Tag Archives: Twitter

Facebook and Twitter Removed Accounts with Ties to Russia’s IRA



Facebook and Twitter have both stated that they have removed accounts that were operating out of Ghana and Nigeria, and that had ties to Russia’s IRA. This comes after CNN’s investigation uncovered activity that “had striking similarities to the Russian troll campaign of 2016, which created hundreds of accounts designed to pass as American”.

According to CNN, Facebook and Twitter had already been looking into some of the troll accounts when CNN notified the two companies of their investigation. Facebook announced:

Today, we removed 49 Facebook accounts, 69 Pages and 85 Instagram accounts for engaging in foreign interference – which is coordinated inauthentic behavior on behalf of a foreign actor – on Facebook, Instagram, and other internet platforms. This network was in the early stages of building an audience and was operated by local nationals – some wittingly and unwittingly – in Ghana and Nigeria on behalf of individuals in Russia. It targeted primarily the United States.

Facebook stated that they detected this network as a result of their internal investigation into suspected coordinated inauthentic behavior ahead of US elections. They note that their assessment benefited from their subsequent collaboration with a team of journalists at CNN. Facebook said it shared information with their industry peers, policy makers, and law enforcement.

Twitter, as you might expect, posted a thread of tweets about about the situation. The thread started with: “Our top priority is keeping people safe. In collaboration with law enforcement, industry peers, journalists, and expert researchers, we recently suspended a small network of accounts largely Tweeting in English and that presented themselves as based in the United States.”

The next tweet in the thread said: “These 71 removed accounts, operating out of Ghana and Nigeria and which we can reliably associate with Russia, attempted to sow discord by engaging in conversations about social issues, like race and civil rights.”

It would be smart to keep this in situation in mind as you use Facebook or Twitter. There is no logical reason to assume that every account you see is authentic. If you read or watch something on social media that causes you to feel angry or outraged, please wait a few minutes before sharing it. The account it came from just might be a troll – hoping to affect your emotional state so much that you share the content as quickly as possible. Don’t help the trolls!


Twitter Requires All Employees to Work From Home



Earlier this month, Twitter was “strongly encouraging work from home”. Today, Twitter updated that decision and has now informed all employees that they must work from home. This decision was made to protect the health and safety of their “Tweeps” after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.

For contractors and hourly workers who are not able to perform their responsibilities from home, Twitter will continue to pay their labor costs to cover standard working hours while Twitter’s work-from-home guidance and/or travel restrictions related to their assigned office are in effect.

Twitter will help parents with the additional expenses they may experience after their child’s daycare closes due to COVID-19. Twitter will do this by providing reimbursement for the additional daycare expenses incurred.

All Twitter employees will receive reimbursement toward their home office set up expenses. Twitter is working with their vendors to ensure their contractors’ work-from-home needs are met as well. The reimbursement policy includes: home office equipment such as desks, desk chairs, and ergonomic chair cushions. Twitter is also allowing “Tweeps” to expense online fees while working from home.

Interestingly, Twitter created a #FlockTalk program that “Tweeps” can use to “come together during difficult times, share what’s going on around them, find community, and be heard by leaders”. To me, it sounds like that program can help isolated workers to continue to feel that they are part of a community.

So far, Twitter is the only company I’ve heard of that is not only requiring all their workers to work from home, but also providing them with the financial reimbursement to be able to do that effectively. It would not surprise me if Twitter eventually moved to a workforce that is entirely work-from-home.


Twitter Added “Manipulated” Tag on Altered Video of Joe Biden



You may have seen a video on Twitter featuring Joe Biden, in which he appears to say “We can only re-elect Donald Trump”. It turns out that video was altered in order to make it sound like that was what he said. Twitter responded by adding a “Manipulated Media” tag to the video. The tag will immediately alert those who watch the video that it has been manipulated.

Twitter’s Synthetic and Manipulated Media policy states the following:

You may not deceptively share synthetic or manipulated media that are likely to cause harm. In addition, we may label Tweets containing synthetic and manipulated media to help people understand their authenticity and to provide additional context.

When Twitter has reason to believe that media shared in a Tweet has been “significantly and deceptively altered or fabricated”, they will do one or all of the following:

  •  Apply a label to the content where it appears in the Twitter product
  •  Show a warning to people before they share or like the content
  •  Reduce visibility of the content on Twitter and/or prevent it from being recommended
  •  Provide a link to additional explanations or clarifications, such as in a Twitter Moment or landing page.

CNN reported that what Joe Biden actually said was: “ Excuse me. We can only re-elect Donald Trump if in fact we get engaged in this circular firing squad here. It’s gotta be a positive campaign.” The manipulated video that was shared on Twitter cut off Joe Biden’s sentence in order to make it appear that he said, “We can only re-elect Donald Trump.” In other words, the manipulated video provided misinformation to those who viewed it.

Washington Post tech policy reporter Cat Zakrzewski tweeted: “Just in: Twitter applied its new manipulated video label for the first time to a deceptively edited video of Joe Biden. It was shared by White House social media director Dan Scavino, and retweeted by the President”.

The tweet shows a screenshot of Dan Scavino’s tweet in which the video was posted. Below the video is an exclamation point inside a circle, next to the words “Manipulated media.”

To me, Twitter is doing the right thing in regards to this video. It is not okay for people to intentionally falsify information about a politician during their campaign. Manipulated video confuses voters because it isn’t always immediately apparent that what they are watching has been altered. Those who feel the need to create lies in order to win an election aren’t going to get away with it on Twitter anymore.


Twitter Expands Rules Against Hateful Conduct to Include Disease



Twitter updated its rules against hateful conduct. In July of 2019, Twitter expanded their rules against hateful conduct to include language that dehumanizes others on the basis of religion. Now, it has further expanded the rules to include language that dehumanizes others on the basis of age, disability, or disease.

TechCrunch reported that Twitter’s hateful conduct policy also includes a ban on dehumanizing speech across many categories including race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity.

Twitter provided some examples of tweets that would break their rule against hateful conduct:

  •  [Religious Group] should be punished. We are not doing enough to rid us of those filthy animals.
  • All [Age Group] are leaches and don’t deserve any support from us.
  •  People with [Disability] are subhuman and shouldn’t be seen in public.
  •  People with [Disease] are rats that contaminate everyone around them.

If you aren’t sure whether or not the thing you are about to tweet breaks Twitter’s hateful conduct use, use the Twitter-provided examples above as a template. If your tweet is similar to those examples, you probably shouldn’t post it.

Twitter will require tweets like these to be removed from Twitter when they’re reported to them. If reported, tweets that break this rule pertaining to age, disease, and/or disability, sent before March 5, 2020, will need to be deleted, but will not directly result in account suspensions. Tweets that break the rule that were posted after March 5, 2020, could result in suspensions.

Personally, I think this is good policy. I remember the experience of using Twitter as being a whole lot nicer when it was launched than it is today. It is entirely possible to talk about age, disability, disease, and/or religion without dehumanizing people. If it’s too hard for you to use Twitter without dehumanizing people – then you shouldn’t be on Twitter anymore.


Tech Companies Want Staff to Work from Home Due to Coronavirus



It is a smart decision to do everything possible to limit the spread of coronavirus. Big tech companies are using the strategy of asking their employees to work from home. This may be a temporary decision, but I think the move could help normalize working from home.

The Verge reported that numerous tech companies have asked their Seattle-based employees to work from home to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. This includes Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and Bungie.

Microsoft is allowing and encouraging its employees based in Seattle or San Francisco to work from home. These employees can work from home through March 25, 2020.

CNBC reported that Amazon is asking employees at its Seattle and Bellevue, Washington, offices to work from home (if they are able to) until the end of the month. This decision was made after an employee tested positive for coronavirus. Amazon has also restricted all nonessential U.S. travel in response to coronavirus.

CNBC also reported that Facebook encouraged all of its 5,000 employees in Seattle to work from home for the rest of the month. Facebook has closed its Seattle office until Monday.

Twitter announced that it is strongly encouraging all employees globally to work from home if they’re able. Working from home will be mandatory for employees based in Twitter’s Hong Kong, Japan, and South Korea offices (due in part to government restrictions). Interestingly, Twitter had already begun moving towards a more distributed workforce that’s increasingly remote.

Bungie stated that it has built a fully remote infrastructure for all Bungie employees across the globe, with the goal of prioritizing the safety of their employees.

My hope is that these moves will help to normalize working from home. Employees would no longer have spend time commuting, and could spend those hours with their families. They could reduce the amount they spend of gas each week. Workers could do their job without the risk of catching the next “office cold” or the flu.


Facebook and Twitter Removed Accounts Engaging in Inauthentic Behavior



Both Facebook and Twitter have announced that they have removed networks of accounts that were engaging in inauthentic behavior. The New York Times reported that the accounts used fake profile photos that were generated with artificial intelligence. The use of AI generated fake photos appears to be a new tactic.

Facebook announced that they removed two unconnected networks of accounts, Pages and groups for engaging in foreign and government interference. The first operation originated in the country of Georgia and targeted domestic audiences. Facebook removed 39 Facebook accounts, 344 Pages, 13 Groups and 22 Instagram accounts that were part of this group.

The second operation originated in Vietnam and the US and focused mainly on the US and some on Vietnam and Spanish and Chinese-speaking audiences globally. Facebook removed 610 accounts, 89 Facebook Pages, 156 Groups and 72 Instagram accounts that originated in Vietnam and the US and focused primarily on the US and some on Vietnam, Spanish and Chinese-speaking audiences globally.

Some of these accounts used profile photos generated by artificial intelligence and masqueraded as Americans to join Groups and post the BL content. To evade our enforcement, they used a combination of fake and inauthentic accounts of local individuals in the US to manage Pages and Groups. The page admins and account owners typically posted memes and other content about US political news and issues including impeachment, conservative ideology, political candidates, elections, trade, family values, and freedom of religion.

Facebook said its investigation linked this coordinated group to Epoch Media Group. The New York Times reported that Epoch Media Group is the parent company of the Falun Gong-related publication and conservative news outlet The Epoch Times. The Epoch Media Group has denied that it is linked to the network.

Twitter announced it removed 5,929 accounts for violating Twitter’s platform manipulation policies. Their investigation attributed these accounts to “a significant state-backed information operation” originating in Saudi Arabia.

The accounts represent the core portion of a larger network of more than 88,000 accounts engaged in spammy behavior across a wide range of topics. Twitter’s investigations traced the source of the coordinated activity to Smaat, a social media marketing and management company based in Saudi Arabia.

It is very important to realize that you cannot believe everything you see on social media. An account that appears to have a realistic photo could actually be one that was generated by AI. Do some fact checking before sharing things posted by accounts that are run by people you don’t know.


Twitter will Label and Warn about Deepfakes, but won’t Remove them



Twitter announced in October of this year that they are working on a new policy to address synthetic and manipulated media (also called “deepfakes”). Today, Twitter presented a draft of what they plan to do when they see manipulated media that purposely tries to mislead or confuse people.

Based on conversations with experts and researchers, Twitter proposes that synthetic and manipulated media be defined as: “any photo, audio, or video that has been significantly altered or fabricated in a way that intends to mislead people or changes its original meaning.” Twitter notes that these are sometimes referred to as deepfakes or shallowfakes.

You may have seen some examples of this on social media. There was an altered video passed around of U.S. Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, which was made to appear as though she was slurring her words. There is also a video where someone took faces from well-known paintings and made it look as if the faces were speaking.

Twitter made a draft policy regarding deepfakes, in which Twitter may:

  • Place a notice next to Tweets that share synthetic or manipulated media
  • Warn people before they share or like Tweets with synthetic or manipulated media; or
  • Add a link – for example, to a news article or Twitter Moment – so that people can read more about why various sources believe the media is synthetic or manipulated.

In addition, Twitter may remove tweets that include synthetic or manipulated media that is misleading and could threaten someone’s physical safety or lead to other serious harm. It appears that other than this exception, Twitter is intending to allow deepfakes to spread. Twitter has a survey for people who want to to provide feedback about this draft policy.

Personally, I don’t think Twitter’s draft policy will be very effective. Those who view deepfakes that match their opinions or political views are unlikely to accept that what they see has been altered. Warning people that they are about to like or share a deepfake isn’t going to deter those who think the deepfake is more believable than reality, and who think that Twitter is “censoring” content.