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Facebook to remove ‘militarised’ calls for US poll watchers

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Republicans have mobilised thousands to watch polls, with Donald Trump Jr calling for an ‘army’ for election security.

Facebook has said it would remove calls for people to engage in poll-watching that use “militarised language” or suggest the goal is to intimidate voters or election officials, tightening the social media company’s restrictions around the US elections.

Facebook also said that it would respond to candidates or parties making premature claims of victory or contesting declared outcomes by adding labels and notifications with authoritative information about the state of the race.

It said it would temporarily stop running political ads in the United States after polls close on November 3.

Alphabet Inc’s Google last month also said it would block election-related ads after the polls closed for an indefinite period. Facebook previously said it would stop accepting new political ads in the week before Election Day and would reject ads prematurely claiming victory.

Republicans are mobilising thousands of volunteers to watch early voting sites and ballot drop boxes, part of an effort to look for evidence to back up President Donald Trump’s unsubstantiated complaints about voter fraud.

The president’s son Donald Trump Jr sought such volunteers for an “Army for Trump’s election security operation” in a September video that racked up millions of views on social media.

Facebook’s Vice President of Content Policy Monika Bickert said the company would not apply its new policy retroactively, but confirmed that the video would be considered in violation of its rules going forward.

“Under the new policy, if that video were to be posted again, we would indeed be removing it,” she said on a call with reporters.

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US: Remains found in Tulsa search for 1921 race massacre victims

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At least 10 bodies found in unmarked grave in search for victims of a 1921 racist massacre in the US state of Oklahoma.

At least 10 bodies have been found in an unmarked mass grave at a Tulsa cemetery where investigators are searching for remains of victims of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, a state official said Wednesday.

“What we were finding was an indication that we were inside a large area … a large hole that had been excavated and into which several individuals had been placed and buried in that location. This constitutes a mass grave,” said Oklahoma State Archaeologist Kary Stackelbeck.

There were 10 coffins discovered with what is presumed to be one person in each coffin, Stackelbeck said. She said further examination is needed.

The massacre left an estimated 300 mostly Black Tulsa residents dead and 800 more wounded. The massacre — which happened two years after what is known as the “Red Summer”, when hundreds of African Americans died at the hands of white mobs in violence across the US — has been depicted in recent HBO shows “Watchmen” and “Lovecraft County.”

Forensic anthropologist Phoebe Stubblefield, a descendant of a survivor of the massacre who is assisting in the search, said it would take considerable time to identify the remains and determine whether they were victims of the massacre.

The search began Monday and is the second this year after an unsuccessful search in another area of the cemetery ended in July.

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In defense of Quibi

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Quibi was a bad idea, poorly executed. Now it’s dead, just six months after it debuted.

Here’s a quick timeline of its short life:

It was easy to be skeptical about Quibi before launch because … see above. The real surprise is that it failed so quickly. And even that surprise is a little bit couched. Once news got out that Katzenberg was trying to sell, the only question was whether he’d find a buyer or have to shutter. As I wrote last month, you don’t try to sell your startup five months after launch if things aren’t going terribly, even though Katzenberg insisted otherwise in sales pitches.

But, that said: I would like to see more Quibis in the future.

Not the concept or the execution (again, see above) but the model: Running a media business the old-fashioned way, where you ask people to make something, pay them for it, and then try to re-sell that work to someone else. Because there’s another version of running a media business — what YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook do — and I don’t feel great about that one in 2020.

To recap: Katzenberg and Meg Whitman, the CEO he hired away from Hewlett Packard, paid Hollywood studios, TV networks, and digital shops like Vox Media (which owns this site) to make short videos. Then they tried selling subscriptions to those videos to you.

That’s one way — the old way — to run a media business.

There are lots of variants, and you can debate the right way to scale those companies and how much money you need to make them work, etc. The model includes everything from your local newspaper (if it still exists) to TV networks to Spotify to Netflix. But they’re all using the same basic playbook.

There is also the new — and often much more successful way — to run a media business: Get people to give you stuff for free, get people to consume that stuff for free, and sell their attention to advertisers. You may not want to call yourself a media business — for strategic, valuation, or legal reasons — but you are most definitely in the media business. This has worked really, really well for YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.

But as we spend a lot of time discussing these days, it’s not clear that the model that YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook use — which is dependent on ingesting as much free content as possible, and distributing as widely and quickly as possible, with as little input from the people who run those businesses as possible — is good for the rest of us.

And at the core of all the proposals to fix those businesses is the idea that they should act a lot more like … traditional media businesses. These proposals call for the people who run these platforms to pay attention to what they distribute, and even make judgment calls about whether that stuff should be distributed. And, yes: It also involves paying people who make some of the stuff they distribute.

I don’t want to belabor this thought, and I don’t want to oversell it. Quibi would have likely struggled using any model because it didn’t have stuff people wanted to see, and it didn’t have the distribution it needed to get it in front of them, anyway.

And while the Facebooks of the world run on free content, they certainly have to spend money on lots of other stuff. TikTok, for example, spent $1 billion on marketing in a single year in order to get its free videos, uploaded for free by its users, in front of people around the world.

But if you’re going to dunk on Quibi for failing so big, so fast, at least give them this: They failed the old-fashioned way. Which still has an upside.


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FDA says there is no timeline for a Covid-19 vaccine

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A health worker works in a lab during clinical trials for a Covid-19 vaccine at Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida, on September 9.
A health worker works in a lab during clinical trials for a Covid-19 vaccine at Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida, on September 9. Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg/Getty Images

US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said Wednesday that the agency does not have a set timeline to review a Covid-19 vaccine.

The goal, he said, is that everyone could get a vaccine by spring. But it “really depends on a number of factors.”

“We want to expedite it,” Hahn said at a conference sponsored by the Milken Institute, a nonpartisan think tank founded by ex-banker Michael Milken.

“We’ve said that we will schedule a vaccine advisory committee to review those data. We have committed for every application to have a vaccine advisory committee,” Hahn said.

“We will make that public, as I mentioned. Our scientists will make an initial determination, will ask specific questions about the product from the vaccine advisory committee. And then we will incorporate that in our decision making,” Hahn said.

“At the end of the day, only our career scientists in the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research will be making this decision, and they will be making it solely upon the science and data that come from the clinical trials.”

To speed up the process, Hahn said the FDA has been working with manufacturers from day one and have stayed in touch throughout the manufacturing process, rather than reviewing everything at the end of the process. 

“We need to make sure that there’s quality and consistency and that every lot has the same ability to provide protection to all of Americans,” Hahn said. “We have a lot of confidence in the manufacturing of these developers, and we will be doing our part with respect to working with them to make sure that manufacturing can be ramped up as quickly as possible.”

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