U.S. Senator Michael Bennet has asked tech giants Meta, X, TikTok, and Google how they are working to prevent the spread of false and misleading content related to the Israel-Hamas conflict on their platforms.

U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) and several other U.S. senators introduce a bill that grants the Biden administration the authority to “restrict or prohibit” foreign technology products, like the Chinese-owned video application TikTok, at a press briefing held on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., on March 7, 2023.

According to Senator Bennet, deceptive content has been widely circulated on social media sites and has sometimes garnered millions of views.

In his letter, Bennet has presented a series of inquiries to the companies, asking for details regarding their content moderation practices, with a request for responses by October 31.

The social media companies have described some actions they’ve taken recently in response to the conflict. For example, the short video app TikTok disclosed that it has hired more Arabic and Hebrew-speaking content moderators. Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram, stated that it has removed or labeled as disturbing over 795,000 pieces of content in Hebrew or Arabic within the first three days following the Hamas attack. Additionally, both X and Google-owned YouTube reported that they have also removed harmful content.

However, Bennet expressed dissatisfaction with these measures, stating in the letter, “The extensive volume of deceptive content clearly indicates that your existing policies and procedures are insufficient.”

Bennet also criticized the four companies for downsizing their trust and safety teams responsible for monitoring false and misleading content over the past year. Twitter, for instance, eliminated 15% of its trust and safety staff and dissolved a related council in November 2022, following its acquisition by Elon Musk, and further reduced staff last month, as Bennet pointed out. Meta also cut 100 similar positions in January, while Google reduced a third of its team dedicated to developing tools to combat online hate speech and disinformation, according to Bennet.

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“These choices add to a chain reaction of violence, suspicion, and lack of confidence on a global scale,” he stated.

“Your platforms are playing a role in shaping an information environment where fundamental truths are increasingly questioned, and unreliable sources are consistently presented as credible.”

Reported by Zeba Siddiqui in San Francisco; Edited by Stephen Coates Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles


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