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Capitol violence sparks a social media reckoning with Trump – Powell River Peak

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All it took for social-media giants Twitter and Facebook to even temporarily bar President Donald Trump from addressing their vast audiences was a violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, fueled by years of false statements, conspiracy theories and violent rhetoric from the president.

On Wednesday, in an unprecedented step, the two companies temporarily suspended Trump from posting to their platforms after a mob of his supporters stormed the house of Congress. It was the most aggressive action either company has yet taken against Trump, who more than a decade ago embraced the immediacy and scale of Twitter to rally loyalists, castigate enemies and spread false rumours.

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Twitter locked Trump out of his account for 12 hours and said that future violations could result in a permanent suspension. The company required the removal of three of Trump’s tweets, including a short video in which he urged those supporters to “go home” while also repeating falsehoods about the integrity of the presidential election. Trump’s account deleted those posts, Twitter said; had they remained, Twitter had threatened to extend his suspension.

Facebook and Instagram, which Facebook owns, followed up in the evening, announcing that Trump wouldn’t be able to post for 24 hours following two violations of its policies. The White House did not immediately offer a response to the actions.

While some cheered the platforms’ actions, experts noted that the companies’ actions follow years of hemming and hawing on Trump and his supporters spreading dangerous misinformation and encouraging violence that have contributed to Wednesday’s violence.

Jennifer Grygiel, a Syracuse University communications professor and an expert on social media, said Wednesday’s events in Washington, D.C. are a direct result of Trump’s use of social media to spread propaganda and disinformation, and that the platforms should bear some responsibility for their inaction.

“This is what happens,” Grygiel said. “We didn’t just see a breach at the Capitol. Social media platforms have been breached by the president repeatedly. This is disinformation. This was a coup attempt in the United States.”

Grygiel said the platform’s decision to remove the video — and Twitter’s suspension — are too little, too late.

“They’re creeping along towards firmer action,” Grygiel said, calling Trump “Exhibit A” for the need for greater regulation of social media. “Social media is complicit in this because he has repeatedly used social media to incite violence. It’s a culmination of years of propaganda and abuse of media by the president of the United States.”

Trump posted the video more than two hours after protesters entered the Capitol, interrupting lawmakers meeting in an extraordinary joint session to confirm the Electoral College results and President-elect Joe Biden’s victory.

So far, YouTube has not taken similar action to muzzle Trump, although it said it also removed Trump’s video. But that video remained available as of Wednesday afternoon.

Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice-president of integrity, said on Twitter Wednesday that the video was removed because it “contributes to rather than diminishes the risk of ongoing violence.”

“This is an emergency situation and we are taking appropriate emergency measures, including removing President Trump’s video,” Rosen said.

Twitter initially left the video up but blocked people from being able to retweet it or comment on it. Only later in the day did the platform delete it entirely.

Trump opened his video saying, “I know your pain. I know your hurt. But you have to go home now.”

After repeating false claims about voter fraud affecting the election, Trump went on to say: “We can’t play into the hands of these people. We have to have peace. So go home. We love you. You’re very special.”

Republican lawmakers and previous administration officials had begged Trump to give a statement to his supporters to quell the violence. He posted his video as authorities struggled to take control of a chaotic situation at the Capitol that led to the evacuation of lawmakers and the death of at least one person.

Trump has harnessed social media — especially Twitter — as a potent tool for spreading misinformation about the election. Wednesday’s riot only increased calls to ban Trump from the platform.

“The President has promoted sedition and incited violence,” Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive officer of the Anti-Defamation League said in a statement. “More than anything, what is happening right now at the Capitol is a direct result of the fear and disinformation that has been spewed consistently from the Oval Office.”

In a statement Thursday morning, Trump said there would be an “orderly transition on January 20th” and acknowledged defeat in the election for the first time. His aides posted the statement on Twitter because his account remained suspended.

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New Messengers and Social Media Platforms on the Rise in Belarus – On Central Europe, from Central Europe – Visegrad Insight

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How significant were online media and social media platforms in the solidarity and mobilisation of Belarusians against Alyaksandr Lukashenka’s regime? Data shows that platforms such as Telegram and YouTube are becoming a force to be reckoned with and may outcompete even Russian media.

Mikhail Doroshevich is a well-known ‘internet veteran’ in Belarus but also a media analyst who organises many studies on the Belarusian media audience.

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Alexander Morozov

Alexander Morozov is an expert at iSANS and a fellow at the Department of Philosophy at the Charles University, Prague.

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EDITORIAL: Social media giants content to pass baton on policing hate – TheChronicleHerald.ca

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Perhaps the easiest explanation is that businesses prefer a firm set of ground rules to uncertainty — even if those ground rules are going to get tougher, thanks to other people’s problems.

Canada’s federal government was already looking at regulating social media before the U.S. presidential election and the Jan. 6 violence at the U.S. Capitol. After the riot, the necessity of that regulation came even more to the fore.

And, perhaps surprisingly, social media companies are looking forward to having guidelines that they can actually apply. That may be because regulation would take the onus off of the companies themselves — they would simply be applying this country’s rules, rather than trying to haphazardly control the Hydra-like spread of internet hate on their own.

And it may also be because those same social media companies — and their employees — are uncomfortable about the continued presence of violent and hateful language on their platforms, yet feel to a large extent unable to handle, monitor or moderate the far reaches of their own empires.

Google, Facebook and Twitter have all indicated that they would be in favour of clear rules from the federal government about what the government considers to be illegal content.

The government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made regulating social media an election promise in 2019, saying in Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault’s mandate letter that the minister was charged with taking, “action on combatting hate groups and online hate and harassment, ideologically motivated violent extremism and terrorist organizations.”

Australia, France and Germany have all taken steps to address social media hate, with a German law giving social media companies a 24-hour deadline to remove material or face fines.

Though the structure of Canada’s legislation hasn’t been revealed yet, Guilbeault told the Globe and Mail that, “While preserving a fundamental right to freedom of expression, our approach will require online platforms to monitor and eliminate illegal content that appears on their platforms. That includes hate speech, terrorist propaganda, violent content, child sexual exploitation and the non-consensual sharing of intimate images.”

Google, Facebook and Twitter have all indicated that they would be in favour of clear rules from the federal government about what the government considers to be illegal content.

And that shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.

Companies spend a fair amount of time analyzing what constitutes a risk to their core business. Anyone who has ever worked in private business at the managerial level knows that there are two prongs that managers are supposed to be aware of — not only opportunities, but threats as well.

Those threats can hit the core of a company. At least one right-leaning social media firm, the much more permissive Parler, saw scores of its suppliers, including its web-hosting company, flee after the Jan. 6 violence brought hate-fuelled Parler postings to the fore.

Even in the world of social media, chickens can come home to roost.

Someone else’s rules can take some of that pressure away.

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Ottawa ready to give police more powers to go after social media companies and the people who use them – StCatharinesStandard.ca

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Additional law enforcement powers and an independent appeal process could be part of a new regulatory regime aimed at social media companies that Ottawa is in the final stages of completing, according to Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault.

During an interview with the Star, Guilbeault also said that a new regulator will be set up to oversee the rules Ottawa is bringing in to curb the sharing of illegal content — including hate-speech, child pornography and non-consensual intimate images — on platforms like those owned by Facebook and Google.

The regulator will have auditing powers and likely will be able to “look under the hood” to observe how algorithms at the companies work, Guilbeault said, but stressed that they wouldn’t “go after proprietary information.”

“This would have to be well defined,” he said, “but it’s to understand and to be able to see whether or not the platforms are doing what they should be doing.”

Steep fines would be in place for those that are found in non-compliance of the regulations, which are expected to be introduced in February or March.

Guilbeault said the government is in the final stages of exploring an independent appeal process wherein individuals who have had their content removed on social media platforms can take it up with the regulator.

There will also be a complaint process that people can go through with the regulator.

Guilbeault also said he expects additional law enforcement measures would be put in place under the new regime. There will be a mechanism for the “off-ramping” of cases to law enforcement, he said, and “more means for law enforcement in Canada to prosecute those.”

“If you’re doing something illegal on these platforms, we will give ourselves the means to go after you,” he said.

“Law enforcement will have the ability to get information from the platforms to prosecute the individuals or groups of individuals in question.”

The implementation of an appeal process has some concerned that the government could go too far intervening into the private practices of companies and experts say adding in additional law enforcement measures for police to get information from social media companies is a complicated process.

Private companies have their own standards for removing content they deem illegal or inappropriate. A Facebook official, who spoke to the Star on the condition of anonymity, said that the idea of a government regulator having the power to hear appeals from people who take issue with that company’s policies concerns them.

It’s one thing for a government regulator to enforce its own rules around illegal content on websites — something Facebook and other tech companies have publicly welcomed — but another thing entirely for that regulator to be able to consider decisions to remove content made by a private entity, said the source.

“I think we should all pause on that,” they said.

Vivek Krishnamurthy, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, said he wants more transparency from the government around its plans for a new regulator with auditing powers.

“What are the constraints on this auditing mechanism,” he said. “Are they going to audit the content? Are they going to audit the decision-making processes of the social media companies?”

Jordan Donich, a Toronto-based criminal defence lawyer, said it will be tough to give law enforcement additional powers to gather information since the companies will want to protect their customers’ privacy.

“I don’t think (the companies will) compromise the vast majority of lawful users by appearing to just flagrantly provide information to the police,” he said.

Currently, tech companies do co-operate with law enforcement and have in-house teams that police illegal content as well, said Donich.

Sometimes tech companies deny law enforcement’s request for information and ask for a court order, said Donich.

“This is what we want,” he said. “We want our information to be protected, because, you know, illegal or not, the police should have some check and balance on their power.”

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According to recent reports and surveys, there’s broad public support for government regulation of social media companies in Canada.

The Canadian Race Relations Foundation commissioned Abacus Data to survey 2,000 randomly selected Canadians between Jan 15-18 and found that 60 per cent support the federal government doing more to prevent hate-speech and racism online. Additionally, the survey found that 80 per cent agreed the social media companies should be required to remove hate-speech and racist content within 24 hours.

It also found that 79 per cent supported expanding the law so that people can be held accountable for what they do and say online.

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