All posts in “trump”

Twitter to prohibit ‘dehumanizing language’ in new rules

We happen to know a certain Twitter user who really enjoys using dehumanizing language.
We happen to know a certain Twitter user who really enjoys using dehumanizing language.

Image: NurPhoto via Getty Images

Call it the Alex Jones effect.

Twitter announced on Tuesday that it will update its rules to prohibit “dehumanizing language” on the platform. While it is still finalizing what this policy will look like through user feedback and internal review processes, this initiative could add a much-needed layer of clarity to Twitter’s sometimes opaque, yet narrow, rule violation policy.

“We want to expand our hateful conduct policy to include content that dehumanizes others based on their membership in an identifiable group, even when the material does not include a direct target,” Twitter’s Vijaya Gadde and Del Harvey wrote in a blog post.

Twitter defines dehumanizing language as speech that denies people of human qualities through malicious comparisons to animals or objects. It cites research that links dehumanizing speech to real-world violence.

The policy has reportedly been in the works for the past three months, and it’s part of the company’s larger initiative to “improve conversational health” on the platform. Twitter is still actively working to define what “conversational health” actually means. But it has already taken several proactive steps that have shown a marked difference in decreasing trolling and bullying on the platform.

Encouragingly, Twitter is basing its dehumanizing language policy on academic research that shows the real world effect that demeaning people through dehumanization can have. For example, speech that equates a group with an animal or object is a “hallmark of dangerous speech, because it can make violence seem acceptable.”

Twitter users will have until Tuesday, October 9, at 6:00am PST to provide Twitter with feedback on the policy (you can do so here). Twitter then plans to update the rules “later this year.”

It’s difficult not to draw a connection between this new policy and the back-and-forth controversy surrounding Twitter’s eventual banning of Alex Jones. During that time, many criticized the way that Twitter was applying its hate speech policy to Jones; that is, it wasn’t. This new policy further defines the kind of speech disallowed by twitter, and broadens the scope of harmful speech beyond needing to include an individual “@.” Harvey and Gadde indeed addressed this need for further elucidation.

“There are still Tweets many people consider to be abusive, even when they do not break our rules,” the authors write. “Better addressing this gap is part of our work to serve a healthy public conversation.”

Mashable has reached out to Twitter to ask whether this policy will be enforceable retroactively, or if it will only apply going forward. We happen to know a certain Twitter user who enjoys comparing women to dogs to whom this new policy might apply.

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Donald Trump exempts Apple products from tariffs on Chinese imports

Now you can get yer Apple watch for the low, low price of... well, still not low at all.
Now you can get yer Apple watch for the low, low price of… well, still not low at all.

Image: screenshot: jake krol/mashable

Well well well, looks like Tim Cook’s glad-handing has paid off.

The Trump administration has now imposed a 10 percent import tariff on a total of more than $500 billion of goods made in China, set to increase to 25 percent in 2019. The tariffs will go into effect on September 24.

While the tariffs will affect a multitude of industries, Apple fans (and a certain white-haired CEO) have been concerned about what Trump’s trade war would do to the price (and desirability) of Apple products. Apple assembles its its devices in China, which would have made them subject to tariffs. That could have added a cost that would have likely made the already expensive Apple products even pricier.

Today, Tim Cook can breathe at least a partial sigh of relief. The Trade Department included Apple Watches and AirPods on a list of 300 products exempt from the tariffs, according to the Wall Street Journal. Whew! Now you can get that Apple Watch Series 4 while it’s hot, sans Trump Tax.

But Apple isn’t out of the woods yet. 

At every step of the burgeoning trade war, China has vowed to retaliate in kind. And that’s bad news for the iPhone. The Journal reports that Beijing is considering retaliatory restrictions on sales of equipment and materials that Apple needs to produce iPhones. So while the Trump administration might not specifically tax iPhone imports in the future, Apple could still pay the price for Trump’s trade war through its dealings with China.

Apple and Tim Cook have been attempting to persuade Trump for months that tariffs were bad for the company and American business. Last week, Apple submitted a letter to the U.S. TradeRepresentative objecting to the tariffs. Cook has also had multiple meetings with Trump, and Trump even at one point promised that Apple products wouldn’t be affected.

But with the word of our president as molten as baked brie, no one has been certain about what Trump’s trade war would really mean for Apple, and Apple customers. The latest news is encouraging for Apple fans, though also an example of the Trump administrations seemingly arbitrary trade “strategy,” or lack thereof.

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‘Plaid shirt guy’ wins the internet with silly faces during a Trump rally

Going viral and becoming a meme is pretty easy in the age of Trump: Just stand behind The Orange One at his rallies and — this part’s key — make silly faces during his speech.

Doing so will turn all eyeballs from The Donald to you. It’ll also get your removed from the rally courtesy of the Secret Service. But, worth it!

This is exactly what happened when Tyler Linfesty attended a Trump rally in Montana on Sept. 6. He quickly became immortalized on the internet as “Plaid Shirt Guy” after he was spotted visibly reacting to the president’s words just behind his right shoulder.

“Some people thought I was being disrespectful – I was not planning to be disrespectful,” Linfesty told ABC Fox Montana. “Some people thought I was part of a conspiracy theory, like I was planted there, my friends were planted there — I was not planted there.”

Linfesty says he was just there to meet Trump, shake his hand, and take a photo with him.

“I was just there to see the president and I had my natural reactions when I thought he said something I disagreed with, I visibly disagreed,” says Linfesty.

Linfesty was removed from the event mid-way through Trump’s speech, after which the Secret Service asked him to leave — and not come back — according to CNN.

You can see him being whisked away right at the 50:45 mark in the entire video below:

[embedded content]

“I think I know why they removed me. It’s because, well before the rally they told us that ‘you have to be enthusiastic, you have to be clapping, you have to be cheering for Donald Trump,’ and I wasn’t doing that because I wasn’t enthusiastic, I wasn’t happy with what he was saying.”

Whatever, man! The Internet has deemed you meme-worthy. Just look at how many people you made happy:

Congrats and enjoy the spotlight because it won’t last forever.

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Trump rage-tweets Google alleging search ‘bias’

While several tech giants have found themselves in President Trump’s crosshairs since he took office, he has just unleashed what looks to be his most sustained attack on Google to date — firing off a couple of tweets at ~5.30am Washington DC time to rail against what he claims is algorithmic bias in the results the search engine serves up if someone types in “Trump News”.

No, the president did not use the four-syllable word “algorithmic”. But presumably he hadn’t even inhaled his first Coke of the day yet.

In his rage tweets, Trump makes the specific allegation that “96% of results on “Trump News” are from National Left-Wing Media”, without citing his source for the claimed datapoint. He then makes the further unsubstantiated claim that: “Google & others are suppressing voices of Conservatives and hiding information and news that is good.”

The Guardian suggests the 96% claim is a reference to an article posted at the weekend by the website PJ Media whose self-described “not-scientific” study of the top 100 Google News results for the search term “Trump” apparently suggested “a pattern of bias against right-leaning content”.

Trump ends the pair of tweets with a warning that the “situation will be addressed” — without specifying exactly what he plans to do. Which is pretty much trademark Trump Twitter policy-on-the-hoofing. Even as the wider political context around his administration, with whispers of impeachment in the air, implies that any loud public complaints by Trump about negative headlines related to himself are an attempt to distract attention from the legal hot waters now boiling around him. But whatevs.

Here are the tweets in all their rage-filled glory:

We’ve reached out to Google for comment.

Ironically, testing out a search for “Trump News” after Trump’s Google flaming tweets, I was served the below result, with the well-known right wing news organization Fox News bagging the very first result in the Top Stories slot, so er… 

It’s unclear whether Trump is aware that Google search results can vary depending on the individual doing the searching. And, well, if Trump is seeing lots of bad news about himself (when he searches for news about himself) let’s just say we’re sure that Freud would have had a field day unpicking the knotted implications of Trump having such navel-gazing obsession with news sources he continually professes to hate and claims are “fake”. But, again, whatevs.

Of course most of what Trump is claiming here is flagrant nonsense — especially as his cancerous catchphrase of ‘fake news’ gets liberally slapped on anything he disagrees with, regardless of whether it’s true or not.

But one thing he’s saying is more or less true: Google is arguably “controlling what we can & cannot see”, given the company has a dominant share of the search market in the West (and a massively dominant one in Europe), and that most Internet users will never click beyond page one of the search results it serves. Or even browse beyond the top few results.

So, essentially, the hierarchies of information that Google’s algorithms create can and do surface or sediment information. Or, in other words, if it’s not on page one of Google it’s barely there.

Another example of Google’s power over what can and cannot be seen: In Europe, in recent years, the company now selectively de-indexes certain search results related to individuals on request (after it has reviewed a request and made a decision), in order to comply with a legal ruling by the EU’s top court (the so-called ‘right to be forgotten‘) — making it less likely that a specific data-point about a non-public individual will be broadly visible in the region.

The fact that a single company has such power over the accessibility of information (and potential to shape opinion) should concern us.

Especially as Google’s algorithmic engines are proprietary black boxes and there is no or little independent oversight of whether its information shaping is fair or even appropriate. (Again in Europe the company has been charged with promoting its own products in shopping related searches over and above rivals — and has had to make changes to the product search results it displays to comply with the antitrust ruling, though it disputes and is legally appealing the regulator’s decision.)

So Trump has at least correctly identified that Google can and does wield huge power via the popularity of its information retrieval platform.

Even as the claim he’s also selectively, self-interestedly amplifying — i.e. ‘96% biased’ — is entirely unsubstantiated, having been based on a single non-scientific survey carried out by an American conservative news blog. So judge appropriately.

Above that, the notion that any commercial company in the West, let alone one so prominent and mainstream as Google, would knowingly and systematically embed political bias into its algorithms to make them less useful for a very large swathe of its potential users is, frankly, ridiculous.

If anything, tech platforms tend to have the opposite problem; They serve up too tightly personalized stuff, risking shrinking users’ ideological horizons by feeding people a political mono-diet. (Which may help explain the Trump phenomenon itself, but I digress.)

Nonetheless, the president has continued to make tech firms his Twitter punchbags. Just last month, for example, he accused Twitter of “shadow banning” Republican users. A claim the company quickly denied, writing: “We do not shadow ban. You are always able to see the tweets from accounts you follow (although you may have to do more work to find them, like go directly to their profile). And we certainly don’t shadow ban based on political viewpoints or ideology.”

Safe to say, as the headlines about Trump get worse Trump’s rage will grow and the tweets will surely flow.

Twitter puts Infowars’ Alex Jones in the ‘read-only’ sin bin for 7 days

Twitter has finally taken action against Infowars creator Alex Jones, but it isn’t what you might think.

While Apple, Facebook, Google/YouTube, Spotify and many others have removed Jones and his conspiracy-peddling organization Infowars from their platforms, Twitter has remained unmoved with its claim that Jones hasn’t violated rules on its platform.

That was helped in no small way by the mysterious removal of some tweets last week, but now Jones has been found to have violated Twitter’s rules, as CNET first noted.

Twitter is punishing Jones for a tweet that violates its community standards but it isn’t locking him out forever. Instead, a spokesperson for the company confirmed that Jones’ account is in “read-only mode” for up to seven days.

That means he will still be able to use the service and look up content via his account, but he’ll be unable to engage with it. That means no tweets, likes, retweets, comments, etc. He’s also been ordered to delete the offending tweet — more on that below — in order to qualify for a fully functioning account again.

That restoration doesn’t happen immediately, though. Twitter policy states that the read-only sin bin can last for up to seven days “depending on the nature of the violation.” We’re imagining Jones got the full one-week penalty, but we’re waiting on Twitter to confirm that.

The offending tweet in question is a link to a story claiming President “Trump must take action against web censorship.” It looks like the tweet has already been deleted, but not before Twitter judged that it violates its policy on abuse:

Abuse: You may not engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so. We consider abusive behavior an attempt to harass, intimidate, or silence someone else’s voice.

When you consider the things Infowars and Jones have said or written — 9/11 conspiracies, harassment of Sandy Hook victim families and more — the content in question seems fairly innocuous. Indeed, you could look at President Trump’s tweets and find seemingly more punishable content without much difficulty.

But here we are.

The weirdest part of this Twitter caning is one of the reference points that the company gave to media. These days, it is common for the company to point reporters to specific tweets that it believes encapsulate its position on an issue, or provide additional color in certain situations.

In this case, Twitter pointed us — and presumably other reporters — to this tweet from Infowars’ Paul Joseph Watson:

WTF, Twitter…