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Hillicon Valley: Facebook takes down Trump ads featuring symbol used by Nazis | Twitter, Facebook see new disinformation tactics | Republican calls out social media giants for not fighting Chinese propaganda

Hillicon Valley: Facebook takes down Trump ads featuring symbol used by Nazis | Twitter, Facebook see new disinformation tactics | Republican calls out social media giants for not fighting Chinese propaganda
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Welcome! Follow our cyber reporter, Maggie Miller (@magmill95), and tech reporter, Chris Mills Rodrigo (@chrisismills), for more coverage.

FACEBOOK ACTS ON TRUMP ADS: Facebook on Thursday took down Trump campaign ads against antifa that prominently featured a symbol used by Nazis to designate political prisoners, a spokesperson for the company confirmed to The Hill.

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“We removed these posts and ads for violating our policy against organized hate," Facebook said in a statement. "Our policy prohibits using a banned hate group's symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol.”

The ads featured an inverted red triangle, which was used by Nazis to identify political opponents including communists, social democrats and liberals at concentration camps.

The symbol was included in 88 ads run by pages for President TrumpDonald TrumpUS gives examples of possible sanctions relief to Iran GOP lawmaker demands review over FBI saying baseball shooting was 'suicide by cop' House passes bill aimed at stopping future Trump travel ban MORE, Vice President Pence and "Team Trump" alongside text warning readers of “Dangerous MOBS of far-left groups" and asking them to sign a petition against antifa, a loose group of radical activists that use direct action to fight against fascism. 

Just the ads on Trump's page were seen as many 950,000 times before being taken down.

The Trump campaign is defending using the image, calling it a "common Antifa symbol" in a statement to The Hill.

The campaign directed The Hill toward shirts, stickers and posters on websites were users can upload whatever design they would like to.

The most common symbol used to identify antifa is a black and red flag or three arrows inside a circle.

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Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, tweeted Thursday that "Nazis used red triangles to identify their political victims in concentration camps."

"Using it to attack political opponents is highly offensive," Greenblatt said. "@POTUS' campaign needs to learn its history, as ignorance is no excuse for using Nazi-related symbols." 

Read more.

 

IT NEVER ENDS: Officials from Twitter and Facebook said Thursday that while they have not seen any “coordinated” efforts by malicious foreign groups to spread disinformation around the 2020 elections, tactics are changing and evolving.

“We have seen a change in tactics, and this in part is because of the success that we’ve had in clamping down on the inauthentic platform manipulations,” Nick Pickles, the director of global public policy strategy and development at Twitter, testified during a House Intelligence Committee virtual hearing.

One example given by Pickles of the new behavior is online Chinese actors unfavorably comparing the heavy U.S. police response to recent protests over the death of George Floyd to crackdowns on protesters in Hong Kong. 

“That shift, from platform manipulation to overt state assets, is something that we have observed, and it reminds us we have to be vigilant that the challenges we faced in 2016 aren’t constant, and that this remains an evolving security challenge,” Pickles testified. 

Nathaniel Gleicher, the head of security policy at Facebook, testified that his team was seeing “inauthentic behavior” around the COVID-19 pandemic and in connection to recent protests over the death of George Floyd.

“We definitely see the tactics in this space evolving, and we see the threat actors trying new efforts to get around the controls that are put in place,” Gleicher said. 

He emphasized that while Facebook has not seen any “coordinated inauthentic behavior” from foreign nations targeting voting or voting systems, it was “definitely something we are monitoring.”

Facebook has seen other coordinated foreign activity that it has removed this year. Gleicher testified that Facebook had removed 18 inauthentic networks this year including three based in Russia, two from Iran, and two based in the United States. He also said Facebook removed around 1.7 billion fake accounts from its platform between January and March.  

“We are up against determined adversaries, and we will never be perfect, but we will continue our vital work to stop bad actors and give people a voice,” Gleicher testified. 

Read more about disinformation concerns here.

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REPUBLICAN CALLS OUT SOCIAL MEDIA: Scorecards released by House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member Michael McCaulMichael Thomas McCaulHillicon Valley: Tech companies duke it out at Senate hearing | Seven House Republicans vow to reject donations from Big Tech House passes legislation to elevate cybersecurity at the State Department Overnight Defense: DC National Guard activates 250 troops ahead of Chauvin verdict | Planning update on Afghanistan withdrawal MORE (R-Texas) on Wednesday accused Twitter, Facebook and YouTube of not taking adequate steps to limit the spread of Chinese disinformation and propaganda.

The scorecards graded the three social media giants on whether they labeled state-sponsored media outlets on their sites, blocked Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials from having verified accounts, fact-checked posts and initiated comprehensive removal of CCP propaganda and disinformation.

Twitter received the lowest grade of the three companies, with McCaul giving the company a D- for not fulfilling any of the criteria beyond fact-checking and not making what the scorecard described as “meaningful policy changes.”

“Of all the companies we engaged with, Twitter is the platform most heavily abused by the CCP,” the scorecard read. “They are the most unwilling to do anything to stop the CCP from spreading harmful misinformation or provide transparency through labels that inform users they are viewing content from a state-funded or state-directed media outlet."  

YouTube received a C- for labeling state-backed outlets on top of fact-checking, while Facebook received the highest grade of C+, also fulfilling those two criteria. Both platforms were also described as not having done enough to take down posts or make changes to their policies. 

Members of McCaul’s staff sent samples of CCP-linked posts to the companies and engaged with them in discussing potential changes they could make to address Chinese propaganda efforts. 

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McCaul also serves as chair of the China Task Force, which consists of more than a dozen House Republicans and is intended to develop legislation to fight back against Chinese foreign influence efforts. A Foreign Affairs Committee aide to McCaul told The Hill that the task force is expected to issue recommendations in October that could potentially address Chinese online propaganda efforts. 

McCaul told The Hill in a statement that the CCP had “weaponized” social media platforms to “promote their propaganda.”

Read more.

 

Tim Cook PRAISES DACA DECISION: Apple CEO Tim Cook praised the Supreme Court's ruling upholding the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program after the court voted 5-4 to block the Trump administration from ending the policy.

In a tweet, Cook wrote that the hundreds of Apple employees who enjoy legal protections under the program were eager to see the DACA provisions enshrined into federal law.

"The 478 Dreamers at Apple are members of our collective family. With creativity and passion, they’ve made us a stronger, more innovative American company. We're glad for today’s decision and will keep fighting until DACA’s protections are permanent," he wrote.

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Cook is a vocal supporter of the policy and previously wrote a brief opposing the Trump administration's efforts to dismantle the program, which was submitted to the Supreme Court.

“I am focused on DACA. We have 450 folks in Apple, employed at Apple, who are employed on DACA. I want those folks protected. Not just the 450 but the broader DACA people in America," he said during an interview with ABC News last year.

Read more.

 

FACEBOOK PLEDGES FUNDING: Facebook pledged Thursday to invest $200 million in black-owned businesses and organizations.

Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg made the announcement as part of a series of new steps the social media company is pushing to address racial inequality in the U.S., Facebook said in a press release.

The company previously declared a $1 billion annual investment into "diverse suppliers," which ranked as one of the most substantial in the U.S. since the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month, which resulted in national protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

"The past few weeks have compelled us to confront the reality of violence and injustice which members of the Black community face on a daily basis," Sandberg said. "We have shared words of support for our friends, colleagues and communities. We need to take action as well."

As part of the announcement, Facebook will commit to expanding its free Elevate work-training program to at least 1 million black people within the next three years.

The company additionally plans 100,000 scholarships to black students on track to attain their digital skills certification, as well as the launch of a new Facebook feature entitled Lift Black Voices.  

The new feature will highlight stories from black people, provide educational resources and offer inspirational content about ways for people to take action through fundraising to tackle racial injustice.

The company also pledged to further diversify its workforce, committing to have 50 percent of its staff be from underrepresented communities by the end of 2023.

Read more.

 

Lighter click: The hottest trend in fashion

An op-ed to chew on: Bans on facial recognition are naive--hold law enforcement accountable for its abuse 

NOTABLE LINKS FROM AROUND THE WEB: 

Delaware quietly fielded an online voting system, but is now backing away (NPR / Sophia Schmidt and Miles Parks) 

These groups really want Congress to subpoena Big Tech’s CEOs (Protocol / Emily Birnbaum) 

How social media has changed civil rights protests (The New York Times / Shira Ovide) 

Black creators sue YouTube, alleging racial discrimination (The Washington Post / Reed Albergotti)