Facebook said Friday that it will flag all “newsworthy” posts from politicians that break its rules, including those from U.S. President Donald Trump.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg had previously refused to take action against Trump’s posts suggesting that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud, saying that people deserved to hear unfiltered statements from political leaders. In contrast, Twitter added a “get the facts” label to them.
Until Friday, Trump’s posts with identical wording to those labelled on Twitter remained untouched on Facebook, sparking criticism from Trump’s opponents as well as current and former Facebook employees. Now, Facebook is all but certain to face off with the president the next time he posts something the company deems to be violating its rules.
“The policies we’re implementing today are designed to address the reality of the challenges our country is facing and how they’re showing up across our community,” Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page announcing the changes.
He said the social network is taking additional steps to counter election-related misinformation. In particular, it will begin adding new labels to all posts about voting that will direct users to authoritative information from state and local election officials.
Facebook is also banning false claims intended to discourage voting, such as stories about federal agents checking legal status at polling places.
The company also said it is increasing its enforcement capacity to remove false claims about local polling conditions in the 72 hours before the U.S. election.
Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Center for Civic Media, said the changes are a “reminder of how powerful Facebook may be in terms of spreading disinformation during the upcoming election.”
He said the usefulness of voting labels will depend on how good Facebook‘s artificial intelligence is at identifying posts that need them.
If they label “every post that mentions voting links, people will start ignoring those links. If they’re targeted to posts that say things like ‘Police will be checking warrants and unpaid traffic tickets at polls’ — a classic voter suppression disinfo tactic — and clearly mark posts as disinfo, they might be useful,” he said.
But Zuckerman noted that Facebook “has a history of trying hard not to alienate right-leaning users, and given how tightly President Trump has aligned himself with voter-suppressing misinfo, it seems likely that Facebook will err on the side of non-intrusive and ignorable labels, which would minimize impact of the campaign.”
Earlier in the day, shares of Facebook and Twitter dropped sharply after Unilever, the giant company behind brands such as Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Dove soap, said it will halt U.S. advertising on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram through at least the end of the year.
Unilever said it made the move to protest the amount of hate speech online. The company said the polarized atmosphere in the United States ahead of November’s presidential election placed responsibility on brands to act.
Shares of both Facebook and Twitter fell roughly seven per cent following Unilever’s announcement.
We have taken the decision to stop advertising on <a href=”https://twitter.com/Facebook?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Facebook</a>, <a href=”https://twitter.com/instagram?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Instagram</a> & <a href=”https://twitter.com/Twitter?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>@Twitter</a> in the US.<br><br>The polarized atmosphere places an increased responsibility on brands to build a trusted & safe digital ecosystem. Our action starts now until the end of 2020.<a href=”https://t.co/flHhKid6jD”>https://t.co/flHhKid6jD</a> <a href=”https://t.co/QdzbH2k3wx”>pic.twitter.com/QdzbH2k3wx</a>
The company, which is based in the Netherlands and Britain, joins a raft of other advertisers pulling back from online platforms.
Facebook in particular has been the target of an escalating movement to withhold advertising dollars to pressure it to do more to prevent racist and violent content from being shared on its platform.
“We have decided that starting now through at least the end of the year, we will not run brand advertising in social media newsfeed platforms Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the U.S.,” Unilever said. “Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society.”
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
We will pause all paid advertising on Facebook and Instagram in the US in support of the <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/StopHateForProfit?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#StopHateForProfit</a> campaign. Facebook, Inc. must take the clear and unequivocal actions to stop its platform from being used to spread and amplify racism and hate. >>><a href=”https://t.co/7OpxtcbDGg”>https://t.co/7OpxtcbDGg</a> <a href=”https://t.co/I989Uk9V3h”>pic.twitter.com/I989Uk9V3h</a>
Unilever “has enough influence to persuade other brand advertisers to follow its lead,” said eMarketer analyst Nicole Perrin.
She noted that Unilever pulled back spending “for longer, on more platforms (including Twitter) and for more expansive reasons” — in particular, by citing problems with “divisiveness” as well as hate speech.
Sarah Personette, vice-president of global client solutions at Twitter, said the company’s mission is “to serve the public conversation and ensure Twitter is a place where people can make human connections, seek and receive authentic and credible information, and express themselves freely and safely.”
She added that Twitter is “respectful of our partners’ decisions and will continue to work and communicate closely with them during this time.”
Trump donors among the first U.S. companies awarded with coronavirus relief loans – Globalnews.ca
As much as $273 million in federal coronavirus aid was awarded to more than 100 companies that are owned or operated by major donors to U.S. President Donald Trump’s election efforts, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal data.
Many were among the first to be approved for a loan in early April, when the administration was struggling to launch the lending program. And only eight businesses had to wait until early May before securing the aid, according to the AP’s review of data released Monday.
The Trump-connected companies obtained the aid through the Paycheck Protection Program, which extends a lifeline to small businesses struggling to navigate the pandemic. Fast-food chains like Muy Brands, oil and gas companies and white-collar firms were all granted a slice of more than $659 billion in low-interest business loans that will be forgiven if the money is used on payroll, rent and similar expenses.
All told, the Trump supporters who run these companies have contributed at least $11.1 million since May 2015 to Trump’s campaign committees, the Republican National Committee and America First Action, a super PAC that has been endorsed by Trump, the AP review found. Each donor gave at least $20,000.
There is no evidence the companies received favourable treatment as a result of their ties to Trump, and the businesses account for just a fraction of the overall spending under the program.
Coronavirus outbreak: Biden calls out ‘false choice’ between economy and health
But the distribution of relief money is coming under heightened scrutiny after the Trump administration initially refused to reveal which companies received loans, only to cave under growing bipartisan pressure from Congress. On Monday, the Treasury Department released the names of companies that received loans that were greater than $150,000, though they didn’t release specific dollar figures and instead gave ranges for the dollar value of the aid.
Among the recipients named Monday was the conservative website NewsMax, which was approved for a loan up to $5 million on April 13, the data shows. NewsMax CEO Christopher Ruddy has donated $525,000 to political committees supporting Trump, records show. He did not respond to a request for comment.
Muy Brands, a San Antonio, Texas-based company that operates Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and Wendy’s franchises, was approved for a loan worth between $5 million and $10 million. Its owner, James Bodenstedt, has donated $672,570 to Trump since 2016, records show. The company did not respond to a request for comment.
Irving, Texas-based M Crowd Restaurant Group, which owns 27 Texas restaurants including the Mi Cocina chain, was approved for between $5 million and $10 million. Ray Washburne, one of the company’s founders, was vice chairman of the Trump Victory Committee in 2016 and donated $100,000 to the PAC last August. The company did not respond to a request for comment.
“The PPP was a huge success and saved 51 million American jobs, including at Joe Biden’s old law firm and many companies associated with Obama Administration alums,” said Trump campaign spokeswoman Samantha Zager. “When the rent or mortgage was due, tens of millions of Americans kept receiving paychecks thanks to President Trump’s leadership.”
Government watchdog groups say they have little faith in the administration conducting oversight of the program, noting Trump has ousted numerous inspectors general and has broadly resisted efforts to add transparency.
“When you don’t have proper safeguards, such as timely disclosure and effective inspectors general, then all these things look more suspicious and raise more questions,” said Larry Noble, a former general counsel at the Federal Election Commission. “When you see these people getting assistance quickly and they have contributed to the campaign, then it is going to raise questions.”
Bolton claims in book Trump asked China to help win 2020 U.S. election
Companies typically must have fewer than 500 workers to qualify for the Paycheck Protection Program. About $130 billion was unclaimed as the application deadline closed June 30.
With money still available, Congress voted to extend the program just as it was expiring, setting a new date of Aug. 8.
The public may never know the identity of more than 80 per cent of the nearly five million beneficiaries to date because the administration has refused to release details on loans under $150,000 _ the vast majority of borrowers.
That secrecy spurred an open-records lawsuit by a group of news organizations, including the AP.
Still, the release of the data is the most complete look at the program’s recipients so far.
And Trump donors aren’t the only people with ties to the president who have benefited.
The Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy in New Jersey, which is named after Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner’s grandfather, was approved for a loan in the range of $1 million to $2 million on April 5. Jared Kushner’s parents’ family foundation supports the school, NBC News reported.
Kasowitz Benson Torres, the law firm founded by Trump’s longtime personal attorney Marc Kasowitz, was approved for a loan worth between $5 million and $10 million.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao’s family’s business, Foremost Maritime Co., was cleared for a loan valued between $350,000 and $1 million. She is married to the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Broadcasting company Patrick Broadcasting, which is owned by Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a firebrand conservative and former talk radio host, received a loan of $179,000, according to Patrick’s senior adviser Sherry Sylvester. Patrick is the Texas chairman of Trump’s presidential campaign.
The money was used to cover the payroll and expenses of 13 employees.
“The loan did not cover his salary, but he was able to save the jobs of all his employees, many of whom have been with him for decades,” Sylvester said.
© 2020 The Canadian Press
Buffet decision shows LNG on shaky political, economic ground – Canada News – Castanet.net
Legendary investor Warren Buffett’s decision to walk away from a proposed export terminal for liquefied natural gas in Quebec is being held up in a new report as a sign that the LNG sector in Canada and elsewhere is on shaky ground.
The Global Energy Monitor report released Monday says Buffett’s move in March underscores the growing political and economic uncertainty that LNG projects are facing even as governments around the world tout liquefied natural gas as a clean alternative to coal power.
Canada has emerged as a major proponent of expanding liquefied natural gas as a way to fight climate change abroad and create jobs and revenue at home, with numerous multibillion-dollar projects to facilitate LNG exports to Asia and elsewhere in the works.
Yet Global Energy Monitor suggested Buffett’s decision to withdraw investment firm Berkshire Hathaway’s planned $4-billion investment in an LNG export terminal in Saguenay, Que., is a sign of things to come.
Neither Buffett nor Berkshire Hathaway explained their reasons for the move, but the company behind the terminal project blamed “the current Canadian context” — an apparent reference to nationwide rail blockades and protests against the Coastal GasLink pipeline in B.C. at the time.
“While many projects face opposition from local communities, the case of the Energie Saguenay LNG Terminal in Quebec shows the potential for a local protest to galvanize a national movement,” said the Global Energy Monitor report.
Global Energy Monitor is an international non-governmental organization that catalogues fossil-fuel infrastructure around the world and advocates for more investments in renewable energy.
Monday’s report goes on to suggest that political opposition is only one of many new challenges to the LNG sector, with another being a dramatic drop in the price of gas due to an oversupply at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has sent demand plummeting.
The result: plans to build pipelines, terminals and other infrastructure in Canada and around the world have been put on hold — or dropped entirely.
The report lists 13 LNG projects in Canada alone that have been cancelled or suspended in recent years. That includes a $10-billion LNG export facility in Nova Scotia, which is now in limbo as the company behind the project tries to decide whether to move ahead or not.
Pieridae Energy, the company behind the Nova Scotia project, announced in May a delay in making a final decision on proceeding. Spokesman James Millar said that was due to technical obstacles created by COVID-19, not market conditions.
One project apparently not affected is LNG Canada’s Coastal GasLink pipeline, which was the target of this year’s protests and blockades over a route that crosses traditional Wet’suwet’en territory in British Columbia. The company said last month that it plans to have 2,500 people working on the 670-kilometre pipeline from Dawson Creek to Kitimat by September.
How home buyers are competing in the GTA's fired up market amid COVID-19 pandemic – CTV News
People looking to buy a home in the Greater Toronto Area are facing stiff competition to secure their purchase.
Peter Yu and his wife are currently learning what it’s like to be buyers in the Yonge Street and Eglinton Avenue area.
“There’s a lot of competition still in the market. It’s not what we were anticipating, but it’s a process we’re working through,” Yu said.
The couple started looking into purchasing a home in the city in May. They missed out on one house already after they were out bid by five per cent.
As COVID-19 pandemic lockdown restrictions have lifted, findings from the Toronto Regional Real Estate Board show a fired up market.
Sales in the month of May compared to June spiked up to 89 per cent, and the average selling price for all homes in June was $930,869 — up 11.9 per cent compared to last year.
Bosley Real Estate Broker Davelle Morrison told CTV News Toronto Tuesday that there are many people who have decided they want to buy a home after being cooped up for months.
She said people living in condos are looking for homes, and people with homes are looking for cottages.
Morrison said she’s aware of several properties in the GTA which received multiple offers and is aware of one place in Toronto’s west end that received dozens of bids before it sold over the asking price.
“We got a bit of pent up demand and now the number of showings is basically back to pre-COVID levels. Everybody is ready to get out of their house and they want a new home,” Morrison said.
Morrison’s advice for buyers is to get a mortgage broker, have finances lockdown and do research.
Toronto couple with $1.1M budget looking to buy a home for a year
Together for a decade, Grégory Thinet and husband Jason Chow would love to upgrade from their two bedroom condo and buy a house.
They want a backyard, and have more space for pets and family.
“It’s been very frustrating to find our little piece of heaven because of how crazy the situation is in Toronto,” Thinet said.
The couple both have steady employment, but said they have yet to put in an offer because many properties sell for two to three hundred dollars above the listed price and therefore are out of reach.
“We’re hopeful. We’re always hopeful,” said Chow.
“This is our next step in our life, and we’d like to take it, but we can’t right now.”
Trump donors among the first U.S. companies awarded with coronavirus relief loans – Globalnews.ca
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