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Facebook shareholders demand report on the threat to democracy and free speech from ‘fake news’

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Shareholders have proposed that Facebook Inc prepare a report on the threat to democracy and free speech from so-called fake news spread on the social media forum, and the dangers it may pose to the company itself, according to a proxy filing made on Friday.

The proposal, which said Facebook had provided “a financial mechanism supporting fabricated content” on the internet, suggests the company review the issue broadly, including the extent to which it blocks fake posts, how its strategies impact free speech and how it evaluates claims in posts.

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“Facebook is highly vulnerable, as fake news promoters are spamming their way to visibility for fake news through strategically gaming Facebook’s algorithms and publishing platform,” the proposal states.

“In light of the societal crisis generated by the explosion of fake news and related hate speech, failure to effectively manage this issue creates public policy risk,” it said.

The issue of fake news came to prominence during the U.S. presidential election last year, when many inaccurate posts were widely shared on Facebook and other social media services. Facebook has said it is tackling the problem.

It already has a program in France to use outside fact-checkers to combat fake news in users’ feeds and suspended 30,000 accounts in France on Thursday, ahead of the country’s presidential election.

Separately, shareholders also proposed a gender pay equality report be prepared by December.

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The proposal recommends the company disclose the percentage pay gap between male and female employees across race and ethnicity, policies taken to address the gap, the methodology used to take those measures, and targets that could be set to reduce the gap.

Facebook’s board of directors have recommended a vote against both proposals.

(Reporting by Sangameswaran S in Bengaluru; Editing by Bill Rigby)

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Research reveals the damage right-wing media has inflicted on America — and it’s just the tip of the iceberg

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Donald Trump wants to go after social media because Twitter pointed out one of his lies. And, in fact, social media has done a lot of damage to America and the American body politic, with the most visible example being it’s help in putting Donald Trump in the White House in 2016.

But even more concerning should be Fox News and right wing hate radio. A new study out of Columbia university finds that when people in any particular ZIP Code experience a 1% increase in Fox News viewership, it “reduces the propensity to stay at home by 8.9 percentage points compared to the pre-pandemic average.”

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Texas bar owner bans masks to prevent ‘virtue signaling’ – and kickstarts an online firestorm

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A bar owner in Elgin, Texas, has implemented a new rule for his business: no entry with a mask.

“Due to our concern for our citizens, if they feel the need to wear a mask, then they should probably stay home until it’s safe," read a sign posted outside Liberty Tree Tavern.

Speaking to 9News, bar owner Kevin Smith said he's following social distancing guidelines so the masks are unnecessary.

The bar's Facebook page shared an article on the story, and the comment section filled up with a mix of reactions.

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Dutch ban transport of mink after farm workers infected

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Dutch authorities on Thursday announced a nationwide ban on the transport of mink after mink farm workers were believed to have contracted coronavirus from the small mammals.

The infections in the south of the Netherlands could be the "first known cases of animal-to-human transmission", the World Health Organization had said on Tuesday.

The Dutch government had previously made COVID-19 testing mandatory on all mink farms in the country, where the animals are bred for their fur.

"Until the results of this screening are known," the transport of mink and mink manure will be banned to combat the spread of the new coronavirus, Public Health Minister Hugo de Jonge and Agriculture Minister Carola Schouten said in a letter to parliament.

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