Facebook Inc. said on Wednesday it would temporarily reduce political content appearing on New Feeds for some users in Canada, Brazil and Indonesia this week and in the United States within the coming weeks.
Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said in January that he wanted to “turn down the temperature” of political conversations on the social networking site because “people don’t want politics and fighting to take over their experience on our services.”
The world’s largest social network, which has received flack for not doing enough to remove hateful content from the platform, last month said it would stop recommending civic and political groups to users.
Reducing the frequency of political content will mark initials steps to explore different ways to rank such content in people’s feeds using different signals and understand their preferences, the company said in a blog post.
Facebook will exempt content from official government agencies and services, as well as COVID-19 information from health organizations from the drill.
In a similar vein French far-right leader Marine Le Pen appeared in court Wednesday on charges she broke hate speech laws by tweeting pictures of Islamic State atrocities, a case she slammed as a politically motivated attempt to silence her.
The trial comes as opinion polls show Le Pen will likely face off again against Emmanuel Macron in next year’s presidential contest, after her National Rally made its strongest showing ever in the 2017 vote.
Le Pen shared the gruesome images in December 2015, a few weeks after Daesh group jihadists killed 130 people in attacks in Paris, in response to a journalist who drew a comparison between IS and her party.
One of the pictures showed the body of James Foley, an American journalist beheaded by the Islamist militants.
Another showed a man in an orange jumpsuit being run over by a tank, and the third a Jordanian pilot being burned alive in a cage.
“Daesh is this!” Le Pen wrote in a caption, using an Arabic acronym for IS.
“I am obviously the victim of a political trial,” Le Pen told journalists at the courthouse in Nanterre, a Paris suburb.
“The media published them, editorialists, newspapers, TV channels, and nobody was ever prosecuted for doing so — only Marine Le Pen is being prosecuted,” she said.
In 2018 a judge charged her as well as Gilbert Collard, a National Rally colleague who also tweeted the pictures, with circulating “violent messages that incite terrorism or pornography or seriously harm human dignity” and that can be viewed by a minor.
The crime is punishable by up to three years in prison and a fine of 75,000 euros ($90,000).
Le Pen, a lawyer by training, later deleted the picture of Foley after a request from his family, saying she had been unaware of his identity.
But on Wednesday she defended their publication, despite acknowledging that “I find these pictures horribly shocking.”
However, “It’s the crime that denigrates human dignity, not a picture of it.”
Le Pen also insisted she was the victim of a political witch-hunt — she was stripped of her parliamentary immunity over the pictures, and angrily rejected an order to undergo psychiatric tests as part of the inquiry.
Since taking over France’s main far-right party from her father, Le Pen has run twice for the French presidency, and recent polling shows her closer than ever to what for her would be the ultimate prize.
That has rekindled speculation about whether the anti-EU, anti-immigration populist could finally enter the Elysee Palace.
On Thursday, she is set to have a prime-time TV debate with Macron’s Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin, which will be closely watched after critics panned her debate performance against Macron before the 2017 vote.
Le Pen has another legal challenge looming, over claims that she and other party officials improperly spent millions of euros in public funds to pay their assistants while serving in the EU Parliament.
Investigators say almost seven million euros ($7.7 million) was diverted from the European Parliament between 2009 and 2017.
Not be outdone Twitter has found itself in wrangle in India since the company refused to comply with orders to remove certain accounts and content, warning the social media platform that it “must respect” Indian laws “irrespective of Twitter’s own rules and guidelines.”
“We value freedom and we value criticism because it is part of our democracy. But freedom of expression is not absolute and it is subject to reasonable restrictions” as mentioned in the constitution, India’s Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology said in a statement late Wednesday.
Twitter has found itself in a standoff with the government after it refused to fully comply with last week’s government order to remove some accounts, including those of news organizations, journalists, activists and politicians, citing its “principles of defending protected speech and freedom of expression.”
The government said the accounts — unspecified in number — were using provocative hashtags to spread misinformation about the massive farmer protests that have rattled Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration.
Twitter responded by temporarily blocking some of those accounts. It, however, refused to outright suspend them as suggested by the government and imposed restrictions on them only within India. Twitter subsequently restored them after online outrage.
Critics have accused the government of using the protests to escalate a crackdown on free speech.
Twitter’s actions appeared to irk Modi’s government, which over the years has sought to tighten its grip over social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook. The government served Twitter a non-compliance notice and threatened its officials with a fine and imprisonment of up to seven years for violating the order.
The ministry in its statement said it was disappointed after Twitter “unwillingly, grudgingly and with great delay” complied with only parts of the government’s orders.
It cited Twitter’s crackdown on accounts after last month’s Capitol Hill insurrection in the United States, calling it a “differential treatment” to India. It said what happened in Washington was comparable to the violence at India’s Red Fort on Jan. 26 when a group of protesting farmers veered from an agreed protest route and stormed New Delhi’s 17th century monument.
Twitter did not immediately comment on the ministry’s statement.
The clampdown on Twitter accounts comes as thousands of farmers have camped outside the capital for months to protest new agricultural laws they say will devastate their earnings. The government says the laws will boost production through private investment.
Source: Arab News