Election Misinformation Continues – Spotlight #365

Good Monday morning. It’s December 7th. Hanukkah begins Thursday night.

Today’s Spotlight is 1,205 words — about a 4 minute read.

1. News to Know Now

a. Facebook will be sued for antitrust violations by nearly all states this week according to Reuters. Separately, the Department of Justice sued Facebook Thursday claiming that it discriminated against Americans by giving preference to foreign workers through the H-1B visa program. ArsTechnica has coverage of this counterintuitive claim.

b. Facebook’s Oversight Board announced that it will hear its first six cases. The group is sponsored by but operates independently of Facebook. Its membership includes Nobel Prize laureates, former heads of state, legal scholars, and human rights experts. As the board reviews specific cases among the more than 200,000 that were filed, they hope to establish precedents that Facebook and its moderators can use as guidance. (Official announcement)

c. Reddit averaged 52 million daily active users in October, according to The Wall Street Journal. That’s a fraction of the traffic internet giants get, but is also 52 million people every day on a network where users self-segment themselves into interest groups.

2. COVID-19 Online Resources and News

Great Trackers
Johns Hopkins Dashboard or Animations
COVID-19 Forecast Hub
Google County Level Mobility Reports
Long-Term Care COVID Tracker

COVID-19 Tech News

Covid & Cybsersecurity Catastrophic Attack on Ed Tech — Ed Week
Delta first U.S. airline to launch contact tracing — Axios
Facebook will remove vaccine misinformation — The New York Times
More than 1 million enabled WA COVID exposure tech — KXLY Spokane
New Test Uses Smartphone Camera & CRISPR — SciTechDaily
Study examines mobile health tech for Covid-19 — MIT
Wickliffe students, faculty wear COVID tracking tech — CBS Cleveland 19

3. Search Engine News

Google’s new page experience metrics for websites will only count as a ranking signal based on how they render on mobile.

The company’s announcement late last week bears repeating. Only. Mobile. Metrics. Matter.

Refresher on the three “Core Web Vitals” metrics and their funny names:

1. Largest Contentful Paint — how quickly users see content.
2. First Input Delay — how responsive a site is when something is clicked.
3. Cumulative Layout Shift — how the page moves on-screen during interaction.

Remember when Google first said that your website’s pages had to be mobile friendly? Then they said the pages had to be fast. These are the next three items.

Separately Google announced on Thursday that it launched a core update. While Google constantly updates these days, core updates are much broader and take a week or two to update throughout Google. Websites will see rankings and traffic fluctuate, but we won’t know for at least several more days which industries and types of sites were affected the most. The last core update was in May so it’s not a regular occurrence.

4. In the Spotlight — Election Misinformation Continues

No one is happy with the way that big technology platforms are manipulated by bad people to spread misinformation. We’ve told you before how videos depicting suicide or even murder show up online, are quickly removed, and then changed by others to evade detection. What a world, but it’s ours, this part is broken, and we need to be clear-eyed about this.

The co-founder of a civil rights coalition is raising awareness that election misinformation targeting Spanish speakers in the U.S. is often not as well policed as posts in English. Her concerns were echoed by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) when he questioned Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during hearings last month.

Avaaz analyzed 10 posts from President Donald Trump’s attorneys and found that 5 of them were flagged for election misinformation, but that only one of the Spanish translations were flagged.

Video content is also hard to police and categorize. Transparency Tube is addressing the categorization and analysis part by creating an easy-to-use library of political YouTube content organized by date, time, category, and even whether it is conservative or progressive. Think QAnon isn’t a problem? There were 7.9 million views of QAnon channels on English language YouTube in the last 7 days.

This problem won’t go away with a new president. In fact, it may get worse. Facebook said that it attached fact check warnings to 180 million pieces of content between March 1 and Election Day. Granted, that’s a long time, but let’s consider the number: 180,000,000 pieces of content. Another 265,000 were entirely removed from the site for voter interference.

More recently Avaaz looked at the Georgia Senate races and reported that Facebook missed as much as 60% of the election misinformation targeting those voters.

Professors at the University of California’s Culture Analytics Group say they’ve developed an automated approach to determine when social media conversations reflect conspiracy theory distribution. They are using a combination of entity analysis and network effects to compare past conspiracy theories to current ones like QAnon.

Our take: That is a great idea, but it’s not ready for prime time yet and wouldn’t be the sole solution. Stay vigilant and use credible fact-checking sites.

Election Misinformation Smartlinks

An AI tool to identify conspiracy theories — Nieman Lab
Election misinformation often evaded YouTube — The New York Times
Facebook failed to flag Georgia election misinformation — Daily Dot
Facebook labeled 180 million debunked posts — The Washington Post
Tech firms fall short on Spanish language — The Hill
Transparency Tube

5. Debunked — “Thugshot Christmas tree”

The Mobile County (AL) Sheriff’s Office posted an image of a Christmas tree decorated with images of people it said had been arrested or were wanted for crimes.

The people in those images were not necessarily found guilty of those crimes. And the office didn’t actually display the tree, but doctored a photo.

Read the truth from the AP via Snopes.

6. Following Up — Amazon Fresh, Google Fires Ethicist

We’ve written about Amazon’s march to grocery dominance. They take another step this week by opening an Amazon Fresh store in Chicago suburb Naperville, their first location not on the west coast. (Chicago Tribune)

We’ve also told you before about work done by Google AI ethicist Dr. Timnit Gebru in showing how facial recognition software often misidentified darker skinned women. After she recently refused Google’s request to retract a research paper on a different topic, her employment was terminated. The industry press is livid over the matter. A second Google ethicist, Tristan Harris, is now one of Big Tech’s most outspoken critics and was recently featured in “The Social Dilemma.”

7. Protip — Android Live Wallpaper & Google Photos

If your Android phone supports Live Wallpaper, you can now let Google Photos use rotating images from your gallery as your wallpaper.

Here’s how.

Screening Room— Belonging

Belonging Begins With Us is a new campaign dedicated to fostering a more welcoming nation where everyone – regardless of their background – can belong. This new work features exclusive new music from Lake Street Dive, covering Joe South’s 1968 hit “Walk a Mile in My Shoes.”

9. Coffee Break — From Gingerbread House to Gingerbread Höme

Ikea nailed a feel good moment with free, downloadable stencils to make gingerbread furniture for gingerbread houses.

How do you connect them? Well, with warm sugar or icing. Duh.

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