India asks TikTok, Facebook to remove users spreading coronavirus misinformation

This photo taken on November 21, 2019, shows the logo of the social media video sharing app Tiktok displayed on a tablet screen in Paris. (AFP)
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Updated 07 April 2020

India asks TikTok, Facebook to remove users spreading coronavirus misinformation

  • TikTok said it was “actively working with the government to support” their efforts to fight misinformation
  • Facebook said it was taking “aggressive steps to stop misinformation and harmful content from spreading on our platforms”

NEW DELHI: India has told Facebook and Chinese video app TikTok to remove users found to be spreading misinformation about the coronavirus following concern about videos intended to mislead Muslims, according to a government source and a letter seen by Reuters.
The move follows a report by Delhi-based digital analytics firm Voyager Infosec which identified a pattern of targeted disinformation in many social media videos that appeared to be aimed at Muslims, with some using religious beliefs to justifying defiance of health adviseries over the virus.
In one video reviewed by Reuters on Tuesday, a TikTok user says he is not scared of the coronavirus because, as a Muslim, he is a follower of the Prophet Muhammad and fears only Allah.
In another, a young man throws away a face mask — of the kind being commonly used during the coronavirus outbreak — to put on a Muslim skull cap, and makes a gesture of praying.
Concerns about such content forced India’s IT ministry to write to TikTok and Facebook on April 5, the government source said. The letter, seen by Reuters on Tuesday, asks companies to remove users who are spreading misinformation and “preserve” their details for sharing with law enforcement when requested.
“You need to ensure that such rogue messages do not go viral,” said the IT ministry’s letter.
“(Such messages) have the potential for creating panic ... this effectively weakens the all-out effort being made by the Indian government for containing the coronavirus,” the letter added.
In a statement, TikTok said it was “actively working with the government to support” their efforts to fight misinformation, while proactively working toward elevating credible information related to COVID-19 on its platform.
Facebook told Reuters it was taking “aggressive steps to stop misinformation and harmful content from spreading on our platforms.” It said it will remove misinformation about COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, that could contribute to imminent physical harm.
“Infodemic”
The coronavirus crisis has been accompanied by what the World Health Organization has called an “infodemic” of misinformation. Globally, platforms such as Facebook have responded by barring users from posting misleading information about the coronavirus, including denials of expert guidance and encouragement of fake treatments.
India has reported 4,421 coronavirus cases and 115 deaths, and is in lockdown nationwide. The government has been issuing Twitter posts cautioning people against misinformation and debunking fake news.
India’s northern state of Uttar Pradesh also raised concerns about “fake news” social media posts on Tuesday, saying its cyber cell was reviewing at least one Facebook and six TikTok videos. It gave no further details.
“We will definitely take action ... We are also sending details to the Indian government from our end,” a senior state official, Avanish Kumar Awasthi, told reporters.


Snapchat curbs Trump posts for inciting ‘racial violence’

Updated 03 June 2020

Snapchat curbs Trump posts for inciting ‘racial violence’

  • “We are not currently promoting the president’s content on Snapchat’s Discover platform,” Snapchat said
  • The move came after Twitter took an unprecedented stand by hiding a Trump post it said promoted violence

SAN FRANCISCO: Snapchat on Wednesday stopped promoting posts by US President Donald Trump, saying they incite “racial violence.”
“We are not currently promoting the president’s content on Snapchat’s Discover platform,” Snapchat said in response to an AFP inquiry, referencing the youth-focused social network’s section for recommended content.
“We will not amplify voices who incite racial violence and injustice by giving them free promotion on Discover.”
The move came after Twitter took an unprecedented stand by hiding a Trump post it said promoted violence, thrusting rival Facebook into turmoil for refusing to sanction false or inflammatory posts by the US president.
The decision was made over the weekend, during which Snapchat parent Snap chief executive Evan Spiegel sent a lengthy memo to employees condemning what he saw as a legacy of racial injustice and violence in the US.
“Every minute we are silent in the face of evil and wrongdoing we are acting in support of evildoers,” Spiegel wrote as companies responded to the outrage over the police killing of a black man in Minnesota.
“I am heartbroken and enraged by the treatment of black people and people of color in America.”
Snapchat will not promote accounts in the US that are linked to people who incite racial violence on or off the messaging platform, according Spiegel.
The Discover feature at Snapchat is a curated platform on which the California-based company get to decide what it recommends to users.
Trump’s account remains on the platform, it will just no longer be recommended viewing, according to Snapchat.
“We may continue to allow divisive people to maintain an account on Snapchat, as long as the content that is published on Snapchat is consistent with our community guidelines, but we will not promote that account or content in any way,” Spiegel said in the memo.
“We will make it clear with our actions that there is no grey area when it comes to racism, violence, and injustice — and we will not promote it, nor those who support it, on our platform.”
Snapchat is particularly popular with young Internet users, claiming that about half of the US “generation Z” population tapping into news through its Discover feature.