Social giants to testify before Congress on extremist content

social media moderation
Panithan Fakseemuang/123RF
Social media giants are once again being asked to testify before the U.S. Congress — this time, about “extremist propaganda.” Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will each have representatives testify before the Senate Commerce Committee next week, on January 17. The hearing, called “Terrorism and Social Media: #IsBigTechDoingEnough,” is expected to look into how the platforms handle extremist content.

The Commerce Committee’s leader, Sen. John Thune, said the meeting is designed to discuss how social media platforms are handling extremist propaganda and what the tech giants are doing to prevent the spread of those posts. According to Recode, the networks’ handling of hate speech, racism, fake news and other abusive content could also become part of the discussion.

Facebook’s global policy management head, Monika Bickert, Twitter’s director of public policy and philanthropy, Carlos Monje, and YouTube’s global head of public policy and government relations Juniper Downs will present testimony to the committee.

Questions on how social networks handle extremist content have led to several changes within the networks over the past two years, but the hearing will discuss if those steps are enough. Removing extremist content isn’t a U.S.-only issue either — the European Union is currently running a voluntary Code of Conduct and calling for networks to quickly detect and remove hate speech. In 2016, the three social networks, along with Microsoft, formed a group to build a shared database of extremist content, with the goal of making those types of posts easier to remove across all platforms.

YouTube has implemented several changes over the last year after several big brands pulled their ads upon discovering ads were running with extremist videos and other forms of hate speech. In August, the platform said that advances to its A.I. algorithms led to 75 percent of those videos getting booted before a human user could even flag them, while videos that fall into a gray area not quite against community guidelines began seeing penalties.

Twitter faced growing concern in 2016 and locked out 230,000 accounts for extremist content in August, followed by another removal of around 377,000 accounts over a period of six months. The platform recently started removing the blue verification badge from some users after facing criticism for giving a known white supremacist the badge.

Last year, Facebook shared insight into how the platform tackles extremist content using both A.I. and staff. A.I., for example, can identify duplicate videos that Facebook has already removed, preventing another group from sharing the same removed content, while another algorithm looks for keywords in text. The company’s review staff is expected to increase to 20,000 this year and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has made fixing abuse on the platform his personal goal for 2018.

According to The Hill, it’s rare to see representatives from the social media giant testifying in Washington, yet all three groups also testified concerning Russian interference in the U.S. election. A slew of recent events could lead to legislation catching up to social media technology, ranging from new proposals for managing political ads in the U.S. to a now active law in Germany requiring removal of hate speech.

Emerging Tech

Microsoft’s friendly new A.I wants to figure out what you want — before you ask

Move over Siri and Alexa! Microsoft wants to build a new type of virtual assistant that wants to be your friend. Already making waves in Asia, could this be the future of A.I. BFFs?
Social Media

LinkedIn finally gets around to launching its own version of Stories

Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter — among others — have all launched their own versions of Snapchat Stories, so it was only a matter of time before professional social networking platform LinkedIn followed suit.
Social Media

Time alerts put the brakes on Facebook consumption, are rolling out now

Just how much time do you spend scrolling through the Facebook feed? Facebook will now tell you. The new features also include daily alerts that tell users when they've spent too much time on the social network.
Digital Trends Live

DT Daily: Google Pixel Night Sight, Surface Studio 2, and Netflix at half price

Today on DT Daily, Greg Nibler was joined by Adrian Warner to talk trending topics like the new Google Pixel Night Sight and we got our hands on the $3,500 Microsoft computer that's giving Apple a run for its money.
Social Media

Facebook is rolling out a Messenger ‘unsend’ feature, and here’s how to use it

Facebook is starting to roll out a "remove message" feature for its Messenger app. It lets you delete a message in a thread within 10 minutes of sending it, and replaces it with a note telling recipients that it's been removed.
Social Media

Going incognito: Here's how to appear offline on Facebook

How do you make sure your friends and family can't see if you're on Facebook, even if you are? Here, we'll show you how to turn off your active status on three different platforms, so you can browse Facebook without anyone knowing.
Product Review

It's not a spy, but you still won't want to friend Facebook's Portal+

Facebook has jumped into the smart home game with the Portal+, a video-calling device featuring an Amazon Alexa speaker and a screen. While it has lots of cool calling features, we’re weary of Facebook taking up counter space in our home.
Social Media

Build a wish list and shop videos with Instagram’s latest shopping update

Eyeing a product on Instagram? Now there are more ways to shop from the social network. Instagram just rolled out options to save products in a collection as users can also now shop from videos.
Social Media

Addicted to Instagram? Its new ‘activity dashboard’ is here to help

Ever get that nagging feeling you're spending too much time on Instagram? Well, a new "activity dashboard" has a bunch of features designed to help you better control how you use the addictive photo-sharing app.
Social Media

Why an American named John Lewis gets lots of Twitter hassle from Brits

Spare a thought for Twitter user John Lewis. When he signed up as @johnlewis soon after the app launched in 2006, little did he know what he was letting himself in for. Clue: There's a U.K. department store called John Lewis.
Social Media

Instagram purges fake followers, likes, and comments generated from other apps

Instagram looking a little more authentic? You can thank machine learning. A new tool is helping Instagram spot followers, likes and comments generated from third-party apps -- and this is just the start.

Dual cameras for Spectacles 3? Report suggests Snap-designed glasses with AR

Despite underselling the first generation, Snap Inc. isn't done with camera glasses yet. According to a recent report, the company is rumored to be working on another Snap Spectacles with dual cameras for augmented reality features.
Social Media

Facebook removes one-click comment test after users call the tool ‘dystopian’

A faster way to comment on posts sounds innocent enough, but when a Facebook test of the feature appeared on a story about a shooting, users weren't happy. The tool attempted to suggest one-click comments.
Smart Home

Most completely unnecessary ways to cook your turkey this Thanksgiving

Cooking the ol' Thanksgiving Day turkey in the oven can take hours. That said, why use a traditional oven when you can just as easily incinerate the bird with a jet engine? Here are the most insane ways to cook a turkey.