Facebook will ban ads that tell people in US not to vote

An attendee takes a photograph of a sign during Facebook Inc's F8 developers conference in San Jose, California, U.S., April 30, 2019. (REUTERS)
Updated 01 July 2019
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Facebook will ban ads that tell people in US not to vote

  • Russian influence on US elections has sparked heavy criticism of Facebook; however, it helped the company identify key tactics used in misinformation campaigns

WASHINGTON: Facebook Inc. will ban ads that discourage people from voting ahead of the 2020 US presidential election, according to its second annual Civil Rights Audit published on Sunday.
Facebook pledged to put its new “don’t vote” policy prohibition into effect in the fall, before the 2019 US elections on Nov. 5, Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg said in a blog post announcing the report. Last year, Facebook expanded its policies against voter suppression by banning posts that spread misinformation on voting methods, election dates and times, and polling locations. Those rules include banning intimidation tactics such as misrepresentations on whether votes will be counted.
The new “don’t vote” policy is in its developmental stages and the company is seeking advice from voting organizations.
Facebook said the policy is likely to only apply in the United States in its initial release and will not include the policing of organic posts from users.
Facebook said it works proactively to remove malicious election-related content. The company is now encompassing “do not vote” ads in its efforts to ward off coordinated efforts to influence elections.
The social media giant has been used to spread misinformation about previous elections.
US intelligence agencies say there was an extensive Russian cyber-influence operation during the 2016 campaign aimed at helping President Donald Trump get elected. Russia has repeatedly denied the allegations.
“We focused on ads because there is a targeted component in them,” Facebook Public Policy Director Neil Potts said. “We recognize it as a political tactic, which is much more in line with voter suppression.”
Ads telling people to “boycott the election” disproportionately targeted African American Facebook users, according to Ian Vandewalker, senior council at the Brennan Center for Justice.
The world’s biggest social network also pledged to introduce a new misinformation policy in the fall ahead of the 2020 US Census, prohibiting misrepresentations of Census requirements or methods, it said.
Facebook began conducting the annual Civil Rights Audit in 2018 to address concerns from underrepresented communities and advocacy groups on its platform.
The company has come under scrutiny over its hands-off approach to the content posted on its platform. It does not ban most forms of misinformation, instead posting warnings downgrading misleading material so it reaches fewer people.
Russian influence on US elections has sparked heavy criticism of Facebook; however, it helped the company identify key tactics used in misinformation campaigns.
Facebook set up its first war room in October 2018 to combat misinformation campaigns during the US midterm elections. Similar war rooms were set up this year in Brazil, India and Europe ahead of elections.
Facebook’s next Civil Rights Audit progress report is set to be released early next year.


‘Stronger than ever’: India set for fresh Moon launch attempt

Updated 21 July 2019
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‘Stronger than ever’: India set for fresh Moon launch attempt

  • The South Asian nation is bidding to become just the fourth nation to land a spacecraft on the Moon
  • The first launch attempt was scrubbed just under an hour before the scheduled lift-off because of what authorities described as a “technical snag”

SRIHARIKOTA, India: India will make a second attempt Monday to send a landmark spacecraft to the Moon after an apparent fuel leak forced last week’s launch to be aborted.
The South Asian nation is bidding to become just the fourth nation — after Russia, the United States and China — to land a spacecraft on the Moon.
The mission comes 50 years after Neil Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the moon, an occasion celebrated by space enthusiasts globally on Saturday
The fresh launch attempt for Chandrayaan-2 — Moon Chariot 2 in some Indian languages including Sanskrit and Hindi — has been scheduled for 2:43 p.m. (0913 GMT) on Monday, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) said.
“Chandrayaan 2 is ready to take a billion dreams to the Moon — now stronger than ever before!” it said on Thursday.
The first launch attempt was scrubbed just under an hour before the scheduled lift-off because of what authorities described as a “technical snag.” Local media, citing ISRO officials, said that issue was a fuel leak.
The agency tweeted Saturday that a rehearsal for the launch was completed successfully.
Chandrayaan-2 will be launched atop a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) MkIII, India’s most powerful rocket.
Experts said setbacks were to be expected in such missions given their complexity, and that it was more prudent to delay the launch instead of taking risks that may jeopardize the project.
“In such an ambitious and prestigious mission like Chandrayaan, one cannot take a chance even if a small flaw is detected,” Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, head of space policy at the New Delhi think tank the Observer Research Foundation, told AFP.
Former NASA scientist Kumar Krishen said India’s space agency should be praised for taking on ambitious projects like Chandrayaan-2.
“We should keep in mind that space exploration is risky as many systems have failed in the past and many lives lost,” he told AFP.
Aside from propelling India into rarefied company among spacefaring nations, Chandrayaan-2 also stands out because of its low cost.
About $140 million has been spent on preparations for the mission, a much smaller price tag compared with similar missions by other countries — whose costs often run into billions of dollars.
Chandrayaan-2, and India’s space program as a whole, are a source of national pride in India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has outlined an ambitious plan to launch a crewed space mission by 2022, and India hopes to seek out commercial satellite and orbiting deals.
The new mission comes almost 11 years after the launch of India’s first lunar mission — Chandrayaan-1 — which orbited the Moon and searched for water.
The rocket carrying Chandrayaan-2 will launch from the Satish Dhawan Space Center at Sriharikota, an island off the coast of the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.
The spacecraft will carry an orbiter, lander and a rover, which has been almost entirely designed and made in India.
The orbiter is planned to circle the Moon for about one year, imaging the surface and studying the atmosphere.
The lander, named Vikram, will head to the surface near the lunar South Pole carrying the rover. Once it touches down, the rover will carry out experiments while being controlled remotely by ISRO scientists.
It is expected to work for one lunar day, the equivalent of 14 Earth days, and will look for signs of water and “a fossil record of the early solar system.”