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Twitter under control of one person frightens online safety experts – The Washington Post

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Social media industry safety professionals and outside experts who have spent years trying to slow the empowerment of tyrants and violent mobs by Facebook and other platforms are aghast that a second major company might come under the control of just one person, especially one complaining that Twitter places too many limits on what can be posted on its site.

In tweets and a conversation that followed his surprise bid last week to take Twitter private, billionaire Elon Musk has decried decisions to bar some users as censorship and said moderation that blunts the spread of legal but offending content as going too far. “If it’s a gray area, let the tweet exist,” Musk said Thursday.

Such comments alarm those whose experience has been that unfettered speech makes social media platforms unusable and that lightly controlled speech favors those who can direct thousands to make versions of the same point, which is then amplified by algorithms designed to maximize engagement and thereby advertising dollars.

“This is a disaster, and it is not only about Elon Musk, but he kind of puts it on steroids,” said Shoshana Zuboff, a retired Harvard Business School professor and author of “The Age of Surveillance Capitalism,” which says that the money coming from the collection of data about human behavior is the lifeblood of a new and thus far nearly unregulated era.

Zuboff argues that social media companies like Facebook and Twitter extract as much data about users as possible then attempt to maximize their time on the site because that earns them money. But platforms, she argues, are not neutral. In driving users online, they alter not only discussions but also beliefs and even physical actions, encouraging people to do what they otherwise would not, such as joining protests in the real world.

Putting so much power in the hands of one company is bad enough, but putting it in the hands of one person, as is largely the case with Facebook shareholder Mark Zuckerberg and would be the case if Twitter were owned by Musk, would be incompatible with democracy, Zuboff said.

“There are simply no checks and balances from any internal or external force,” she said in an interview. It would leave Musk, like Zuckerberg, with an amount of assembled data about people and the ability to use it to manipulate them “that cannot be compared to anything that has ever existed, and allows intervention into the integrity of individual behavior and also the integrity of collective behavior.”

“Zuckerberg sits at his celestial keyboard, and he can decide day by day, hour by hour, whether people are going to be more angry or less angry, whether publications are going to live or die,” she said.

Facebook did not respond to a request for comment. Musk did not answer emailed questions. Zuckerberg, at least, has a board of directors and the Securities and Exchange Commission to look after the interests of shareholders. A private Twitter owned by Musk would not be mandated to have even that.

Zuboff thinks whole new institutions must come to life in the next decade to govern information spaces. Behind the controversy over Musk offering to buy Twitter is an ongoing debate about whether technology executives already hold too much control over online speech.

If Musk takes control of Twitter, that could add pressure on American policymakers to regulate social media companies, former officials told The Washington Post.

One person holding “near monopoly control” over a social network could only increase these worries among policymakers, said Bill Baer, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

“To have one individual who is an unpredictable commodity, to put it mildly, in control of such an important communications platform likely will make a lot of people nervous,” said Baer, who previously led antitrust enforcement at the Federal Trade Commission and the Justice Department.

In interviews, former Democratic regulators and anti-monopoly advocates said Musk offering to buy Twitter underscores the need for Congress to pass legislation governing the Internet. Tom Wheeler, the former chair of the Federal Communications Commission, said Musk is taking actions that highlight the need for the creation of a new regulator that would oversee the technology industry.

“What we need is a First Amendment-respecting process in which the government doesn’t dictate content but does cause there to be an acceptable behavioral code,” Wheeler said.

Even professionals who think that social media is a net good say that Twitter as Musk envisions it would be terrible for users and investors. The past few years have spawned any number of Twitter knockoffs catering to those who feel muzzled by the original, including Gab and Parler, but none has taken off in the mainstream.

That is not an accident, said Alicia Wanless, director of the Partnership for Countering Influence Operations at the Carnegie Endowment for Peace in Washington. People want basic rules in the same way they would avoid a nightclub that turns a blind eye to casual violence.

“Musk can buy Twitter and try to take it back to some nostalgic lost Eden of the early days of the Internet, but platforms with the least community standards, like Gab, hardly rank because it isn’t a good business,” Wanless said.

Eva Galperin, director of cybersecurity at the Electronic Frontier Foundation who has helped protect global rights activists from government hacking and ordinary people from domestic stalking, said she “would be concerned about the human rights and personal safety impacts of any single person having complete control over Twitter’s policies.”

She added, “I am particularly concerned about the impact of complete ownership by a person who has repeatedly demonstrated that he does not understand the realities of content moderation at scale.”

Citing Musk supporting the idea for allowing anything legal, Galperin said: “Twitter’s content moderation practices leave a lot to be desired, but they tried the policies that Musk seems to favor more than a decade ago, and it did not work.”

A pullback in moderation would disproportionately harm women, minorities and anyone out of favor with the establishment, civil rights advocates said. “Without rules of the road, we are going to be put in harm’s way,” said Rashad Robinson, president of the racial justice group Color of Change. “Our protections cannot be up to the whims of billionaires.”

Alex Stamos, the former Facebook chief security officer who called out Russian disinformation on that platform during the 2016 election, said Musk has a notion of Twitter as public square for free expression that is divorced from the reality of many individuals and failed to acknowledge that it would give more power to the most powerful.

Without moderation, Stamos said, “anybody who expresses an opinion ends up with every form of casual insult ranging to death and rape threats. That is the baseline of the Internet. If you want people to be able to interact, you need to have basic rules.”

“When you talk about a public square, it’s a flawed analogy. In this case, the Twitter town square includes hundreds of millions of people who can interact pseudo-anonymously from hundreds of miles away. A Russian troll farm can invent hundreds of people to show up in the town square.”

“The algorithm gets to decide who gets heard,” added Claire Wardle, a Brown University professor who studies misinformation and social media moderation policies. To Wardle, Musk sounds as if he is speaking from before the 2016 election, when the extent of foreign misinformation campaigns in the country shocked users and experts alike and accelerated more sophisticated moderation efforts that even now fall well short of their goals.

“We were just so naive because we didn’t understand the ways these platforms get weaponized,” Wardle said. “The idea that we would go back to where we were is a disaster.” But it fits with the entrepreneur’s documented disdain for regulations and regulators, whether they concern labor, auto safety or the stock market, critics noted.

Some Republicans have cheered Musk on as part of their argument that Twitter, which was the first platform to ban Donald Trump after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, has been unfair to conservatives.

But a successful takeover might make new regulation out of Washington more likely amid a broader effort to rein in large technology companies. “Consolidating control is not the way to protect democracy and enhance free expression,” said Samir Jain, director of policy at Center for Democracy and Technology. “It will only exacerbate the concerns that people have over the degree to which these companies have influence over our discourse.”

If Twitter were to be taken private, its policies and decisions would become less transparent to policymakers and the general public, raising additional challenges for grappling with the role of tech companies, Baer said.

In the past year, Facebook whistleblowers have brought complaints to the SEC, alleging that the company misled investors about its efforts to address misinformation and accounts linked to rebels backed by Russia fighting in Ukraine. But such challenges would not be possible at Twitter if the platform were privately controlled.

“There would be less public disclosure, there would be less independent oversight,” Baer said. “There would not be the ability of independent directors on the board or individual shareholders to challenge or shape the behavior of Twitter, if it’s held solely by one individual.”

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Police investigating threatening social media post captured near Pointe-Claire school – CTV News Montreal

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Montreal police were on site at John Rennie High School Thursday after threatening images were posted to social media, which may have featured a firearm.

The post included two images: the first showed what appeared to be the side of the school. The second image depicted a young man holding what appeared to be a firearm in an unknown location. 

Police say the post is related to a conflict between two people who have yet to be identified, and that they were likely going to meet at the school. The threats were not directed toward the school itself. 

Police got a call reporting the post at around 9:40 a.m.

Students remained in class while officers stationed themselves at the school. The board notified parents of the situation and asked them not to pick up their kids.  

School board officials said in an internal note to parents that “at no point were staff or students in danger.”

School officials decided to send students home in the early afternoon as officers continued their investigation. Some were bussed out of school property at around 1 p.m.

Police say their firearm division is trying to learn more about the threats. There have been no arrests.

In a statement released later in the day, the Lester B. Pearson School Board thanked the police for acting quickly.

“Today’s incident was extremely regrettable and troubling,” the board said.

“We are extremely relieved and thankful for the prompt and thorough response of law enforcement and the professional way our staff managed the situation.”

A school spokesperson confirmed classes would resume Friday morning. 

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Media Advisory: Minister Osborne to Speak at YMCA Annual Enterprise Olympics Conference – News Releases – Government of Newfoundland and Labrador

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The Honourable Tom Osborne, Minister of Education, will bring remarks at the YMCA Annual Enterprise Olympics Conference today (Friday, May 27).

The event takes place at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel, 5 Navigator Avenue, St. John’s at 12:30 p.m.

Enterprise Olympics is a program that encourages the growth of entrepreneurial thinking among students and teachers and provides a quality experience for young people considering careers in entrepreneurship.

– 30 –

Media contact
Tina Coffey
Education
709-729-1906, 687-9903
tcoffey@gov.nl.ca

2022 05 27
9:05 am

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Texas school shooter warning signs drowned in sea of social media posts – Global News

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The warning signs were there for anyone to stumble upon, days before the 18-year-old gunman entered a Texas elementary school and slaughtered 19 children and two teachers.

There was the Instagram photo of a hand holding a gun magazine, a TikTok profile that warned, “Kids be scared,” and the image of two AR-style semi-automatic rifles displayed on a rug, pinned to the top of the killer’s Instagram profile.

Shooters are leaving digital trails that hint at what’s to come long before they actually pull the trigger.

“When somebody starts posting pictures of guns they started purchasing, they’re announcing to the world that they’re changing who they are,” said Katherine Schweit, a retired FBI agent who spearheaded the agency’s active shooter program. “It absolutely is a cry for help. It’s a tease: can you catch me?”

Read more:

Misinformation and conspiracy theories spiral after Texas school shooting

The foreboding posts, however, are often lost in an endless grid of Instagram photos that feature semi-automatic rifles, handguns and ammunition. There’s even a popular hashtag devoted to encouraging Instagram users to upload daily photos of guns with more than 2 million posts attached to it.

For law enforcement and social media companies, spotting a gun post from a potential mass shooter is like sifting through quicksand, Schweit said. That’s why she tells people not to ignore those type of posts, especially from children or young adults. Report it, she advises, to a school counselor, the police or even the FBI tip line.

Increasingly, young men have taken to Instagram, which boasts a thriving gun community, to drop small hints of what’s to come with photos of their own weapons just days or weeks before executing a mass killing.


Click to play video: 'Husband of teacher killed in Texas school shooting dies of heart attack, family says'



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Husband of teacher killed in Texas school shooting dies of heart attack, family says


Husband of teacher killed in Texas school shooting dies of heart attack, family says

Before shooting 17 students and staff members dead at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, Nikolas Cruz posted on YouTube that he wanted to be a “professional school shooter” and shared photos of his face covered, posing with guns. The FBI took in a tip about Cruz’s YouTube comment but never followed up with Cruz.

In November, 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley shared a photo of a semi-automatic handgun his dad had purchased with the caption, “Just got my new beauty today,” days before he went on to kill four students and injure seven others at his high school in Oxford Township, Michigan.

And days before entering a school classroom on Tuesday and killing 19 small children and two teachers, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos left similar clues across Instagram.

Read more:

Everything we know so far about the Texas mass school shooting

On May 20, the day that law enforcement officials say Ramos purchased a second rifle, a picture of two AR-style semi-automatic rifles appeared on his Instagram. He tagged another Instagram user with more than 10,000 followers in the photo. In an exchange, later shared by that user, she asks why he tagged her in the photo.

“I barely know you and u tag me in a picture with some guns,” the Instagram user wrote, adding, “It’s just scary.”

The school district in Uvalde had even spent money on software that, using geofencing technology, monitors for potential threats in the area.

Ramos, however, didn’t make a direct threat in posts. Having recently turned 18, he was legally allowed to own the weapons in Texas.

Read more:

Buffalo mass shooting: How should platforms respond to violent livestreams?

His photos of semi-automatic rifles are one of many on platforms like Instagram, Facebook and YouTube where it’s commonplace to post pictures or videos of guns and shooter training videos are prevalent. YouTube prohibits users from posting instructions on how to convert firearms to automatic. But Meta, the parent company of Instagram and Facebook, does not limit photos or hashtags around firearms.

That makes it difficult for platforms to separate people posting gun photos as part of a hobby from those with violent intent, said Sara Aniano, a social media and disinformation researcher, most recently at Monmouth University.

“In a perfect world, there would be some magical algorithm that could detect a worrisome photo of a gun on Instagram,” Aniano said. “For a lot of reasons, that’s a slippery slope and impossible to do when there are people like gun collectors and gunsmiths who have no plan to use their weapon with ill intent.”

Meta said it was working with law enforcement officials Wednesday to investigate Ramos’ accounts. The company declined to answer questions about reports it might have received on Ramos’ accounts.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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