- Facebook released a series of new policies aimed at fighting misinformation as the election draws closer. Those policies include removing posts that use COVID-19 as a way to discourage voting, and adding information labels to any post where a candidate preemptively declares victory.
- The policy that attracted the most attention was Facebook’s plans to not accept new political ads the week before the election, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg explaining that there may not be enough time to contest or fact check information in that limited time.
- Both sides have criticized this choice, with President Donald Trump’s campaign saying it goes too far by silencing political campaigns.
- Other critics think the measure does not do enough to combat misinformation and feel the platform should be doing more to monitor political speech and ads during this time.
Facebook Announces New Tools to Fight Election Misinformation
Facebook unveiled a slate of new policies Thursday that will be enacted to protect the upcoming election, including barring new political ads the week before Election Day.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained in a statement that in the final days leading up to the election, there may not be enough time to contest or fact check information in new political advertisements. Facebook has long faced pressure to limit or even ban political ads on the platform. Zuckerberg has usually opposed that idea, making this one of the strongest actions he has ever taken against the practice.
“This election is not going to be business as usual,” Zuckerberg wrote in a statement. “We all have a responsibility to protect our democracy. That means helping people register and vote, clearing up confusion about how this election will work, and taking steps to reduce the chances of violence and unrest.”
In addition to not accepting new political ads, Facebook will also be removing posts that use COVID-19 to discourage voting, adding an informational label to posts that seek to delegitimize the outcome of the election or voting methods, and adding labels to posts made by politicians who might declare victory before the final results are in.
The site even plan to link to accurate results on those kinds of posts and is working with Reuters on providing election results and information. On top of that, the social media giant is working to register voters heading into November 3.
Zuckerberg expressed concern about how the public might respond in the likely event that it could take several days for election results to come in as a result of increased mail-in voting. He said that it is “important that we prepare for this possibility in advance and understand that there could be a period of intense claims and counter-claims as the final results are counted.”
“I believe our democracy is strong enough to withstand this challenge and deliver a free and fair election,” Zuckerberg said in closing his statement. He suggested that it will take the work of political parties, candidates, election officials, media, and voters to make that happen.
Criticism of New Policies
These measures were met with backlash from figures on both sides of the political aisle. While the Joe Biden campaign has yet to issue an official statement about the news, President Donald Trump’s campaign condemned it, thinking it went too far in silencing political campaigns.
“In the last seven days of the most important election in our history, President Trump will be banned from defending himself on the largest platform in America,” Samantha Zager, the Trump campaign’s deputy national press secretary said in a statement. Though, despite the suggestions of this claim, political speech on the platform is not banned. Trump is still allowed to post during that week, the campaign is just not allowed to run new political advertisements.
On the other side of the debate, some thought Facebook’s new rules did not go far enough in fighting misinformation, which runs rampant on the site. Dipayan Ghosh, the co-director of the Harvard Kennedy School’s digital platforms and democracy project, told ABC News that the move is “narrow.”
“I think we have to acknowledge that in prohibiting new political advertising over that last week, the company is essentially volunteering the position that it believes that political ads have the potential to harm the democratic process,” Ghosh explained. “The question then is, why stop them just one week before Election Day? Especially in an election cycle when many people will have voted well before Election Day because of mail-in ballots or early voting.”
Media Matters president Angelo Carusone called these actions “pointless.”
“Of all of the issues with disinformation and extremism on Facebook — political ads are at the bottom of the list,” Carusone wrote in a statement. “Facebook’s signal-boosting right-wingers and lax policy enforcement are much bigger issues: It wasn’t Facebook’s political ads that brought the Kenosha killer to Wisconsin, after all.”
“This is just another PR stunt from Facebook. Don’t buy it,” he said.
Not all responses to Facebook’s new policy were negative, though. Some expressed optimism, albeit cautiously. Vanita Gupta, the President and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, believes that these policies have potential so long as they are executed properly.
She said that these plans are “significant improvements & come after much pressure from civil rights community.”
“But everything – any impact – rests on enforcement,” she added.
Claire Wardle, the U.S. director of First Draft, a nonprofit group that combats misinformation, told the Washington Post that she was pleasantly surprised by these new steps.
“It’s a strange feeling to read something by Mark Zuckerberg and say, ‘Yup, yup, yup,'” she said. “I’m pretty excited by it.”
See what others are saying: (ABC News) (Washington Post) (Politico)
Conservatives are Mad at “Woke” Xbox for Minor Climate-Related Updates
The fury comes after Xbox announced it was slightly altering existing consoles to better utilize and save energy.
Same War, New Battlefield
Mere days after M&M canceled their “spokescandies” due to backlash from the right, led largely by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, conservatives have found a new front for their ongoing culture war: Xbox.
Carlson spent months complaining that small character redesigns were “woke” because they made the animated anthropomorphized M&M’s — in his own words — “less sexy.” His campaign finally proved successful on Monday when the company announced it would be doing away with the spokescandies and replacing them with actress Maya Rudolph.
Conservatives, now facing a sudden dearth of non-issues to complain about, quickly found a new issue to rage against. Xbox announced in a blog post earlier this month that it is making minor updates to lower its environmental impact as part of an effort to reach Microsoft’s goal of being carbon-negative by 2030.
Now, instead of having an Xbox wake up to update games, apps, and software during random times of the night, it will do that at a time of night when a user’s local energy grid is generating the most power it can from renewable sources.
Xbox also said it would automatically update some older consoles to a power-saving mode that aims to reduce electricity consumption when it is turned off — a feature that is already the default on newer consoles.
According to The Verge, the only difference for users is that an Xbox in power-saving mode takes around 15 seconds to boot up instead of doing so immediately as the console does in “sleep” mode. The change is a small price to pay for what the outlet described as “significant” energy savings.
Xbox Under Fire
To many leading conservative voices, the minimal shifts were just another example of “woke” culture.
While discussing M&M’s spokescandies Tuesday morning, “Fox and Friends” co-host Ainsley Earhardt brought up Xbox’s new changes with Fox radio host Jimmy Failla.
“So Xbox has also announced that they’re going woke too, you know, because of climate change,” Earhardt said.
“I mean, it’s crazy what they’re doing, but we understand what this is. It’s not that it’s actually going to offset emissions, okay — the level of reduction is infinitesimal,” Failla claimed, without evidence. “But they’re trying to recruit your kids into climate politics at an earlier age; make them climate conscious now.”
“Yeah, I didn’t think of that — you’re right, they’re going after the children,” Earhardt agreed, despite the fact that internal data from Microsoft shows just around 10% of Xbox owners are under the age of 18.
Other prominent conservatives also did their part to bait Americans into anger on social media, including America’s Foundation, which posted a tweet stating that “the woke brigade is after video games.”
The post linked an article from the right-wing website TheBlaze, which asserted that “Xbox will force gamers to power down to fight climate change.” That, however, is false — Xbox has said users can switch back and change the settings any time they want
Still, top lawmakers continued to share the article and spread its false claims, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.).
“First gas stoves, then your coffee, now they’re gunning for your Xbox,” he wrote in the post, which was flagged by Twitter and given an “added context” warning.
The same warning, however, was not placed in a very similar post by Rep. Troy Nehls (R-Tx.), who also shared the article.
“They want to take your guns. They want to take your gas stoves. And now they want to take your Xbox. What’s next?” he wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Daily Beast) (VICE)
Washington State Launches Investigation Into Abuse at Private Special Ed. Schools
Allegations include staff kicking a fourth-grader and dragging a child with autism around by his leg.
Washington State’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has launched an investigation into a system of private schools for kids with disabilities after ProPublica and the Seattle Times reported on allegations of abuse.
The series of articles focused on Northwest School of Innovative Learning (NWSOIL). NWSOIL is a set of private schools that serve 500 Washington public school students with serious disabilities. ProPublica and the Seattle Times found years of complaints from parents and school districts against NWSOIL alleging abuse, overuse of isolation rooms, and unqualified aides teaching instead of certified professionals.
One district claimed NWSOIL staff kicked a fourth-grader. Another alleged that a child with autism was dragged around by his thigh.
Many former NWSOIL employees also claim that they were pressured by their parent company to to enroll more students and skimp on basic resources, like staffing.
In a seven-page letter, OSPI reminded NWSOIL of its authority to revoke or suspend a school’s approval, meaning that it could shut NWSOIL down.
“Given the serious nature of the allegations made in the articles, OSPI is examining what, if any, actions need to be taken with respect to Northwest SOIL’s approval to contract with Washington school districts,” Tania May, assistant superintendent for special education at OSPI, wrote in the letter.
OSPI has demanded any records of mistreatment, maltreatment, abuse, or neglect as well as documents pertaining to restraint or isolation of students and calls to the police. They are also seeking information about the student-to-teacher ratio and staff qualifications.
In the letter, OSPI claims that all of this was previously unknown to them as well as to police, Child Protective Services, and local school districts. They are asking NWSOIL for an explanation as to why the allegations were not reported.
NWSOIL defended itself in a public statement.
“Use of restraints and seclusion are always used as a last response when a student is at imminent risk of hurting themselves or others,“ it said. “We strongly deny any allegation that we understaff and/or pressure staff to increase admissions in order to maximize profits.”
Washington state representatives are considering a reform bill that will give them more oversight on the publicly funded system of private special education schools.
In this legislation, OSPI and at least one district that sends students to this program would be required to visit before approving the contract. It would also standardize district agreements with programs like NWSOIL, including financial safeguards to make sure funds are being used appropriately.
See the full series: (ProPublica) (The Seattle Times)
Mass Shootings in Half Moon Bay, Oakland Rock California
Just since Saturday, at least 19 people have been killed and 17 have been injured in mass shootings in California.
California Sees Third Attack in Under a Week
Two California localities experienced separate mass shootings Monday, just days after an attacker killed 11 and injured nine others in a suburb of Los Angeles.
The first of the most recent shootings took place in Half Moon Bay, a small coastal town about 30 miles outside of San Francisco, where a gunman killed seven and critically injured an eighth at two different locations.
According to authorities, police were dispatched to the first location around 2:20 pm and found four people shot to death and a fifth victim also suffering gunshot wounds. Shortly after, three more people were found dead at another site nearby.
About two hours later, police discovered the suspect in his car in the parking lot of a San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office substation with a semiautomatic handgun in the vehicle that officials later confirmed he had purchased legally.
Sheriff Christina Corpus said the man was taken into custody “without incident” and is “fully cooperating.” He has been identified as a 66-year-old Half Moon Bay resident of Asian descent.
Currently, the gunman’s motive is unknown, but the Sheriff told reporters Monday that both of the locations he targeted were nurseries, and it has since been reported that they were mushroom farms.
“All evidence we have points to this being an instance of workplace violence. The Mountain Mushroom Farm, the first location, is where the subject was employed,” Corpus said in a press conference Tuesday, though she added that, so far, the “only known connection between the victims and the suspect is that they may have been coworkers.”
As of writing, it remains unclear why he targeted the second location. A mushroom farm called Concord Farms has told reporters that it was the site of the second shooting — which a law enforcement official confirmed to The Washington Post.
In a statement to the media, a spokesperson said the farm had “no past knowledge” of the alleged gunman or his possible motives. Little has been released about the victims, though Corpus said Tuesday they were all adults and a “mixture of Asian and Hispanic descent,” some of whom were migrants.
Authorities had previously stated that, because people both live and work on the farms, children were among those who witnessed the shooting. However, on Tuesday, one official walked that back and said while children were indeed in the vicinity, police do not have information about specific witnesses.
Just hours after the violence in Half Moon Bay, seven people were injured, and one other was killed during a shooting at a gas station in Oakland. Very little has been reported about the incident, but police have said that the shooting was “between several individuals.”
Renewed Calls for Gun Control
Californians continue to reel from the rapid succession of mass shootings in a state known for its strict gun control laws.
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit that advocates against gun violence, the state ranks No. 1 in the country for gun law strength. An analysis led by the organization found that California has the sixth-lowest rate of gun ownership and the eighth-lowest gun death rate.
Many of California’s top lawmakers have argued that the state’s relatively low gun violence statistics emphasize the need for more federal regulations.
“The Second Amendment’s becoming a suicide pact,” Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) told CBS News in an interview.
“We’ll continue to find whatever loopholes we can and continue to lead the national conversation on gun safety reform. And the data bares out. It works. It saves lives,” he continued. “California’s 37% lower than the death rate of the rest of the nation, and yet, with all that evidence, no one on the other side seems to give a damn. I can’t get anything done in Congress.”
Following the Monterey Park shooting, U.S. Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Ca.), alongside other Democratic colleagues, introduced two gun control bills in the upper chamber. The first would ban assault weapons, while the second aims to raise the minimum age to purchase assault weapons from 18 to 21.
President Joe Biden quickly threw his support behind the measures, urging Congress to pass them.
“The majority of the American people agree with this commonsense action,” he said in a statement Monday. “There can be no greater responsibility than to do all we can to ensure the safety of our children, our communities and our nation.”
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