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Facebook Employees Call Inaction Over Trump Post “Shameful”

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Facebook employees are outraged over the company’s “shameful” and “unconscionable” decision not to remove a post from President Donald Trump spreading voting misinformation that could lead to people voting twice.

On Thursday morning, Trump, a frequent source of false and misleading information about mail-in voting and voter fraud, posted potentially unlawful advice to voters on Facebook and Twitter.

“On Election Day, or Early Voting, go to your Polling Place to see whether or not your Mail In Vote has been Tabulated (Counted),” Trump wrote. “If it has you will not be able to Vote & the Mail In System worked properly. If it has not been Counted, VOTE (which is a citizen’s right to do). If your Mail In Ballot arrives after you Vote, which it should not, that Ballot will not be used or counted in that your vote has already been cast & tabulated. YOU ARE NOW ASSURED THAT YOUR PRECIOUS VOTE HAS BEEN COUNTED, it hasn’t been ‘lost, thrown out, or in any way destroyed.’”

Voting twice is illegal and Trump’s comments were condemned for offering advice that could cause people to break the law and create confusion and delays at polling stations. “The president’s idea is a great one for people looking to go to jail,” Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement.

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Hours before Trump’s post, Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced new policies intended to protect the upcoming US election from disruption. Zuckerberg said the company had expanded its voter suppression policy to forbid content containing explicit and “implicit misrepresentations about voting.”

Some Facebook employees felt Trump’s post contained, at the very least, implicit misrepresentations about the voting process. Roughly an hour after Trump’s post appeared, an employee flagged it on the company’s internal discussion forum, Workplace.

“Seems like this already violates our extended policies on voter suppression by misrepresenting how or when to vote. Intentionally voting twice is a felony, right?” they wrote in a Workplace group focused on policy and communications issues.

A person on Facebook’s policy team responded to say Trump’s post was being reviewed by the company’s “Voter Interference subject matter expert[s].”

Multiple employees expressed confusion that the post hadn’t already been deemed violative and removed.

“This is voting misinformation,” said an employee. “Your polling place will not be able to track if your vote had been received.”

Other employees agreed.

“This post [is] essentially urging people to go to their voting place, ask for information that place will not have, and then commit voter fraud by voting twice.”

“This must come down. Following Trump’s advice here will lead people to commit felonies. If they vote in person just as their mail-in votes are being counted, they actually will be double-voting,” said an employee, noting that voters in Washington state can track their mail-in ballot’s status online and do not need to go to a polling station.

“This post is insane, even by the standards that [Trump] has set the past few years. How many people will try doing this and end up being charged with felonies?”

Rather than remove Trump’s post, Facebook eventually decided to add a generic label with information about voting. It later changed that to a label emphasizing the security of mail-in voting. “Voting by mail has a long history of trustworthiness in the US and the same is predicted this year. (Source: Bipartisan Policy Center),” the second label reads.

Separately, Facebook said it had removed posts containing video footage of a Trump speech on Wednesday where he suggested people vote twice.

“In violation of our policies, earlier this week President Trump called for people to vote twice and we removed that video when it wasn’t shared to correct the record,” Facebook spokesperson Liz Bourgeois told BuzzFeed News.

She said that for Trump’s Thursday post, “we applied the new label we launched yesterday, which clearly notes that voting by mail has a long history of being trustworthy and secure in the U.S.”

A Facebook policy employee posted a more detailed explanation for the decision in the Workplace thread.

“While all states prohibit attempts to vote more than once, the post does not explicitly call for people to vote twice,” they wrote. “Rather, it encourages individuals to check the status of the mail-in ballot and, if necessary, to cast a ballot in person. This may be permitted in some jurisdictions under provisional ballot rules. As such, this post does not meet the criteria of our voting interference policies.”

That decision, and the fact that it took hours to make, inspired anger and disbelief among Facebook employees. Many pointed out that the policy team’s reasoning cited the lack of an “explicit” call to vote twice from Trump, even though the newly announced policy specifically said Facebook will remove “implicit” misrepresentations.

“We deserve everything we get now. Truly. I’m ashamed and appalled by this decision.” 

“Facebook is broken. Another performative announcement by leadership not intended to address any issues,” said one employee.

Several employees said they believed Trump’s post, published just a few hours after Zuckerberg’s announcement, was intended to test the company’s commitment to the new, stricter “implicit” policy.

“I believe the whole purpose of this post was to show how our policies and declarations are all bark and no bite and to prove FB will not have the courage to enforce them,” said an employee, adding that leaving Trump’s post unmoderated makes “a mockery of [Zuckerberg’s] post just a few hours earlier.”

Others criticized how long it took for Facebook to come to a decision. “If each obviously violating post from accounts with massive reach require multi-hour reviews, our new expanded policy is toothless.”

Internal dissent over the incident gathered momentum throughout the day, as employees began posting memes in the Trump post thread, including a famous clip of an NFL coach yelling, “They are who we thought they were!” and an image from a comedy sketch where a Nazi officer asks, “Are we the baddies?”

Apoplectic over Facebook’s handling of the incident, the employee who started the original thread called on the company to release an internal report detailing just how it determined Trump’s post to be non-violative.

“We deserve everything we get now. Truly. I’m ashamed and appalled by this decision,” they wrote.

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The human stories behind the fight for racial equality – podcasts of the week | Podcasting

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Picks of the week

Resistance
Poet Saidu Tejan-Thomas Jr hosts this unsanitised look at the human stories behind the surge of protests for racial equality in the US in 2020. From disturbing audio of a police raid on the home of D-Wreck Ingram, a member of NYC activists Warriors in the Garden, to an interview with Jermaine Guinyard – the only black man in Harvard, Nebraska, who staged the city’s first BLM protest – Tejan-Thomas zooms in on the people behind the headlines. Powerful and current, with language some listeners may find troubling. Hannah J Davies

The Yungblud Podcast
Charismatic Dominic Harrison – AKA Yungblud – is the perfect pop star and spokesperson for Gen Z, with his huge fanbase and ‘baby Keith Flint’ persona. In under 20 minutes of podcasting, he offers so much warmth, reassurance and cheerleading to youngsters that it should be compulsory listening. The format is simple: he chats to one non-famous guest, starting with Ashley, who talks frankly about sexuality, “the subject of 10 zillion possibilities”. Fluidity, coming out and how things have evolved for their generation are all covered openly and wisely.
Hannah Verdier

‘The perfect spokesperson for Gen Z’ ... pop rebel-turned-podcaster Yungblud.
‘The perfect spokesperson for Gen Z’ … pop rebel-turned-podcaster Yungblud. Photograph: Lexie Moreland/WWD/REX/Shutterstock

Chosen by Charlie Phillips

I’ll eat up anything that the wild crew at Mermaid Palace release, but I’ve been particularly blown away by Appearances, the new serialised show from Sharon Mashihi, about working out whether to have a baby and dealing with a suffocating Iranian-Jewish family. It’s achieved the ultimate accolade for a podcast from me – I’ll listen to it when I’m walking, painting walls, or hoovering (when I can completely concentrate on it) rather than when I’m cooking dinner or doing another involved task (when I can’t). You need to focus on it because Sharon’s created an alter ego, Melanie, to figure out the baby and family stuff, and if you let your mind drift, you might lose track of whether the fourth wall is up or down. Sometimes she talks about where the wall is, too, so you need to concentrate on that as well.

This isn’t an intellectual game, though – it’s a mostly linear, emotional journey in which Melanie drifts further from her family as she gets closer to trying for a baby. It’s funny – if you’re into Jewish, immigrant or other families where everyone wants to know everyone else’s business, you’ll laugh. If you’re into pretentious art that loves and celebrates its own pretentiousness, you’ll laugh too.

All the players are introduced – Sharon’s mum, her brother, the local gossip, and a host of other bit parts, many played with gusto by Mashihi herself. You’re wondering what’s true or not until, in classic Mermaid Palace style, she tells us directly that the real and the fictional have diverged, and then we know for sure. The series is self-described as ‘a mind trip’, and that’s accurate – a long inner debate about how to make a big decision, and how selfish it’s OK to be.

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Huawei Q3 smartphone shipments plunge as US sanctions continue to bite

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A woman wearing a wearing a facemask as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus speaks on her smartphone outside a shopping mall past a Huawei shop (back) in Beijing on April 1, 2020. (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP) (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images)

Nicolas Asfouri | AFP | Getty Images

HANGZHOU, China — Shipments of Huawei phones plunged in the third quarter as U.S. sanctions continue to hurt the Chinese technology giant, while domestic rival Xiaomi managed to capitalize on it, new data shows.

In the three months to the end of September, Huawei shipped 51.7 million smartphones, down 23% year-on-year, according to a Canalys report published Thursday.

Another firm, Counterpoint Research, said on Thursday that Huawei shipped 50.9 million smartphones, down 24% versus the same period last year. The Chinese firm’s market share dipped to 14% from 18% in the third quarter of 2019, according to Counterpoint.

Overall in the third quarter, worldwide smartphone shipments reached 348 million units, a 1% decline year-on-year, but a 22% rise from the second quarter, the Canalys report showed.

Huawei lost its crown as the world’s biggest smartphone maker, after gaining the title in the second quarter of the year.

Samsung overtook Huawei. The South Korean giant’s shipments totaled 80.2 million, growing 2% year-on-year, Canalys said.

The U.S. has waged a campaign against Huawei as part of the broader trade war with China. Huawei is seen as one of China’s national champions and key to the country’s ambitions in next-generation technologies like 5G, the next-generation mobile networks that offer super-fast data speeds.

Washington has placed a number of sanctions on Huawei which are continuing to take their toll. Last year, Huawei was put on a U.S. blacklist known as the Entity List. This restricted American firms from doing business with the Chinese giant. It meant that Huawei was no longer allowed to use licensed Google Android software on its smartphones.

This is not a big deal in China where Google services are effectively blocked anyway. But in international markets, which are critical to Huawei’s growth plans, consumers are used to using Google apps. Huawei’s latest flagship smartphones do not have licensed Google Android and that’s hurting the company’s device sales.

Declines in international markets are continuing for Huawei, but the company also saw a 15% fall in shipments in China in the third quarter, according to another report by IDC published Thursday.

Further uncertainty around the future of Huawei’s smartphone business remains. In May, Washington amended a rule which aimed to cut Huawei off from critical chip supplies. Taiwanese firm TSMC, which manufactures Huawei’s smartphone chips, is no longer allowed to ship those components to the company.

Xiaomi seizing Huawei shipments

Meanwhile, Chinese rival Xiaomi is picking up the slack.

“Xiaomi executed with aggression to seize shipments from Huawei,” said Mo Jia, analyst at Canalys. “There was symmetry in Q3, as Xiaomi added 14.5 million units and Huawei lost 15.1 million. In Europe, a key battleground, Huawei’s shipments fell 25%, while Xiaomi’s grew 88%.”

Xiaomi’s smartphone shipments in the quarter ending in September totaled 47.1 million, a rise of 45% year-on-year, Canalys said. It became the third-biggest smartphone player by market share for the first time, overtaking Apple which came in fourth place, and shipped 43.2 million iPhones in the same quarter.

IDC’s numbers differed slightly. The research firm’s data showed Apple shipped 41.6 million iPhones in the third quarter of 2020, down 10.6% year-on-year. IDC said the drop was expected as the next-generation iPhone 12 series was delayed.

The Cupertino giant announced the iPhone 12 range at a later-than-usual date of mid-October, with some devices not available until next month.

“Regardless, the iPhone 11 series did exceptionally well, contributing the majority of Apple’s volume, followed by the SE device,” IDC said. “Looking ahead, we expect Apple to grow in coming quarters with strong early demand for iPhone 12 paired with robust trade-in offers across major carriers, especially in the U.S.”


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Facebook fixes technical error affecting political ads days before US election

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The founder and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg speaks during the 56th Munich Security Conference in Munich, southern Germany, on February 15, 2020.

Christof Stache | AFP | Getty Images

Facebook on Thursday issued an update to political advertisers acknowledging that a technical error in its systems caused a number of ads from both political parties to be improperly paused.

“While this impacted a small proportion of the ads about politics and social issues in our system, we regret any disruption in the delivery of these ads during this period,” the company said in a blog post.

The error stems from a policy change Facebook announced in early September to block any new political ads in the week prior to the U.S. presidential election on Nov. 3.

A technical flaw improperly paused “a number of ads” in relation to this policy decision, Facebook said. Additionally, some “advertisers did not understand the instructions” Facebook provided, which also caused their ads to be paused, the company said.

The issues impacted “ads from across the political spectrum and both Presidential campaigns,” the company said, adding that no ad was paused due to any partisan consideration. The company said it has made updates to enable the affected ads to run.

Earlier today, the Biden campaign’s digital director Rob Flaherty complained on Twitter that just five days before the election, Facebook still hadn’t fixed the problems related to the campaign’s ads.

The disruption comes less than a week before the election. Numerous candidates rely on Facebook to target voters and donors with ads.  

Political advertisers in the U.S. spent at least $264 million on Facebook in the third quarter, or about 1.2% of the company’s revenue during the quarter, according to CNBC analysis.


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