Menlo Park, Jul 2 (AP/UNB) — A Facebook mail facility near company headquarters was evacuated Monday after a routine check found mail possibly containing the nerve agent sarin.
Authorities put the site under quarantine as they conducted additional testing. Four buildings were evacuated and three have been cleared for people to come back in, said Facebook spokesman Anthony Harrison in a statement. The suspicious package was delivered around 11 a.m. to one of the company's mail rooms, he said.
"Authorities have not yet identified the substance found," Harrison wrote.
There were no reports of injuries, Menlo Park Fire Marshal Jon Johnston said. Incoming mail undergoing routine processing by machine tested positive for sarin, but it could have been a false positive, Johnston said.
"Right now we don't have anybody that has any symptoms," he said. "We're just doing verification."
The FBI is assisting in the investigation, as is common in incidents such as this one.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says sarin is a chemical warfare agent that is a clear, colorless, odorless and tasteless liquid. It can evaporate into the environment, prompting symptoms within seconds.
A drop of sarin on skin can cause sweating and muscle twitching, and exposure to large doses can result in paralysis and respiratory failure leading to death.
The CDC says people who are mildly exposed usually recover completely.
Bosto, Jul 1 (AP/UNB) — Facebook says it will make advertisements for jobs, loans and credit card offers searchable for all U.S. users following a legal settlement designed to eliminate discrimination on its platform.
The plan disclosed in an internal report Sunday voluntarily expands on a commitment the social medial giant made in March when it agreed to make its U.S. housing ads searchable by location and advertiser.
Ads were only delivered selectively to Facebook users based on such data as what they earn, their education level and where they shop.
The audit's leader, former American Civil Liberties Union executive Laura Murphy, was hired by Facebook in May 2018 to assess its performance on vital social issues.
Murphy has consulted with dozens of civil rights groups on the subject as part of her yearlong audit, assisted by lawyers from the firm Relman, Dane & Colfax. Sunday's 26-page report , which also deals with content moderation and enforcement and efforts to prevent meddling in the 2020 U.S. elections and census, was her second update.
The searchable housing ads database will roll out by the end of 2019, Facebook says, and Murphy said she expects the employment and financial product offerings databases to be available within the next year.
Murphy said she's "very excited" about the move she believes will positively impact the social mobility of millions in the United States.
Targeted ads tailored to individuals are Facebook's bread and butter — accounting for all but a sliver of its more than $50 billion in annual revenues last year. It's unlikely that making the ads searchable would have a significant effect on Facebook's business. Analysts have cautioned, however, that any restrictions on Facebook's ability to target ads could scare off advertisers.
The move is likely part of Facebook's strategy to show regulators that is doing a good job policing its own service — putting it in compliance with existing anti-discrimination law — and doesn't need a heavy-handed approach from lawmakers. It comes as the company is facing increasing regulatory pressures.
As part of the settlement with plaintiffs including the ACLU and the National Fair Housing Alliance, Facebook agreed in March to stop targeting people based on age, gender and zip code and to also eliminate such categories as national origin and sexual orientation.
The groups had sued claiming Facebook violated anti-discrimination laws by preventing audiences including single mothers and the disabled from seeing many housing ads — while some job ads were not reaching women and older workers.
Galen Sherwin, senior staff attorney at the ACLU and the group's lead attorney in the case, said making the three Facebook databases searchable by anyone "definitely creates greater access to information about economic opportunities."
Civil rights groups are concerned that the secretive, proprietary algorithms that govern how the company steers ads— even when not consciously targeting specific groups — could still be discriminatory.
"I wish we could see into the black box," Sherwin said.
Facebook still faces a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development complaint over housing ad-targeting and delivery. Murphy, the auditor, said she thinks the company understands it's "going to have to look at the algorithms" behind them.
The company also faces privacy and anti-trust investigations in the U.S. and Europe over its invasive data collection practices and struggles to police hate speech globally with sometimes lethal repercussions.
Facebook is currently in talks to create an external oversight board to monitor such issues and its level of independence is one subject of debate.
Sunday's audit update also addresses Facebook's efforts to shed "harmful content," including a new U.S. pilot program where dedicated monitors will focus on hate speech alone. A few dozen are involved so far, the company said. All come from the more than 20,000 outsourced content moderators who screen the 2.3 billion-user platform, the company said.
Audit team recommendations include ending a carve-out for humor as an exception in hate speech and devising better mechanisms for blocking harassment, which can be especially overwhelming when automated.
Simply defining actionable hate speech — which can vary by nation, region, language and cultural context — is a tall order.
The report says Facebook is committed to stepping up efforts to fight voting suppression in 2020 elections and plans to have ready by fall policies to counter attempts to interfere in the census.
San Francisco, Jun 28 (AP/UNB) — Presidents and other world leaders and political figures who use Twitter to threaten or abuse others could find their tweets slapped with warning labels.
The new policy , announced by the company on Thursday, comes amid complaints from activists and others that President Donald Trump has gotten a free pass from Twitter to post hateful messages and attack his enemies in ways they say could lead to violence.
From now on, a tweet that Twitter deems to involve matters of public interest, but which violates the service's rules, will be obscured by a warning explaining the violation.
Users will have to tap through the warning to see the underlying message, but the tweet won't be removed, as Twitter might do with a regular person's posts.
Twitter said the policy applies to all government officials, candidates and similar public figures with more than 100,000 followers. In addition to applying the label, Twitter won't use its algorithms to "elevate" or otherwise promote such tweets.
"It's a step in the right direction," said Keegan Hankes, research analyst for the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project, who focuses on far-right extremist propaganda online. But, he added, Twitter is essentially arguing "that hate speech can be in the public interest. I am arguing that hate speech is never in the public interest."
Twitter refused to comment on whether any of Trump's past tweets violated its rules and would not say what role, if any, his Twitter activity played in the creation of the new warning-label policy.
The new stance could fuel additional Trumpian ire toward social media. The president routinely complains, without evidence, that social media sites are biased against him and other conservatives.
Twitter's rules prohibit threatening violence against a person or group, engaging in "targeted harassment of someone," or inciting others to do so, such as wishing a person is harmed. It also bans hate speech against a group based on race, ethnicity, gender or other categories.
Up to now, the company has exempted prominent leaders from many of those rules, contending that publishing controversial tweets from politicians helps hold them accountable and encourages discussion.
But there have been longstanding calls to remove Trump from the service over what some have called abusive and threatening behavior.
Some activists complained this week after the president threatened Iran with "obliteration" in some areas if it attacks the U.S. Trump has also tweeted a video of himself beating up a man with a CNN logo in place of his head and retweeted seemingly faked anti-Muslim videos.
"Donald Trump has changed political discourse on Twitter and everywhere else, given the level of toxic statements he has made about vulnerable communities in America," Hankes said.
Other politicians could likewise become subject to warning labels.
In 2018, French prosecutors filed preliminary charges against far-right French politician Marine Le Pen for tweeting brutal images of Islamic State violence. Twtter prohibits material that is "excessively gory."
And in March, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro stirred outrage by sharing a video on Twitter of a man urinating on the head of another man during a Carnival party.
Insults and mockery fall into a gray area. Calling someone a "lowlife, a "dog" or a "stone cold LOSER," as Trump hasdone , may not in itself be a violation. But repeated insults against someone might amount to prohibited harassment.
Jennifer Grygiel, a social media expert and professor at Syracuse University, said Twitter "obviously" enacted the new policy because of Trump's Twitter activity.
But Grygiel said the new rule doesn't go far enough. Because of the president's outsize ability to start wars, move stock markets or influence other world events, Twitter should instead review leaders' tweets before they are sent out and block them if necessary, Grygiel said.
Twitter's new policy doesn't apply to past tweets.
Twitter said it is still possible for a government official or other figure to tweet something so egregious that it warrants removal. A direct threat of violence against an individual, for instance, would qualify.
The company said warning-label decisions will be made by a group that includes members of its trust and safety, legal and public policy teams, as well as employees in the regions where particular tweets originate.
Dhaka, June 28 (UNB) - Twitter says it will hide tweets by world leaders and politicians that break its rules but have been left online "in the public interest", reports BBC,
Tweets from prominent government officials that break the platform's rules but have been left online will be hidden behind a notice.
The company accepted it had not clearly communicated many of the decisions it had made in the past.
But the new notice will only be applied to tweets sent after 27 June.
Twitter's critics say the platform does not enforce its rules evenly, allowing politicians to break its rules on abuse, harassment and incitement.
In the past, Twitter has defended some of its decisions by saying the tweets in question were "newsworthy".
For example, in September 2017 the company said it had decided to leave a controversial tweet by US President Donald Trump online.
In the tweet, Mr Trump said: "Just heard Foreign Minister of North Korea speak at UN. If he echoes thoughts of Little Rocket Man, they won't be around much longer!"
Many people interpreted the message as a threat to North Korea.
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Although Twitter decided the post was newsworthy, there was no indication of this on the Twitter app or website.
Twitter did not say whether any particular politician had inspired the change to its rules.
Tweets placed behind the new notice will no longer appear in search results and will not be promoted by the platform's algorithms.
San Francisco, Jun 28 (AP/UNB) — Facebook is updating its terms and services guidelines to clarify how it makes money from the personal information of its users. The changes reflect its ongoing attempts to satisfy regulators in the U.S. and Europe, which have urged the company to make sure users know what they are signing up for.
The guideline changes, announced Thursday, are largely cosmetic. The updates don't change Facebook's underlying policies.
Facebook has come under fire with regulators in Europe, and increasingly in the U.S., for how it handles personal information collected on its site — and how transparent it is with users.
The company said it made the updates after working with a European consumer protection group and regulators around the world.
The European Commission noted Facebook's agreement to make the changes in April, saying the commission requested changes "to clearly inform consumers how the social network gets financed."
This is how Facebook's new guidelines tackle that challenge: "Instead of paying to use Facebook and the other products and services we offer, by using the Facebook Products covered by these Terms, you agree that we can show you ads that businesses and organizations pay us to promote on and off the Facebook Company Products."
The terms and services spell out that even if users delete material from the site, it might still exist on Facebook's servers for 90 days. It also makes clear that violating the company's policies could get posts removed from the site and explains that users still own the material they post online, although Facebook may use it.
But at nearly 10 pages long in PDF form, Facebook is still facing the most common problem with lengthy terms and services — people rarely read them.
Facebook will issue a blog post on the changes, which go into effect July 31, but won't require users to agree again to the updated terms. It also won't promote the updates on people's Facebook feeds. The company said it decided not to make people re-sign the agreement because the changes merely clarify existing policy and don't change it.
Facebook, along with other big internet companies, have been increasingly scrutinized in the past year about how well they protect people's data and how they profit from it. The company is under investigation from the Federal Trade Commission over its privacy practices.