Hillicon Valley: Facebook to label 'newsworthy' posts that violate policies | Unilever to pull ads from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram | FEC commissioner steps down

Hillicon Valley: Facebook to label 'newsworthy' posts that violate policies | Unilever to pull ads from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram | FEC commissioner steps down
© Aaron Schwartz

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FACEBOOK MAKES SOME CHANGES: Facebook CEO Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergWe haven't seen how low it can go Hillicon Valley: Facebook considers political ad ban | Senators raise concerns over civil rights audit | Amazon reverses on telling workers to delete TikTok Facebook considering ban on political ads: reports MORE announced Friday that the platform will label but leave up posts deemed “newsworthy” that violate company policies, a major reversal that comes after weeks of criticism.


“We will soon start labeling some of the content we leave up because it is deemed newsworthy, so people can know when this is the case,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. “We'll allow people to share this content to condemn it, just like we do with other problematic content, because this is an important part of how we discuss what's acceptable in our society — but we'll add a prompt to tell people that the content they're sharing may violate our policies.”

He pointed specifically to posts from politicians, writing that “we leave up content that would otherwise violate our policies if the public interest value outweighs the risk of harm.”

Zuckerberg emphasized though that politicians and government officials are not exempt from the new policy, and their posts will be taken down if the company determines it could incite violence or lead to voter suppression.

While Zuckerberg did not mention President TrumpDonald John TrumpDavis: Supreme Court decision is bad news for Trump, good news for Vance Meadows trying to root out suspected White House leakers by feeding them info: Axios Pressley hits DeVos over reopening schools: 'I wouldn't trust you to care for a house plant let alone my child' MORE, the reversal comes as the platform was facing growing criticism for not taking action to label posts from Trump that violate Facebook policies.

Facebook has recently faced a wide-ranging advertising boycott over allegations that it has not done enough to combat hate speech.

Zuckerberg detailed new policies to take action on this issue as well, announcing that Facebook was expanding its advertising policies to ban "claims that people from a specific race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity or immigration status are a threat to the physical safety, health or survival of others.”

The advertising policy will also be expanded to ensure that immigrants, asylum-seekers, migrants and refugees are not targeted with ads directing disgust or intimidation at them. 


The company took further action as well to prevent online voter suppression tactics as part of its racial justice work, with Zuckerberg announcing that any posts showing evidence of coordinated election interference, immigrant intimidation at the polls, or those detailing fake polling places will be removed.

Read more about the new Facebook policies here.


MORE ADS PULLED: Unilever, which controls brands including Dove soap and Hellmann’s Mayonnaise, announced Friday that it is pulling brand advertisements from Twitter, Instagram and Facebook until "at least" the end of 2020.

The decision was made after several other major companies pulled advertisements from Facebook as part of an advertising boycott called for by the Stop Hate for Profit campaign over allegations that Facebook had not done enough to rein in hateful content, particularly in the wake of protests over the police killing of George Floyd. 

Unilever in a blog post pointed to the “polarized atmosphere in the U.S.,” such as “hate speech” during the run up to the presidential election in November, as being a major contributing factor to pulling brand advertisements.

“We have decided that starting now through at least the end of the year, we will not run brand advertising in social media newsfeed platforms Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the U.S.,” Unilever wrote. “Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society. We will be monitoring ongoing and will revisit our current position if necessary.”

Instead, the company said it would continue advertising in the U.S. through “shifting to other media” and working with advertising industry forums “to drive action, transparency, clarify policies and create consistency in enforcement.”

“The complexities of the current cultural landscape have placed a renewed responsibility on brands to learn, respond and act to drive a trusted and safe digital ecosystem,” the company wrote. 

Other Unilever brands include Lipton tea, Vaseline, Talenti Gelato and Sorbetto, Degree deodorant and TRESemmé hair products. The company also represents Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, which announced separately earlier this week that it would pull its ads from Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, pushed back against claims it had not done enough to curb hate speech, though acknowledged more work could be done.

Read more about the ad boycott here.


FEC LOSES QUORUM, PART TWO: Caroline Hunter, a Republican commissioner on the Federal Election Commission (FEC), announced Friday that she is stepping down next week, leaving the agency without a quorum again and unable to vote on enforcement actions.

Hunter’s resignation came just weeks after the FEC had regained a quorum of four commissioners following the Senate confirmation of Republican Trey Trainor.

In a resignation letter sent to President Trump on Friday, Hunter, who was nominated to the position by former President George W. Bush in 2008, wrote that the FEC “could benefit greatly from new faces and fresh perspectives.”

“It needs Commissioners who will respect the First Amendment, understand the limits of the FEC’s jurisdiction, and remember that Congress established the FEC to prevent single-party control, with every significant decision requiring bipartisan approval,” she wrote.

Hunter pointed to concerns over another unnamed commissioner “who has served more than a decade past the expiration of her term” as someone who “misrepresents the jurisdiction of the agency and deliberately enables outside groups to usurp the Commission’s role in litigation and chilled protected speech.”

While Hunter did not name the commissioner, FEC Commissioner Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat who has served since 2002, has been an outspoken critic of the FEC’s dysfunction over the past few years.

Weintraub tweeted Friday that it was “keenly disappointing” that the FEC had lost its quorum so soon after it regained it last month. 

“I wish Caroline well now & in the future,” Weintraub tweeted.


Trump on Friday took immediate action to fill Hunter’s position, nominating Allen Dickerson to serve as a commissioner. Dickerson currently serves as the legal director at the Institute for Free Speech in Alexandria, Va., and prior to that was an associate with law firm Kirkland & Ellis. He also serves as a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve.

Read more about the resignation here.


SENATORS RAISE CONCERNS: Sens. Maggie HassanMargaret (Maggie) HassanSenators press IRS chief on stimulus check pitfalls Hillicon Valley: Livestreaming service Twitch suspends Trump account | Reddit updates hate speech policy, bans subreddits including The_Donald | India bans TikTok Senators move to boost state and local cybersecurity as part of annual defense bill MORE (D-N.H.) and Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperHillicon Valley: Facebook to label 'newsworthy' posts that violate policies | Unilever to pull ads from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram | FEC commissioner steps down Senate Democrats push federal agencies to combat coronavirus scams and robocalls The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Rep. Mark Takano says Congress must extend worker benefits expiring in July; WHO reports record spike in global cases MORE (D-Del.) on Friday urged federal agencies to take action in rooting out coronavirus-related scams.

Hassan and Carper sent letters to the leaders of the Justice Department, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) asking each to detail steps they are taking to combat rampant coronavirus-related robocalls and scams.

“These scams take many forms, including offering expedited access to economic stimulus payments for a fee, impersonating public health officials, and selling phony products that they claim can prevent or cure COVID-19,” the senators wrote. “These offensive scams are a danger to the health and financial security of Americans.”

The senators highlighted robocalls as well as online scams, pointing to a recent $225 million FCC fine against two health telemarketers that spammed Americans with more than 1 billion robocalls using fake numbers.


The fine was the largest in the FCC’s history, but Hassan and Carper noted that the Justice Department has sometimes failed to collect these types of fines, citing a Wall Street Journal article that found less than $7,000 had been collected out of an estimated $208 million owed by robocallers.

“This poor track record raises concerns that scammers using robocalls to deceive consumers and exploit anxiety associated with the COVID-19 public health emergency will be able to act without significant fear of reprisal, and never made to disgorge the ill-gotten proceeds of their fraud,” the senators wrote. 

Scams targeting COVID-19 fears and federal stimulus funds have skyrocketed over the past few months.

Read more here.


DIGITAL TAX LIMIT: France, the United Kingdom, Spain and Italy have offered to limit their proposed digital tax after the U.S. threatened to slap tariffs on goods from those countries. 

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Supreme Court upholds NY prosecutors' access to Trump's tax returns, rebuffs Congress | Trump complains of 'political prosecution' | Biden rebukes Trump, rolls out jobs plan Mnuchin: Next stimulus bill must cap jobless benefits at 100 percent of previous income Why Trump can't make up his mind on China MORE obtained by Bloomberg News, the finance chiefs of those countries said this approach “would considerably ease the task of achieving a consensus-based solution and make a political agreement within reach this year.”

The U.S. and Europe have been in talks about how tech companies should be allowed to file taxes. President Trump has threatened retaliatory trade tariffs if new digital taxes are levied, as the White House views them as discriminatory against the U.S.'s big tech companies.

At the moment, tech giants such as Facebook, Google and Amazon are able to file taxes in countries with low tax rates, even though they operate globally.

Read more here.


MORE ZOOMBOMBINGS: Online hackers disrupted a Zoom meeting of hundreds of Wake Forest University staff on Wednesday using racist language and anti-Semitic images.

Nathan Hatch, president of the university, apologized in a message on the school's webpage, saying he was "sorry that members of our community were subjected to such a vile, violent and threatening attack."

Nearly 500 Wake Forest employees were on the virtual meeting call organized by the university's Staff Advisory Council when anonymous hackers disrupted it.

Hatch said organizers swiftly shut down the meeting. When it was restarted, the hackers regained access and continued their virtual attack.

According to Hatch's statement, the hackers most likely got access to the secure meeting after a link and password were publicly posted online.

"This was a traumatizing experience for many on the call, especially our Black colleagues, and it reinforces that we all have a role to play in protecting each other and our community from those who would seek to force their hatred upon us," he wrote.

Read more about the incident here.


Lighter click: This is horrifying and we feel old

An op-ed to chew on: Fintech calls the questions: Different rules for digital and traditional banking? 



Russian criminal group finds new target: Americans working from home (The New York Times / David Sanger and Nicole Perlroth) 

Admitted Russian scammer Aleksei Burkov sentenced to nine years in prison by U.S. court (CyberScoop / Jeff Stone) 

Amazon to buy Zoox, in a move towards self-driving cars (The New York Times / Karen Weise and Erin Griffith) 

How an app for discovering Black-owned restaurants is dealing with skyrocketing demand (Protocol / Emily Birnbaum)

Grindr still hasn’t deleted its ethnicity filter despite promise (Vice Motherboard / Kevin Truong)