Twitter, Google, Facebook take steps to clean up net
While Twitter suspended 376,890 accounts in the second half of 2016 for “promotion of terrorism,” Google is offering cyber security to election groups and Facebook has rolled out new alert to combat fake news.world Updated: Mar 22, 2017 19:45 IST
Internet giants Google, Facebook and Twitter are taking steps to curb the spread of fake news and extremism on the web. While Twitter suspended hundreds of thousands of accounts seen as promoting terrorism, Google is offering cyber security to election groups and Facebook has rolled out new alert to combat fake news.
Twitter said it suspended 376,890 accounts in the second half of 2016 for “promotion of terrorism,” an increase of 60% over the prior six-month period.
The latest suspensions bring the total number of blocked accounts to 636,248 from August 2015, when Twitter stepped up efforts to curb “violent extremism,” the company announced as part of its latest transparency report.
The actions come with social networks under pressure from governments around the world to use technology tools to lock out jihadists and others who use the platforms to recruit and launch attacks.
Twitter said separately the number of government requests for user data rose seven per cent from the prior six-month period, but affected 13 percent fewer accounts.
For requests to remove content -- from governments and others including copyright holders -- the number of requests was up 13% but the number of accounts fell 37%.
Twitter announced that the FBI had informed the social network it was no longer under a “gag order” that prevented the disclosure of five cases involving “national security letters” -- special requests from the US law enforcement agency in national security cases.
Google to offer cyber security to election groups
Google and sister company Jigsaw are joining forces to defend election organisers and civic groups against cyber attacks free of charge as the broader tech industry seeks to fend off criticism that it is not doing enough to stop online efforts to distort elections. The growing frequency of politically motivated online attacks -- from the recent hacking of Twitter accounts by Turkish nationalists to the U.S. Democratic Party’s email breach -- has left governments and pro-democracy groups scrambling for ways to thwart hackers and the rising tide of “fake” news.
Alphabet Inc subsidiaries Jigsaw and Google are offering a free Protect Your Election package to low-budget organisations. The service to ward off website attacks has already been offered to news organisations for the past year under what is known as Project Shield.
Last week Jigsaw, which develops security tools for civic groups, joined up with Google to defend a voter information website that came under cyber attack during the Dutch national election.
The KiesKompas and Stemwijzer websites -- used by about half of Dutch voters to see which parties best match their political views -- were knocked out by a deluge of web traffic on March 14, which spilled over into election day.
“The attack was not child’s play: it was very sophisticated because the attackers kept trying different avenues of attack again and again,” said KiesKompas director Willem Blanken.
KiesKompas, which rougly translates as ChoiceCompass, enlisted the help of Jigsaw on the evening of March 14, while Stemwijzer, or VoteGuide, signed up NBIP, a non-profit group set up by about 100 Dutch internet and telecoms providers.
The election guide services remained out of action on the morning of the vote, but both were successfully restored to service around midday.
Facebook rolls out new alert to combat fake news
Facebook has started rolling out its third-party fact-checking tool in the fight against fake news, alerting users to “disputed content”.
The site announced in December it would be partnering with independent fact-checkers to crack down on the spread of misinformation on its platform.
The tool was first observed by Facebook users attempting to link to a story that falsely claimed hundreds of thousands of Irish people were brought to the US as slaves. For some users, attempting to share the story prompts a red alert stating the article has been disputed by both Snopes.com and the Associated Press.