Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg returned to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for the first time since April 2018, answering a litany of questions about Facebook’s digital currency project and how it balances freedom of expression with demands it prevent the spread of false information. One exchange, on its approach to the controversial anti-vaccination movement, underlined the many ways its strategy can get muddled.
The hearing, held by the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services, was billed as an opportunity for lawmakers to probe the company’s plan to launch a global digital currency, called libra. The agenda for the meeting quickly derailed in the opening minutes when chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-California) ripped into Zuckerberg for what she called an inability to adequately govern the platform he created.
“As I have examined Facebook’s various problems, I have come to the conclusion that it would be beneficial for all if Facebook concentrates on addressing its many existing deficiencies and failures before proceeding any further on the Libra project,” she said. Zuckerberg’s response: “While we debate these issues, the rest of the world isn’t waiting. China is moving quickly to launch similar ideas in the coming months.”
Waters’ opening remarks set the tone for what took place during the remaining four-hours-plus of testimony. Legislators questioned Facebook’s decision to continue to run political ads with false information and failure to stop foreign governments from interfering on the platform. One revealing moment came from an outspoken anti-vaccination supporter, Congressman Bill Posey (R-FL), who wanted assurance Facebook would “support users’ fair and open discussions and communications related to the risk as well as the benefits of vaccinations.”
“We do care deeply about giving people a voice and freedom of expression,” Zuckerberg said. “At the same time, we also hear consistently from our community that people want us to stop the spread of misinformation. So we try to focus on misinformation that has the potential to lead to physical or imminent harm, and that can include misleading health advice.”
Facebook’s has tried to tackle the spread of misinformation by lowering its value in News Feed and making it easier for users to report false posts. Independent third-party fact-checking organization review them—if they determine a story is false, it will be flagged as disputed and there will be a link to a corresponding article explaining why. But Facebook fact-checkers have described the process like “playing a doomed game of a wack-a-mole.” These various approaches have been widely criticized for not doing enough to stomp out the spread of false information across the platform.
In 2014, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that vaccinations have prevented more than 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths among children born in the last 20 years. Scientists have yet to find any evidence for claims that vaccines can cause illnesses like autism. But anti-vaccine sentiment, which has flourished on Facebook and other social platforms, has led some parents to forgo vaccinations, leading to the rebound of some childhood diseases like measles. In March, Facebook rolled out a new policy on anti-vaccination content, including the decision to reject ads with false information.
Zuckerberg, who told Congressman that his “understanding of the scientific consensus” is that people should get their vaccines, said Facebook won’t stop its users from posting information that’s wrong.
“If someone wants to post anti-vaccination content, or if they want to join a group where people are discussing that content, we don’t prevent them from doing that. But we don’t go out of our way to make sure our group recommendation systems try to encourage people to join those groups.”
In other words, Facebook won’t prevent one of its 2 billion users from posting false information—it may not even flag it as wrong. The Facebook algorithm just won’t help it gain traction. If the user can spread that information on his own, then in Zuckerberg’s words, that’s “freedom of expression.”
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I’m an associate editor at Forbes covering Facebook and social media. I previously worked as an editor for Popular Science, Gizmodo, and Mashable leading investigations and spotting emerging trends. In 2016, I authored an investigative series that pried open the inner workings of Facebook’s Trending Topics and news operation, causing a global referendum on how the social network curated the news for its readers. Follow me on Twitter at @MichaelFNunez and email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Securely share tips at https://www.forbes.com/tips/
Source: Mark Zuckerberg’s Answer To An Anti-Vaxxer Question Highlights Facebook’s Problematic Response To Misinformation
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced aggressive questions in a day-long Congressional hearing on election interference, free speech, hate groups and fake news from members of the U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee on Wednesday. Zuckerberg was quizzed on Facebook’s steps to combat misinformation and voter suppression ahead of the November 2020 U.S. presidential election, to being asked how he feels about being compared to Trump. The CEO said Facebook would insist on U.S. regulatory approval before launching Libra, which is being established by a Switzerland-based consortium including venture capital firms and nonprofits. Zuckerberg navigated the hostile room without major slip-ups, and managed to crack a smile when he was jokingly asked about the betrayal he felt in his portrayal in the movie, “The Social Network.” For more info, please go to http://www.globalnews.ca
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Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies have been largely ignored by the world’s regulators over the last ten years, with only some small attempts to protect investors from wild bitcoin price swings and dodgy crypto exchanges.
The bitcoin price, up some 200% so far this year, has somewhat recovered after a terrible 2018 largely due to interest in bitcoin and cryptocurrencies from some of the world’s biggest tech companies, including social media giant Facebook which unveiled its planned libra cryptocurrency project last month and is scheduled for release some time in 2020—if the sandal-hit company can convince regulators of its merits.
Now, forensic accountancy firm BTVK has warned the bitcoin and crypto “wild west” could be coming to an end, with global regulators closing in on bitcoin and cryptocurrency exchanges as a result of the spotlight brought by Facebook’s libra project.
“Laws are in development as we speak,” Alex Hodgson, senior consultant at BTVK, told the Telegraph newspaper following the release of its report into bitcoin and cryptocurrencies. “Facebook has well-publicized issues in the past, and in response to that [regulators] are going above and beyond.”
“If cryptocurrency markets were like the ‘wild west’ in their early years, that period may be coming to a close as lawmakers look to toughen up the way in which markets are policed,” the report authors wrote. “In the meantime, it would be wrong to assume that investigators are powerless in the world of virtual currencies. They have many tools, old and new, at their disposal which mean that cryptocurrency markets should not be seen as a safe hiding place.”
Facebook is still reeling from a data-sharing scandal that saw many of its most senior executives hauled before governments around the world to answer questions on Facebook’s use of data and its work with third parties, such as Cambridge Analytica.
Earlier this month, U.S. president Donald Trump sent the bitcoin and cryptocurrency industry for a loop when he tweeted his opposition to bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, and Facebook’s libra, suggesting they are all “unregulated crypto assets” that can “facilitate unlawful behavior, including drug trade and other illegal activity.”
Following his comments, other senior U.S. officials echoed his comments, while U.S. senators called Facebook’s libra plans “unacceptable.”
Elsewhere, former International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde, who is set to replace Mario Draghi as president of the European Central Bank (ECB), earlier this year warned that bitcoin and cryptocurrencies are “shaking the system”—something that could signal a change in the ECB’s approach to bitcoin and crypto.
The bitcoin price has rallied hard this year but global regulators are “closing in.”
In the U.K. bitcoin and cryptocurrencies were placed under the oversight of the country’s banking regulator in January with it expected to issue final guidance sometime over the next couple of months.
Meanwhile, a government panel in India has recommended a ban on all “cryptocurrencies created by non-sovereigns” due to “serious concern [there is a] mushrooming of cryptocurrencies almost invariably issued abroad and numerous people in India investing in these cryptocurrencies.”
The report out of India does support the possibility of a state-issued digital currency in India, however.
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Source: Blow To Bitcoin As Top Accountants Make Serious Facebook Warning
Bitcoin has been around for a little over a decade, while its biggest competitors ethereum, litecoin, and Ripple’s XRP have been knocking around for between seven and four years—but all save bitcoin are already being eclipsed by Facebook’s yet-to-launch libra cryptocurrency.
The bitcoin price has surged over recent months as interest surrounding social media giant Facebook’s planned libra project reached fever-pitch but has swung wildly as global regulators poured cold water on Facebook’s ambitions.
Now, a new survey has found there is “substantial” public interest in Facebook’s potential bitcoin rival, despite a lack of trust in the company, with people already more familiar with it than ethereum, litecoin and Ripple’s XRP.
Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg might have his work cut out to convince U.S. and global regulators of libra’s potential, but the general public might already be on board.
Bitcoin and Facebook’s libra were given an awareness boost by U.S. president Donald Trump last week when he tweeted his opposition to both technologies but he may have inadvertently introduced the idea of bitcoin and cryptocurrencies to a whole new audience.
New research, carried out by U.S. brokerage eToro, has found that while 58% of the U.S. adults have heard of bitcoin, the first and largest cryptocurrency, Facebook’s libra is already known by 16% of people—just a month after it was unveiled.
Ethereum, the second-largest cryptocurrency, has achieved only 12% recognition since it went live in July 2015 and it can be assumed that smaller cryptocurrencies litecoin and Ripple’s XRP are still less well known.
“We believe that crypto and the blockchain technology that underpins it will be essential to tomorrow’s economy,” said Guy Hirsch, U.S. managing director of eToro. “By introducing the concept to a new audience, libra could play a vital role in the evolution of decentralized and more democratized finance.”
The bitcoin price has been climbing so far this year, largely due to interest in cryptocurrencies from Facebook and the world’s biggest tech companies.
Meanwhile, the survey suggests that people may not be willing to trust Facebook to correctly manage payments, perhaps due to its on-going data-sharing scandal.
A little over half (54%) of respondents, out of some 600, expressed doubts over Facebook’s management of their personal data but only 17% indicated they would be willing to trust Facebook with their money the same way they trust their banks.
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Source: Facebook’s Libra Is Already Ahead Of Ethereum, Litecoin, And Ripple’s XRP–But Not Bitcoin