World Economic Forum: Tech firms must do more on extremism

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Updated 11 November 2017
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World Economic Forum: Tech firms must do more on extremism

WASHINGTON: US tech firms such as Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc. should be more aggressive in tackling extremism and political misinformation if they want to avoid government action, a report from the World Economic Forum said on Monday.
The study from the Swiss nonprofit organization adds to a chorus of calls for Silicon Valley to stem the spread of violent material from Daesh militants and the use of their services by alleged Russian propagandists.
Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet Inc’s Google will go under the microscope of US lawmakers on Tuesday and Wednesday when their general counsels will testify before three US congressional committees on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
The report from the World Economic Forum’s human rights council warns that tech companies risk government regulation that would limit freedom of speech unless they “assume a more active self-governance role.”
It recommends that the companies conduct more thorough internal reviews of how their services can be misused and that they put in place more human oversight of content.
The German parliament in June approved a plan to fine social media networks up to 50 million euros if they fail to remove hateful postings promptly, a law that Monday’s study said could potentially lead to the takedown of massive amounts of content.


Google staff discussed ways to fight Trump travel ban: WSJ

A Google logo in an office building in Zurich September 5, 2018. (REUTERS)
Updated 22 September 2018
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Google staff discussed ways to fight Trump travel ban: WSJ

  • An email from an employee of the Search Product Marketing division referred to brainstorming inside Google over how to respond to ban

WASHINGTON: Google employees discussed how to counter President Donald Trump’s 2017 travel ban by modifying search functions to help people contribute to immigration advocacy groups and contact lawmakers, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
They began the email discussion two days after Trump signed the first version of his travel ban targeting people from seven mainly Muslim countries, the paper reported.
Staff discussed how to tweak search functions and work against “islamophobic, algorithmically biased results from search terms ‘Islam’, ‘Muslim’, ‘Iran’, etc.,” the Journal reported.
They looked at similar measures for the search terms ‘Mexico’, ‘Hispanic’, ‘Latino’, etc.”
An email from an employee of the Search Product Marketing division referred to brainstorming inside Google over how to respond to ban.
Trump’s controversial measure was challenged in court and underwent several iterations before ultimately being upheld by the US Supreme Court.
The report is certain to anger Trump, who has accused Google of blocking conservative viewpoints in its search results.
Google told the Journal that none of the ideas discussed were ever implemented.
“Google has never manipulated its search results or modified any of its products to promote a particular political ideology — not in the current campaign season, not during the 2016 election, and not in the aftermath of President Trump’s executive order on immigration,” it said in a statement.
“Our processes and policies would not have allowed for any manipulation of search results to promote political ideologies,” it added.
Google was among 100 tech companies that filed a friend-of-the-court brief in February 2017 challenging the travel ban as harmful to US “business, innovation and growth.”