The company has faced many criticisms from many people for dealing with misinformation on their platform. Facebook's plan to solve it? Work with outlets to allow titles and article previews.
Also in the news: The latest eruption of FaceApp's paranoia and shades of the first day of Amazon. Oh, and Elon Musk wants to pierce a brain in your brain.
Read Arielle's story about Twitter redesign right here. Read the story of Brian Barrett about FaceApp right here. Read the story of Adam Rogers about the latest sc-fi machinations of Elon right here. Read about Amazon's work problems right here, or follow the cover of WIRED on Amazon right here.
Arielle recommends staying on top of the latest news online by going to Reddit r / outoftheloop subreddit. Mike recommends the show Kantaro: The tooth taker with a sweet tooth on Netflix. Lauren recommends the book My year of rest and relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh.
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Civil rights experts and researchers in Sri Lanka fear that the practice of closing entire sections of the Internet, which has become more and more common around the world – can do more harm than good.
"Limiting civil liberties and rights does not make people safer," said Allie Funk, a research analyst at Freedom House, which publishes annual reports on the Internet. "These are social issues that will require long-term solutions."
There is no doubt that the misinformation that circulates on sites such as WhatsApp and Facebook has contributed to stir up violence in countries like Sri Lanka, but in the aftermath of the attacks, local reporters and researchers warned International journalists should not draw too quick conclusions about Facebook's role in violence. Sri Lanka is after all a country characterized by a complex and recent history of civil war prior to the introduction of Mark Zuckerberg's invention in this country. Penetration of the Internet remains weak, and experts have noted that much of the hateful rhetoric continues to circulate the old way: through word of mouth.
And yet, having access to sites such as Facebook can be essential in case of emergency. "Many Sri Lankans are using social media platforms and messaging apps to reach out to their families," said Berhan Taye, head of the Digital Rights Access Campaign Access Now, in a statement. blog article. "For those who are in danger, and for those who want to help, not being able to log in or confirm that they are safe can be devastating." Taye said that during a terrorist attack in Kenya, victims similarly used platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook to communicate vital information.
"With the lack of clear sources of official information and communication channels, social media was the only way for people to stay in touch and disseminate information appropriately."
Yudhanjaya Wijeratne, LIRNEasia
Yudhanjaya Wijeratne, Sri Lankan researcher of the LIRNEasia Technology Think Tank, said that Security controle This feature helped people quickly find out if their friends and family were doing well after the Sunday bombings. I noticed that the fake news was not starting to spread, but not only because of the shortcomings of Facebook. The official information released by the government was random and the traditional media in Sri Lanka, like the newspapers, was not always accurate because of government censorship. (Reporters Without Borders always ranked Sri Lanka in the lower half of its annual world index of freedom of the press.)
"With the lack of clear sources of official information and communication channels, social media was sort of the only way to keep in touch and disseminate information," said Wijeratne. "And then it became a double-edged sword then. "
Restricting access to social media can also make it difficult for Sri Lankans to read valuable independent reports online. "Digital media remains a bigger area of freedom than the country's mainstream media," said Funk, who published Freedom House's report on internet freedom in Sri Lanka. In 2018, the organization evaluated Sri Lanka's Internet is only "partially free" because of government censorship and limited access.
With the Sri Lankan government, experts warn, Facebook risks becoming a scapegoat for longstanding tensions between ethnic and religious groups. Only ten years ago, the country ended in a civil war between the majority of the Sinhalese and Tamil populations. "Successive governments in Sri Lanka have named Facebook and social media as the only ones behind the violence, ignoring the fact that the government itself has done nothing to enforce the law. 39 rule of law or attack the root causes of the problem, "wrote Sri Lankan researcher Sanjana Hattotuwa. a political note for the non-partisan Toda Peace Institute last year after the government blocked access to social media sites after the anti-Muslim riots in the country.
These blocks are not always effective in eliminating misinformation. Thanks to the rise of virtual private networks, which can circumvent the bans in a given country, the Sri Lankan people can cope with the closure of the government. WIRED has been talking to a woman who lives just outside the capital, Colombo, and who has used a VPN to continue accessing Facebook and WhatsApp continuously after the attacks.
The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said that even after the closure, she continued to receive misleading information from friends on social networks. One of the messages contained a report on a man arrested in connection with the attacks, but after further inspection, it turned out that the story was several years old. Another report, which circulated Monday afternoon, suggested that the water supply in the country had been poisoned, a rumor that national officials have since been debunked.
Nevertheless, the woman said that she thought blocking social media could be more effective in rural areas of the country. "People who use social networks in rural areas may not use VPNs," she said. "There is always misinformation, but I think it needs to be reduced to a certain extent."
Several countries have passed laws in response to misinformation online and hate speech In recent years, critics say they can be used to silence political opponents and mask dissent. Internet authoritarianism in the broad sense is on the riseand this for years. Perhaps the most worrisome is the new evidence that Internet stops can help incite more violence A work document Published in February by Jan Rydzak, a researcher at Stanford's Digital Policy Incubator, examined the effects of Internet outages in India. Research suggests that information failures "compel participants in collective action in India to substitute nonviolent tactics for violent tactics that rely less on effective communication and coordination."
This does not mean that Facebook should no longer prevent the proliferation of false information and hate speech in countries like Sri Lanka. There is ample evidence that the company has been prioritized growth in the world, without putting in place the necessary safeguards to monitor his platform once it entered new areas. Of course, this is not a simple problem to solve. In Sri Lanka alone, the Sinhalese language has four different versions. The algorithms designed by Facebook to detect hate speech in English do not necessarily correspond to this language structure, explains Wijeratne.
"Facebook teams have been working to support first responders and law enforcement, as well as to identify and remove content that violates our standards," said Facebook spokeswoman Jen Ridings. in a statement.
It may be easy to celebrate when a government like Sri Lanka opposes a historically fierce enterprise to conquer the world without worrying too much about the consequences. But the method chosen to do this – to completely restrict access in times of crisis – should be a source of concern.