include the warning:

  • “Trump falsely claimed that mail-in ballots would lead to ‘a Rigged Election.’ However, fact-checkers say there is no evidence that mail-in ballots are linked to voter fraud.”
  • “Trump falsely claimed that California will send mail-in ballots to ‘anyone living in the state, no matter who they are or how they got there.’ In fact, only registered voters will receive ballots.”
  • “Five states already vote entirely by mail and all states offer some form of mail-in absentee voting, according to NBC News.”

While it’s nothing new to see the president making claims that mail-in voting is going to lead to voter fraud (even though experts say voter fraud is incredibly rare), Twitter’s move represents a major new step for the platform. For years, it has faced criticism over how to handle Trump’s tweets.

In the past, Twitter argued that users would jump into the debate and expose false information themselves; however, it has recently increased its steps to outright label misleading or false content.

In March, the Trump campaign posted an out-of-context clip of Joe Biden, which Twitter labeled as “manipulated media.”

Notably, Trump posted the exact same content on Facebook, but Facebook has said it doesn’t plan to label or remove the post.

“We believe that people should be able to have a robust debate about the electoral process, which is why we have crafted our policies to focus on misrepresentations that would interfere with the vote,” a spokesperson said, echoing Twitter’s previous reasoning for not implementing fact-checking.

Trump Rails Against Twitter for Fact-Checking Him

Unsurprisingly, Trump was less than thrilled with Twitter’s fact check.

Tuesday afternoon, Trump accused the platform of interfering in the 2020 Presidential elections, going on to criticize it by saying, “….Twitter is completely stifling FREE SPEECH, and I, as President, will not allow it to happen!”

Trump stepped up his threat Wednesday morning by saying he planned to either strongly regulate” or “close down” not only Twitter but social media platforms as a whole. 

“Twitter has now shown that everything we have been saying about them (and their other compatriots) is correct,” Trump added a few hours later. “Big action to follow!” 

Currently, it’s unknown specifically how Trump would want the federal government to crack down on Twitter. It’s also unclear if this was nothing more than an empty threat meant to pressure Twitter and other social media platforms to back off. In fact, such threats aren’t completely unknown for Trump to make. 

According to The Wall Street Journal, Trump reportedly worked to take action against social media platforms by floating the idea of forming a panel to review complaints of anti-conservative bias. 

As far as Twitter’s response to Trump’s backlash, a spokesperson for the company has said in a statement to a number of media outlets that Trump’s tweets “contain potentially misleading information about voting processes and have been labeled to provide additional context around mail-in ballots.”

Twitter Doesn’t Plan to Censor the Scarborough Tweets

While Twitter issued a warning on Trump’s mail-in voting tweets, it has refused to remove tweets Trump has made promoting a false conspiracy theory.

Those tweets involve Lori Klausutis, a woman who died in 2001 from complications of an undiagnosed heart condition while working for then-Representative Joe Scarborough. In those tweets, Trump has suggested Scarborough was behind her death.

On Tuesday, a letter from Klausutis’ widower went public. In it, he urged Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to delete Trump’s tweets about her, calling them “horrifying lies.” 

Publicly, Twitter has told CNN Business that it doesn’t plan to take action against the Scarborough tweets; however, according to an anonymous source who spoke to The Washington Post, Twitter is debating whether to take action on them.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Washington Post) (Fox Business)

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South Korea’s Supreme Court Upholds Rape Case Sentences for Korean Stars Jung Joon-young and Choi Jong-hoon

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  • On Thursday morning, the Supreme Court in Seoul upheld the sentences of Jung Joon Young and Choi Jong Hoon for aggravated rape and related charges.
  • Jung will serve five years in prison, while Choi will go to prison for two-and-a-half.
  • Videos of Jung, Choi, and others raping women were found in group chats that stemmed from investigations into Seungri, of the k-pop group BigBang, as part of the Burning Sun Scandal.
  • The two stars tried to claim that some of the sex was consensual, but the courts ultimately found testimony from survivors trustworthy. Courts did, however, have trouble finding victims who were willing to come forward over fears of social stigma.

Burning Sun Scandal Fall Out

South Korea’s Supreme Court upheld the rape verdicts against stars Jung Joon-young and Choi Jong-hoon on Thursday after multiple appeals by the stars and their co-defendants.

Both Jung and Choi were involved in an ever-growing scandal involving the rapes and sexual assaults of multiple women. Those crimes were filmed and distributed to chatrooms without their consent.

The entire scandal came to light in March of 2019 when Seungri from the k-pop group BigBang was embroiled in what’s now known as the Burning Sun Scandal. As part of an investigation into the scandal, police found a chatroom that featured some stars engaging in what seemed to be non-consensual sex with various women. Police found that many of the message in the Kakaotalk chatroom (the major messaging app in South Korea) from between 2015 and 2016 were sent by Jung and Choi.

A Year of Court Proceedings

Jung, Choi, and five other defendants found themselves in court in November 2019 facing charges related to filming and distributing their acts without the consent of the victims, as well as aggravated rape charges. In South Korea, this means a rape involving two or more perpetrators.

The court found them all guilty of the rape charge. Jung was sentenced to six years behind bars, while Choi and the others were sentenced to five years. Jung was given a harsher sentence because he was also found guilty of filming and distributing the videos of their acts without the victim’s consent.

During proceedings, the court had trouble getting victims to tell their stories. Many feared being shamed or judged because of the incidents and didn’t want the possibility of that information going public. Compounding the court’s problems was the fact that other victims were hard to find.

To that end, the defendants argued that the sexual acts with some of the victims were consensual, albeit this didn’t leave out the possibility that there were still victims of their crimes. However, the court found that the testimony of survivors was trustworthy and contradicted the defendant’s claims.

Jung and Choi appealed the decision, which led to more court proceedings. In May 2020, the Seoul High Court upheld their convictions but reduced their sentences to five years for Jung and two and a half years for Choi.

Choi’s sentence was reduced because the court found that he had reached a settlement with a victim.

The decision was appealed a final time to the Supreme Court. This time they argued that most of the evidence against them, notably the Kakaotalk chatroom messages and videos, were illegally obtained by police.

On Thursday morning, the Supreme Court ultimately disagreed with Jung and Choi and said their revised sentences would stand.

Jung, Choi, and the other defendants will also still have to do 80 hours of sexual violence treatment courses and are banned from working with children for five years.

See What Others Are Saying: (ABC) (Yonhap News) (Soompi)

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YouTube Says It Will Use AI to Age-Restrict Content

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  • YouTube announced Tuesday that it would be expanding its machine learning to handle age-restricting content.
  • The decision has been controversial, especially after news that other AI systems employed by the company took down videos at nearly double the rate.
  • The decision likely stems from both legal responsibilities in some parts of the world, as well as practical reasons regarding the amount of content loaded to the site.
  • It might also help with moderator burn out since the platform is currently understaffed and struggles with extremely high turn over.
  • In fact, the platform still faces a lawsuit from a moderator claiming the job gave them Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. They also claim the company offered little resources to cope with the content they are required to watch.

AI-Age Restrictions

YouTube announced Tuesday that it will use AI and machine learning to automatically apply age restriction to videos.

In a recent blog post, the platform wrote, “our Trust & Safety team applies age-restrictions when, in the course of reviewing content, they encounter a video that isn’t appropriate for viewers under 18.”

“Going forward, we will build on our approach of using machine learning to detect content for review, by developing and adapting our technology to help us automatically apply age-restrictions.”

Flagged videos would effectively be blocked from being viewed by anyone who isn’t signed into an account or who has an account indicating they are below the age of 18. YouTube stated these changes were a continuation of their efforts to make YouTube a safer place for families. Initially, it rolled out YouTube Kids as a dedicated platform for those under 13, and now it wants to try and sterilize the platform site-wide. Although notably, it doesn’t plan to make the entire platform a new YouTube Kids.

It’s also not a coincidence that this move helps YouTube to better fall in line with regulations across the world. In Europe, users may face other steps if YouTube can’t confirm their age in addition to rolling out AI-age restrictions. This can include measures such as providing a government ID or credit card to prove one is over 18.

If a video is age-restricted by YouTube, the company did say it will have an appeals process that will get the video in front of an actual person to check it.

On that note, just days before announcing that it would implement AI to age-restrict, YouTube also said it would be expanding its moderation team after it had largely been on hiatus because of the pandemic.

It’s hard to say how much these changes will actually affect creators or how much money that can make from the platform. The only assurances YouTube gave were to creators who are part of the YouTube Partner Program.

“For creators in the YouTube Partner Program, we expect these automated age-restrictions to have little to no impact on revenue as most of these videos also violate our advertiser-friendly guidelines and therefore have limited or no ads.”

This means that most creators with the YouTube Partner Program don’t make much, or anything, from ads already and that’s unlikely to change.

Community Backlash

Every time YouTube makes a big change there are a lot of reactions, especially if it involves AI to automatically handle processes. Tuesday’s announcement was no different.

On YouTube’s tweet announcing the changes, common responses included complaints like, “what’s the point in an age restriction on a NON kids app. That’s why we have YouTube kids. really young kids shouldn’t be on normal youtube. So we don’t realistically need an age restriction.”

“Please don’t implement this until you’ve worked out all the kinks,” one user pleaded. “I feel like this might actually hurt a lot of creators, who aren’t making stuff for kids, but get flagged as kids channels because of bright colors and stuff like that”

Hiccups relating to the rollout of this new system were common among users. Although it’s possible that YouTube’s Sept 20. announcement saying it would bring back human moderators to the platform was made to help balance out how much damage a new AI could do.

In a late-August transparency report, YouTube found that AI-moderation was far more restrictive. When the moderators were first down-sized between April and June, YouTube’s AI largely took over and it removed around 11 million videos. That’s double the normal rate.

YouTube did allow creators to appeal those decisions, and about 300,000 videos were appealed; about half of which were reinstated. In a similar move, Facebook also had a similar problem, and will also bring back moderators to handle both restrictive content and the upcoming election.

Other Reasons for the Changes

YouTube’s decision to expand its use of AI not only falls in line with various laws regarding the verification of a user’s age and what content is widely available to the public but also likely for practical reasons.

The site gets over 400 hours of content uploaded every minute. Notwithstanding different time zones or having people work staggered schedules, YouTube would need to employ over 70,000 people to just check what’s uploaded to the site.

Outlets like The Verge have done a series about how YouTube, Google, and Facebook moderators are dealing with depression, anger, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder because of their job. These issues were particularly prevalent among people working in what YouTube calls the “terror” or “violent extremism” queue.

One moderator told The Verge, “Every day you watch someone beheading someone, or someone shooting his girlfriend. After that, you feel like wow, this world is really crazy. This makes you feel ill. You’re feeling there is nothing worth living for. Why are we doing this to each other?”

That same individual noted that since working there, he began to gain weight, lose hair, have a short temper, and experience general signs of anxiety.

On top of these claims, YouTube is also facing a lawsuit filed in a California court Monday by a former content moderator at YouTube.

The complaint states that Jane Doe, “has trouble sleeping and when she does sleep, she has horrific nightmares. She often lays awake at night trying to go to sleep, replaying videos that she has seen in her mind.

“She cannot be in crowded places, including concerts and events, because she fears mass shootings. She has severe and debilitating panic attacks,” it continued. “She has lost many friends because of her anxiety around people. She has trouble interacting and being around kids and is now scared to have children.”

These issues weren’t just for people working on the “terror” queue, but anyone training to become a moderator.

“For example, during training, Plaintiff witnessed a video of a smashed open skull with people eating from it; a woman who was kidnapped and beheaded by a cartel; a person’s head being run over by a tank; beastiality; suicides; self-harm; children being rapped [sic]; births and abortions,” the complaint alleges.

“As the example was being presented, Content Moderators were told that they could step out of the room. But Content Moderators were concerned that leaving the room would mean they might lose their job because at the end of the training new Content Moderators were required to pass a test applying the Community Guidelines to the content.”

During their three-week training, moderators allegedly don’t receive much resilience training or wellness resources.

These kinds of lawsuits aren’t unheard of. Facebook faced a similar suit in 2018, where a woman claimed that during her time as a moderator she developed PTSD as a result of “constant and unmitigated exposure to highly toxic and extremely disturbing images at the workplace.”

That case hasn’t yet been decided in court. Currently, Facebook and the plaintiff agreed to settle for $52 million, pending approval from the court.

The settlement would only apply to U.S. moderators

See what others are saying: (CNET) (The Verge) (Vice)

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Chinese State Media Calls TikTok-Oracle Deal “Reasonable” as Trump Signals Approval

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  • On Friday, the United States Commerce Department issued an order that would ban U.S. downloads of TikTok and WeChat starting Sunday night.
  • The order for TikTok was delayed for one week on Saturday after President Donald Trump gave his preliminary approval on a deal between TikTok and the software company Oracle.
  • A federal judge also issued a temporary injunction Sunday against the WeChat ban, which would have largely destroyed the app’s functionality.
  • Oracle and Walmart have since released more details of the deal, including that TikTok Global will likely pay $5 billion in U.S. taxes. This does not seem to be the same as a commission from the deal, even though Trump suggested such.
  • On Monday, Chinese state media called the deal “unfair” on ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company. However, it also described it as “reasonable,” suggesting the Chinese government may approve the deal.

U.S. and China Signal Support for Deal

What began as a tumultuous weekend for TikTok ended with both the U.S. and Chinese governments potentially signaling approval of its deal with Oracle. 

Last week, TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, struck a deal with Oracle to avoid a U.S. ban. On Monday, Chinese state media called the deal “more reasonable to ByteDance,” and said it’s less costly than a shutdown.

“The plan shows that ByteDance’s moves to defend its legitimate rights have, to some extent, worked,” it added.

While not officially confirmed, this seems to suggest that the Chinese government may approve the deal. 

It also came off the heels of Saturday, when President Donald Trump, after having suggested unhappiness with the deal last week, said he has given his approval “in concept.” He will still need to officially sign off on it before the deal is set into motion.

Because of that, the U.S. Commerce Department staved off a download ban that was set for Sunday, now pushing it back to this coming Sunday, Sept. 27.

Some Republicans, such as Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl.), have still expressed concern because ByteDance won’t be handing over its secretive algorithm as part of the deal.

What’s in the Deal?

On Saturday, Oracle released more details of its deal with TikTok. Under it, Oracle and Walmart would take a combined 20% stake in TikTok Global.

Still, there’s been much back and forth over how much control ByteDance, will have under the agreement. For his part, Trump has claimed that TikTok Global will “be a brand new company… It will have nothing to do with China.”

However, ByteDance has maintained that it will retain 80% of the stake. The discrepancy here seems to be because 40% of ByteDance is owned by U.S. venture capital firms. Therefore, Trump could technically claim that TikTok Global will be majority-owned by U.S. money.

Trump doubled down Monday and said that he would not approve the deal if ByteDance retained ownership. He added that the Chinese-owned company will “have nothing to do with it, and if they do, we just won’t make the deal.”

Later, Oracle announced that ByteDance will not have any stake in TikTok Global, though this statement heavily conflicts with what is being reported in China.

“Upon creation of TikTok Global, Oracle/Walmart will make their investment and the TikTok Global shares will be distributed to their owners, Americans will be the majority and ByteDance will have no ownership in TikTok Global,” the company said.

According to Walmart and Oracle, if this deal goes through, TikTok Global will pay $5 billion in new tax dollars to the U.S. Treasury over the next few years. As both companies noted, this is just a projection of future corporate taxes, and that estimate could change.

The water around that $5 billion figure was later muddied as Trump claimed that TikTok Global would be donating “$5 billion into a fund for education so we can educate people as to [the] real history of our country — the real history, not the fake history.”

To be clear, Trump is referring to his plans to establish a “patriotic education” commission.

On Sunday, ByteDance said in a statement that this was the first it had heard about a $5 billion education fund.

In fact, TikTok Global never promised to start an education fund. Instead, it promised to create an “educational initiative to develop and deliver an AI-driven online video curriculum to teach children from inner cities to the suburbs a variety of courses from basic reading and math to science, history and computer engineering.” 

That initiative doesn’t seem to have anything to do with that $5 billion tax figure. Since he began pursuing a ban, Trump has vowed that the U.S. will receive some form of commission from a deal with TikTok. As far as it is known, this $5 billion figure is also not that commission.

As previously reported, this deal will allow Oracle to host TikTok’s user data on its cloud service and review TikTok’s code for security. According to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, it would also shift TikTok’s global headquarters from China to the U.S.

On top of that, TikTok’s board members would reportedly have to be approved by the U.S. government, with one being an expert in data security. That person would also hold a top-secret security clearance.

Commerce Department Announces Download Ban

Friday seemed like the beginning of the end for TikTok. That morning, the Commerce Department issued an order that would ban U.S. downloads of not only TikTok but also WeChat starting Sunday night.

Both bans were a result of concerns the Trump administration has that ByteDance and WeChat’s parent company, Tencent, are either already giving or could give U.S. user data to the Chinese government.

The Trump administration has repeatedly said that both apps pose a national security threat.

TikTok and ByteDance have consistently denied these claims, saying that U.S. user data is stored domestically with a backup in Singapore. WeChat, for its part, has also made similar statements.

The download ban was announced in response to two Aug. 6 executive orders from Trump. Those orders ban any U.S.-based transactions with TikTok and WeChat starting on Sept. 20, which is why the Commerce Department set the deadline for this past Sunday.

While this ban would have been much more restrictive for WeChat because a large part of its functionality relies heavily on in-app transactions, for TikTok at least, it would only affect new downloads and updates to the app.

“So if that were to continue over a long period of time, there might be a gradual degradation of services, but the basic TikTok will stay intact until Nov. 12,” Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Fox Business on Friday.

“If there’s not a deal by Nov. 12, under the provisions of the old order, then TikTok would also be, for all practical purposes, shut down.” 

What Happens on Nov. 12?

Ross is referring to another executive order, this one signed on Aug. 14. Notably, it gives ByteDance 90 days to divest from its American assets and any data that TikTok had gathered in the U.S. As Ross pointed out, that requirement could be satisfied if a deal is reached before the deadline.

If that doesn’t happen, the TikTok app could begin to see lags, lack of functionality, and sporadic outages.

However, it’s not just the U.S. One of the big questions that loomed after Oracle and ByteDance confirmed their deal last week was whether or not China would also need to approve it. ByteDance later confirmed that it will need the confirmation of the Chinese government, despite the deal not involving a technology transfer. 

Downloads Soar and TikTok Sues

On Friday, downloads for both apps soared. TikTok was downloaded nearly a quarter of a million times that day, up 12% from the previous day. WeChat was downloaded 10,000 times, up 150%.

The same Friday, TikTok as a company criticized the Commerce Department order, saying it had already committed to “unprecedented levels of additional transparency.”

TikTok added that the order “threatens to deprive the American people and small businesses across the US of a significant platform for both a voice and livelihoods.”

Later Friday, TikTok sued the Trump Administration to stop the download ban. 

On Sunday, a federal judge also halted the download ban for WeChat with a preliminary injunction. The injunction additionally blocks the Commerce Department’s attempt to bar transactions on the app.  

The Commerce Department responded by saying that it’s preparing for a long legal battle.

TikTokers: “Scared, angry, and confused”

“I’ve mostly just been feeling scared, angry, and confused,” TikToker Isabella Avila, known online as onlyjayus, told Rogue Rocket on Monday. “Those are just the main things.” 

Avila has amassed a following of 8.7 million followers on TikTok in a relatively short amount of time. She’s also gained about half a million followers on YouTube and Instagram each.

A couple of months ago, Avila said she thought a potential ban was all just talk; however, as the situation progressed, she said she became more worried.

While she said that she personally thought her career could survive a TikTok ban (thanks in part to a Netflix podcast deal), she added, “The people in-between a 100,000 to a million [followers], they have a platform right now, and if TikTok’s were to be gone, their platform’s pretty much gone if they haven’t built an audience on anything else. 

“This is where we go to express ourselves,” she said. “This is where we go to make videos. I don’t know, TikTok gave everybody a chance to kind of get famous and have a following. That’s what people liked about it. YouTube, it’s really hard to get followers and subscribers. TikTok was a lot easier.” 

Avila also expressed that a ban wouldn’t just be detrimental to creators. 

“I feel like my generation needed an app,” Avila said. “There was Instagram and Twitter, but it was kind of like for the millennials. Gen Z didn’t really have an app, and TikTok kind of fit that spot, so if TikTok’s gone, I don’t know, I feel like Gen Z isn’t really going to have a place.” 

Avila now says she is largely hopeful that TikTok will not be banned in the U.S.

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NBC News) (Axios)

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