Why won’t Twitter ban Khamenei when it permanently suspended Trump?

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is notorious for using his Twitter accounts to incite hate, violence and disinformation. Yet his many accounts in multiple languages still exist on the platform. (AN Design)
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is notorious for using his Twitter accounts to incite hate, violence and disinformation. Yet his many accounts in multiple languages still exist on the platform. (AN Design)
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Updated 22 March 2021

Why won’t Twitter ban Khamenei when it permanently suspended Trump?

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is notorious for using his Twitter accounts to incite hate, violence and disinformation. Yet his many accounts in multiple languages still exist on the platform. (AN Design)
  • Twitter took action last year against ex-president Donald Trump by adding fact-checking and violence labels to his tweets and eventually suspending his account @realDonaldTrump permanently on January 8
  • On March 18, Twitter wrote in a blog post that it is “calling for public input” on its approach to world leaders

DUBAI: Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is notorious for using his Twitter accounts to incite hate, violence and disinformation. Yet his many accounts in multiple languages still exist on the platform.

These accounts, in languages including Persian, English, and Spanish, regularly post content that would – and should – violate Twitter’s policies.

In January, an account linked to Khamenei’s personal office posted a graphic threatening “revenge” while appearing to depict former President Trump under the shadow of a looming airstrike, which was retweeted by one of Khamenei’s personal accounts. Following public backlash, Twitter suspended the account that posted the tweet but not the personal account.

 

 

It said it suspended the account due to a violation of its policy against fake accounts.

“The justification that Twitter reportedly gave for why it shut down that particular account but not others was not just unpersuasive, it was preposterous,” David Weinberg, Washington director for international affairs of the US-based anti-hate organization Anti-Defamation League (ADL), told Arab News.

“For one thing, it was followed by and frequently retweeted by other central Khamenei accounts (which were not suspended). It had also been allowed to promote all kinds of problematic content for half a year until then. So, why all of a sudden did it get removed – just a day or two after posting material that was incitement to violence?” he said.

Following the incident, ADL wrote a letter to Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey calling to deplatform all accounts linked to Khamenei without delay for repeated violations of Twitter’s rules that prohibit incitement to hatred and violence.

The letter gave examples of how Khamenei’s tweets have continually violated three specific policies – Glorification of Violence, Hateful Conduct and COVID-19 Misleading Information – and urged Twitter to suspend the associated accounts.

Signed by ADL CEO and National Director Jonathan Greenblatt, the letter ends:

“But given that you have already suspended an American president from your platform earlier this month, and just removed one of Khamenei’s many Twitter accounts for its blatant and threatening violations of Twitter’s policies, that standard must urgently be applied to Khamenei’s panoply of other Twitter accounts, which so clearly pose a danger to public safety and routinely violate Twitter’s terms of service.”

Twitter took action last year against ex-president Donald Trump by adding fact-checking and violence labels to his tweets and eventually suspending his account @realDonaldTrump permanently on January 8.

“After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them — specifically how they are being received and interpreted on and off Twitter — we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence,” it said.

However, when US Senate Commerce Chair Roger Wicker asked Dorsey in a hearing last year about tweets from Khamenei that “glorified violence,” Dorsey defended the decision to keep them unlabeled on the platform.

He said, “We did not find those to violate our terms of service because we considered them ‘saber rattling,’ which is part of the speech of world leaders in concert with other countries.”

Weinberg commented: “The lesson over and over again from modern human history, as I read it, is that when a fanatical dictator responsible for the slaughter of thousands of his own citizens, as well as horrific violence, and calls for genocide against the other, says what they’re going to do, the international community needs to take that seriously; not just dismiss it as tough talk or posturing or playing to a domestic audience.”

 

 

He went on to add that sometimes when “murderous fanatics” say they’re going to commit genocide or eliminate countries or “demonize entire religions and nations of people,” it is genuine.

“It is an expression of their genuine worldview and their genuine intent.”

It was around the same time that Twitter had put labels on Trump’s tweets about widespread fraud in voting by mail and other tweets that it said violated its policies “regarding the glorification of violence based on the historical context of the last line, its connection to violence, and the risk it could inspire similar actions today.”

Replying to the Senator about the double standards of labeling Trump’s tweets but not those of other world leaders, Dorsey said, “We saw the confusion it might encourage and we labeled it accordingly. The goal of our labeling is to provide more context, to connect the dots so people can have more information so they can make decisions for themselves.”

On March 18, Twitter wrote in a blog post that it is “calling for public input” on its approach to world leaders.

“Politicians and government officials are constantly evolving how they use our service, and we want our policies to remain relevant to the ever-changing nature of political discourse on Twitter and protect the health of the public conversation.”

It said that it is consulting with human rights experts, civil society organizations, and academics and has released a public survey in 14 languages including Arabic, English, Spanish and Farsi.

“Ultimately, our aim is to have a policy that appropriately balances fundamental human rights and considers the global context in which we operate,” the post said.

Critics are asking why Twitter does not apply the same policies to all users whether they are private citizens or world leaders.

“Twitter should enforce its terms of service for all users, whether private citizen, elected official or unelected tyrant. Propagating hate, glorifying terrorism and encouraging Holocaust denial should get you kicked off Twitter permanently,” Weinberg said in an ADL blog post titled “Twitter Must De-Platform Iran’s Supreme Leader.”

While there certainly is public interest in being able to have free access to a broad array of information, “it is not in the public interest to have companies providing a platform for incitement to hatred and violence,” he told Arab News.

 

 

Furthermore, the public interest argument ignores the fact that “heads of states have their own ways to get their message out” from their own websites and media outlets to proxy organizations.

“To suggest that Khamenei needs to have a Twitter account so people can know his hateful and murderous messages is not just not serving the public interest, but it ignores the fact that he has many other avenues for spreading his propaganda,” said Weinberg.

This argument also misses the fact there is heavy censorship on Twitter within Iran.

“The main thing in terms of information in the public interest, as relates to the Iranian people, is that they should have free access to the Internet, which their government does not permit them to.”

A hearing titled “Disinformation Nation: Social Media’s Role in Promoting Extremism and Misinformation” by the Energy and Commerce Committee, scheduled for March 25, marks the start of a new inquiry on misinformation and disinformation plaguing online platforms.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, and Google CEO Sundar Pichai will testify.

Soleimani’s shadow
Qassem Soleimani left a trail of death and destruction in his wake as head of Iran’s Quds Force … until his assassination on Jan. 3, 2020. Yet still, his legacy of murderous interference continues to haunt the region

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Study: Social media platforms ‘fail to remove 80% of antisemitic content’

More than 80 percent of antisemitic posts on social media platforms stay online despite being reported, a report has found. (AFP/File Photo)
More than 80 percent of antisemitic posts on social media platforms stay online despite being reported, a report has found. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 02 August 2021

Study: Social media platforms ‘fail to remove 80% of antisemitic content’

More than 80 percent of antisemitic posts on social media platforms stay online despite being reported, a report has found. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Results show Facebook, Twitter and more are ‘safe spaces for racists,’ official says

LONDON: More than 80 percent of antisemitic posts on social media platforms stay online despite being reported, a large-scale study by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) has found.

The social media posts reported included holocaust denial content, incitement of violence against Jews and other conspiracy theories. Despite being flagged to content moderators, the large majority of posts remained online.

The study, published on Aug. 1, took place over a period between May 28 and June 29 this year.

It identified 714 antisemitic posts across major platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok, and subsequently reported the content to the respective sites. These 714 posts were viewed at least 7.3 million times.

Six weeks later, the study found that more than 80 percent of the reported posts remained on the platforms. On Facebook and Twitter, 90 percent of antisemitic posts were not taken down.

The most significant finding of the study was that platforms failed to remove 89 percent of antisemitic conspiracies, with just 5 percent of posts blaming Jewish people for the coronavirus pandemic being removed by moderators.

Twitter hashtags that remained online ranged from “#holohoax” to “#killthejews,” while TikTok continued to allow hashtags that organized and promoted conspiracies, such as “#synagogueofsatan,” “#rothschildfamily” and “#soros.” These posts gained a total of 25.1 million views on the platform.

CEO of CCDH Imran Ahmed said that the findings of the study prove that social media is a “safe space for racists to normalize their conspiracies and hateful rhetoric without fear of consequences.”

The findings come in light of the UK government’s Online Safety Bill, which aims to regulate social media. The legislation will make it a legal requirement for social media companies to protect users from harm, including misinformation, abuse and hatred.

The bill will also force tech giants to impose age checks to prevent underage children from accessing their services.

“These reports do not account for the fact that we have taken action on 15 times the amount of hate speech since 2017,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “The prevalence of hate speech is decreasing on our platform and, of the hate speech we remove, 97 percent was found before someone reported it.”

Meanwhile, Twitter was more forthcoming about taking responsibility and recognized that there was more work to be done. “We strongly condemn antisemitism,” a Twitter spokesperson said. “We’re working to make Twitter a safer place, and improving the speed and scale of our rule enforcement is a top priority.”

TikTok released a similar statement and condemned antisemitism.


Pro-Trump social media platform hosting terrorist propaganda

Launched on July 1, Gettr is a Twitter-style platform set up by Trump’s former senior adviser Jason Miller. (Shutterstock)
Launched on July 1, Gettr is a Twitter-style platform set up by Trump’s former senior adviser Jason Miller. (Shutterstock)
Updated 02 August 2021

Pro-Trump social media platform hosting terrorist propaganda

Launched on July 1, Gettr is a Twitter-style platform set up by Trump’s former senior adviser Jason Miller. (Shutterstock)
  • Politico reported that at least 250 accounts on the Gettr platform were regularly posting extremist material

LONDON: A pro-Trump social media platform has been inundated with terrorist propaganda spread by Daesh supporters, a political news website reported on Monday.

According to Politico, Gettr features extremist-related content, including graphic videos of Daesh beheadings, mainstream images that incite violence against the West, and even memes of an extremist executing former US President Donald Trump in an orange jumpsuit.

Launched on July 1, Gettr is a Twitter-style platform set up by Trump’s former senior adviser Jason Miller.

Politico reported that at least 250 accounts on the platform were regularly posting extremist material since it was launched, many of which followed each other.

It also said that Gettr did not respond when asked to comment about the abundance of Daesh-related material on the site.

After Gettr’s launch, Daesh supporters urged their followers on other social networks to switch to it. One account, bearing a profile photo of the Daesh flag, asked: “Is Daesh here?” and was met with confirmation from others on the platform.

While Gettr has taken steps to remove harmful content, as of Aug. 2 most of it was still live.

Companies like Facebook and Twitter have signed up to the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, although Gettr is yet to join.

The forum is a nonprofit organization that brings together the technology industry, governments, and civil society to counter terrorist and violent extremist activity online.


Zoom to settle US privacy lawsuit for $85 mn

Use of video platforms including Zoom, Slack, Microsoft, and Google increased significantly due to the coronavirus pandemic. (File/AFP)
Use of video platforms including Zoom, Slack, Microsoft, and Google increased significantly due to the coronavirus pandemic. (File/AFP)
Updated 02 August 2021

Zoom to settle US privacy lawsuit for $85 mn

Use of video platforms including Zoom, Slack, Microsoft, and Google increased significantly due to the coronavirus pandemic. (File/AFP)
  • Zoom agrees to settle a US privacy lawsuit for $85 million whereby Zoom was charged with breaching privacy of users
  • Zoom will also improve its security practices despite denying wrongdoing

SAN FRANCISCO: Zoom, the videoconferencing firm, has agreed to settle a class-action US privacy lawsuit for $85 million, it said Sunday.
The suit charged that Zoom’s sharing of users’ personal data with Facebook, Google and LinkedIn was a breach of privacy for millions.
While Zoom denied wrongdoing, it did agree to improve its security practices.
The settlement needs to be approved by US District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California.
A Zoom spokesman told AFP: “The privacy and security of our users are top priorities for Zoom, and we take seriously the trust our users place in us.
“We are proud of the advancements we have made to our platform, and look forward to continuing to innovate with privacy and security at the forefront.”
The settlement will set up a “non-reversionary cash fund of $85 million to pay valid claims, notice and administration costs, Service Payments to Class Representatives, and any attorneys’ fees and costs awarded by the Court,” according to the preliminary settlement.
All class members are eligible for payment, it said.
Those who paid for an account can receive 15 percent of the money they paid to Zoom for their core subscription during that time or $25, whichever is greater; while those who did not pay for a subscription can make a claim for $15.
As the coronavirus pandemic closed offices due to health risks and companies shifted to working online, use of video and collaboration platforms hosted by companies including Zoom, Slack, Microsoft, and Google rocketed.
But Zoom’s rapid growth came with pressure to deal with security and privacy as the platform faced scrutiny from rising usage.


Twitter launches competition to find biases in its image-cropping algorithm

The winners will receive cash prizes ranging from $500 to $3,500 and will be invited to present their work at a workshop. (File/AFP)
The winners will receive cash prizes ranging from $500 to $3,500 and will be invited to present their work at a workshop. (File/AFP)
Updated 02 August 2021

Twitter launches competition to find biases in its image-cropping algorithm

The winners will receive cash prizes ranging from $500 to $3,500 and will be invited to present their work at a workshop. (File/AFP)
  • Twitter launches competition for computer researchers and hackers to identify biases in its image-cropping algorithm
  • The competition is part of a wider effort across the tech industry to ensure artificial intelligence technologies act ethically

LONDON: Twitter Inc. said on Friday it will launch a competition for computer researchers and hackers to identify biases in its image-cropping algorithm, after a group of researchers previously found the algorithm tended to exclude Black people and men.
The competition is part of a wider effort across the tech industry to ensure artificial intelligence technologies act ethically.
The social networking company said in a blog post that the bounty competition was aimed at identifying “potential harms of this algorithm beyond what we identified ourselves.”
Following criticism last year about image previews in posts excluding Black people’s faces, the company said in May a study by three of its machine learning researchers found an 8 percent difference from demographic parity in favor of women, and a 4 percent favor toward white individuals.
Twitter released publicly the computer code that decides how images are cropped in the Twitter feed, and said on Friday participants are asked to find how the algorithm could cause harm, such as stereotyping or denigrating any group of people.
The winners will receive cash prizes ranging from $500 to $3,500 and will be invited to present their work at a workshop hosted by Twitter at DEF CON in August, one of largest hacker conferences held annually in Las Vegas.


Russia opens case against WhatsApp for violating personal data law

A day earlier, a Russian court fined Google 3 million roubles for violating personal data legislation. (File/AFP)
A day earlier, a Russian court fined Google 3 million roubles for violating personal data legislation. (File/AFP)
Updated 02 August 2021

Russia opens case against WhatsApp for violating personal data law

A day earlier, a Russian court fined Google 3 million roubles for violating personal data legislation. (File/AFP)
  • Russia launches lawsuit against Whatsapp for violating personal data law and failing to localize data of Russian users

MOSCOW: Russia on Friday launched administrative proceedings against Facebook’s WhatsApp for what it said was a failure to localize data of Russian users on Russian territory, the Interfax news agency reported.
There was no immediate comment from Facebook.
A day earlier, a Russian court fined Alphabet Inc.’s Google 3 million roubles for violating personal data legislation and registered administrative proceedings against Facebook and Twitter for the same offense.
The cases are part of a wider spat between Russia and Big Tech, with Moscow routinely fining social media giants for failing to remove banned content and seeking to compel foreign tech firms to open offices in Russia.
WhatsApp could be fined between 1 million and 6 million roubles ($13,700 to $82,250), Interfax reported, citing court documents. A court date has not yet been set.