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How social media platforms plan to fight Election Day misinformation

Source image: https://www.cnbc.com/2022/11/07/social-media-platforms-prep-for-election-day-misinformation.html

Voters cast ballots on election day at the Fairfax County Government Center polling location in Fairfax, Virginia, on November 2, 2021.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

Follow CNBC’s live blog covering Monday’s campaigns ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

Social media platforms including Meta’s Facebook and Instagram, Twitter, TikTok and Google’s YouTube are readying themselves for another heated Election Day this week.

The companies now regularly come under close scrutiny around election time, something that accelerated following findings that Russian agents used social media to sow division in the run-up to the 2016 election. During the last presidential election in 2020, the platforms faced the challenge of moderating election denialism as an outgoing president stoked the false claims himself, leading several of them to at least temporarily suspend him after the Jan. 6 insurrection.

This year, the platforms are using all of those experiences to prepare for threats to democracy and safety as voters decide who will represent them in Congress, governor’s offices and state legislatures.

Here’s how all the major platforms are planning to police their services on Election Day.

Meta

Onur Dogman | Lightrocket | Getty Images

Meta’s Facebook has been one of the most scrutinized platforms when it comes to misinformation. In response to years of criticism, it has bolstered its approach to election integrity. It’s said it will use many of the same policies and safeguards this year that it had in 2020.

Meta has stood up its Elections Operations Center, which it likened to a command center, to bring together different teams throughout the company to monitor and quickly address threats they see on the platform. It’s used this model dozens of times worldwide since 2018.

Facebook and Instagram also share reliable information with users about how to vote (including in languages other than English). The company said it’s already sent more than 80 million election notifications this year on the two platforms.

The company uses third-party fact-checkers to help label false posts so they can be demoted in the algorithm before they go viral. Meta said it’s investing an additional $5 million in fact-checking and media literacy efforts before Election Day.

Meta said it’s prepared to seek out threats and coordinated harassment against election officials and poll workers, who were the subject of misinformation campaigns and threats during the last election.

The company is once again banning new political ads in the week before the election, as it did in 2020. While ads submitted before the blackout period can still run, political advertisers have expressed frustration about the policy since it’s often helpful to respond to last-minute attacks and polling with fresh messaging. Facebook already has extra screening for those who sign up as political advertisers and maintains information about political ads in a database available to the public.

Meta has pledged to remove posts that seek to suppress voting, like misinformation about how and when to vote. It also said it would reject ads that discourage voting or question the legitimacy of the upcoming election.

In a study by New York University’s Cybersecurity for Democracy and international NGO Global Witness testing election integrity ad screens across social media platforms, the groups found Facebook was mostly successful in blocking ads they submitted with election disinformation. Still, 20% to 50% of the ads tested were approved, depending on what language they were in and whether they were submitted from inside or outside the U.S.

The researchers also violated Facebook’s policies about who is allowed to place ads, with one of the test accounts placing ads from the U.K. The researchers also did not go through Facebook’s authorization process, which is supposed to provide extra scrutiny for political advertisers.

The researchers did not run the ads once they were approved, so it’s not clear whether Facebook would have blocked them during that step.

A Meta spokesperson said in a statement published with the study that it was “based on a very small sample of ads, and are not representative given the number of political ads we review daily across the world.”

“We invest significant resources to protect elections, from our industry-leading transparency efforts to our enforcement of strict protocols on ads about social issues, elections, or politics – and we will continue to do so,” a Meta spokesperson said in a statement to CNBC. The New York Times first reported the statement.

TikTok

TikTok owner ByteDance has launched a women’s fashion website called If Yooou. Pinduoduo launched an e-commerce site in the U.S. called Temu. The two companies are the latest Chinese tech giants to look to crack the international e-commerce market domianted by Amazon.

Mike Kemp | In Pictures | Getty Images

TikTok has become an increasingly important platform for all sorts of discussion, but it’s tried to keep its service at arm’s length from the most heated political discussions.

TikTok does not allow political ads and has stated its desire for the service to be “a fun, positive and joyful experience.”

“TikTok is first and foremost an entertainment platform,” the company said in a September blog post. It added that it wants to “foster and promote a positive environment that brings people together, not divide them.”

Still, the NYU and Global Witness study found TikTok performed the worst out of the platforms it tested in blocking election-related misinformation in ads. Only one ad it submitted in both English and Spanish falsely claiming Covid vaccines were required to vote was rejected, while ads promoting the wrong date for the election or encouraging voters to vote twice were approved.

TikTok did not provide a comment on the report but told the researchers in a statement that it values “feedback from NGOs, academics, and other experts which helps us continually strengthen our processes and policies.”

The service said that while it doesn’t “proactively encourage politicians or political parties to join TikTok,” it welcomes them to do so. The company announced in September that it would try out mandatory verification for government, politician and political party accounts in the U.S. through the midterms and disable those types of accounts from running ads.

TikTok said it would allow those accounts to run ads in limited circumstances, like public health and safety campaigns, but that they’d have to work with a TikTok representative to do so.

TikTok also barred these accounts from other ways to make money on the platform, like through tipping and e-commerce. Politician and political party accounts are also not allowed to solicit campaign donations on their pages.

TikTok has said it’s committed to stemming the spread of misinformation, including by working with experts to strengthen its policies and outside fact-checkers to verify election-related posts.

It’s also sought to build on its experiences from the last election, like by surfacing its election center with information about how to vote earlier in the cycle. It’s also tried to do more to educate creators on the platform about what kinds of paid partnerships are and are not allowed and how to disclose them.

Twitter

A video grab taken from a video posted on the Twitter account of billionaire Tesla chief Elon Musk on October 26, 2022 shows himself carrying a sink as he enters the Twitter headquarters in San Francisco. Elon Musk changed his Twitter profile to “Chief Twit” and posted video of himself walking into the social network’s California headquarters carrying a sink, days before his contentious takeover of the company must be finalized.

– | Afp | Getty Images

Twitter is in a unique position this Election Day, after billionaire Elon Musk bought the platform and took it private less than a couple weeks before voters headed to the polls.

Musk has expressed a desire to loosen Twitter’s content moderation policies. He’s said decisions on whether to reinstate banned users, a group that includes former President Donald Trump, would take a few weeks at least.

But shortly after the deal, Bloomberg reported the team responsible for content moderation lost access to some of their tools. Twitter’s head of safety and integrity, Yoel Roth, characterized that move as a normal measure for a recently acquired company to take and said Twitter’s rules were still being enforced at scale.

But the timing shortly before the election is particularly stark. Musk said teams would have access to all the necessary tools by the end of the week before the election, according to a civil society group leader who was on a call with Musk earlier in the week.

Before Musk’s takeover, Twitter laid out its election integrity plans in an August blog post. Those included activating its civic integrity policy, which allows it to label and demote misleading information about the election, sharing “prebunks,” or proactively debunked false claims about the election, and surfacing relevant news and voting information in a dedicated tab. Twitter has not allowed political ads since 2019.

Google/YouTube

People walk past a billboard advertisement for YouTube on September 27, 2019 in Berlin, Germany.

Sean Gallup | Getty Images

Google and its video platform YouTube are also important platforms outside of Facebook where advertisers seek to get their campaign messages out.

The platforms require advertisers running election messages to become verified and disclose the ad’s backing. Political ads, including information on how much money was behind them and how much they were viewed, are included in the company’s transparency report.

Prior to the last election, Google made it so users could no longer be targeted quite as narrowly with political ads, limiting targeting to certain general demographic categories.

The NYU and Global Witness study found YouTube performed the best out of the platforms it tested in blocking ads with election misinformation. The site ultimately blocked all the misinformation-packed ads the researchers submitted through an account that hadn’t gone through its advertiser verification process. The platform also blocked the YouTube channel hosting the ads, though a Google Ads account remained active.

Like other platforms, Google and YouTube highlight authoritative sources and information on the election high up in related searches. The company said it would remove content violating its policies by misleading about the voting process or encouraging interference with the democratic process.

YouTube also has sought to help users learn how to spot manipulative messages on their own using education content.

Google said it’s helped train campaign and election officials on security practices.

Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify that Meta’s statement on the study was first reported by The New York Times.

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Source: https://www.cnbc.com/2022/11/07/social-media-platforms-prep-for-election-day-misinformation.html

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Two children and two adults survive after Tesla plunges 250 feet off California cliff

View from the helicopter during a rescue operation after a vehicle carrying two adults and two children went over a cliff in Devil’s Slide, San Mateo county, California, U.S., January 2, 2023, plunging hundreds of feet, according to the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, in this still image obtained from social media video.

CHP – Golden Gate Division | Reuters

Two adults and two children were rescued from a Tesla that plunged 250 feet off a cliff Monday morning in San Mateo County, California, officials said. 

The car was traveling southbound on the Pacific Coast Highway when it went over the cliff at Devil’s Slide, south of the Tom Lantos tunnel, and landed near the water’s edge below, the Cal Fire San Mateo-Santa Cruz Unit said. 

The car flipped and landed on its wheels in the fall, CAL FIRE/Coastside Fire Incident Commander Brian Pottenger said. Witnesses saw the accident and called 911. 

As crews were lowered down, they were able to see movement in the front seat, through their binoculars, meaning someone was alive.

“We were actually very shocked when we found survivable victims in the vehicle. So, that actually was a really hopeful moment for us,” Pottenger said. 

Fire officials called for helicopters to help hoist the survivors to safety. As they waited, firefighters rappelled to the scene and rescued the two children.

Rescue teams are seen at the scene as a Tesla with four occupants plunged over a cliff on Pacific Coast Highway 1 at Devils Slide on January 2, 2022 in San Mateo County, California, United States.

Tayfun Coskun | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images

The California Highway Patrol shared video on social media showing helicopters lower first responders to the scene to extricate and rescue two adults inside. 

All four were hospitalized. The San Mateo Sheriff’s Office said the two adults suffered non-life-threatening injuries and the two children were unharmed.

It’s not clear what caused the car to go over the cliff. CHP is handling the investigation. 

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Tesla shares tumble more than 10% following deliveries report

Tesla vehicles are shown at a sales and service center in Vista, California, June 3, 2022.

Mike Blake | Reuters

Shares of Tesla dropped 13% on Tuesday morning, a day after the electric auto maker reported fourth-quarter vehicle production and delivery numbers for 2022.

Deliveries are the closest approximation of sales disclosed by Tesla. The company reported 405,278 total deliveries for the quarter and 1.31 million total deliveries for the year. These numbers represented a record for the Elon Musk-led automaker and growth of 40% in deliveries year over year, but they fell shy of analysts’ expectations.

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Some analysts see a buying opportunity in Tesla for 2023 despite persistent demand pressures

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According to a consensus of analysts’ estimates compiled by FactSet, as of Dec. 31, 2022, Wall Street was expecting Tesla to report around 427,000 deliveries for the final quarter of the year. Estimates updated in December, and included in the FactSet consensus, ranged from 409,000 to 433,000.

Those more recent estimates were in line with a company-compiled consensus distributed by Tesla investor relations Vice President Martin Viecha. 

Some Wall Street analysts think Tesla’s deliveries miss spells trouble for the electric vehicle maker, but others see a buying opportunity for the company in 2023.

Baird analyst Ben Kallo, who recently named Tesla a top pick for 2023, maintained an outperform rating and said he would remain a buyer of the stock ahead of the company’s earnings report, which is scheduled for Jan. 25.

“Q4 deliveries missed consensus but beat our estimates,” he said in a Tuesday note. “Importantly, production increased ~20% q/q which we expect to continue into 2023 as gigafactories in Berlin and Austin continue to ramp.”

Analysts at Goldman Sachs said they consider the delivery report to be an “incremental negative,” and view Tesla as a company that is “well positioned for long-term growth.” Goldman reiterated its buy rating on the stock in a Monday note and said that making vehicles more affordable in a challenging macroeconomic environment will be a “key driver of growth.”

“We believe key debates from here will be on whether vehicle deliveries can reaccelerate, margins and Tesla’s brand,” the analysts said.

Shares of Tesla suffered an extreme yearlong sell-off in 2022, prompting CEO Musk to tell employees in late December not to be “too bothered by stock market craziness.”

Musk has blamed Tesla’s declining share price in part on rising interest rates. But critics point to his rocky $44 billion Twitter takeover as a bigger culprit for the slide.

Morgan Stanley analysts said they think the company’s share price weakness is a “window of opportunity to buy.”

“Between a worsening macro backdrop, record high unaffordability, and increasing competition, there are hurdles for all auto companies to overcome in the year ahead,” they said in a note Tuesday. “However, within this backdrop we believe TSLA has the potential to widen its lead in the EV race, as it leverages its cost and scale advantages to further itself from the competition.”

CNBC’s Lora Kolodny and Michael Bloom contributed to this report.

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Tesla makes China boss Tom Zhu its highest-profile executive after Elon Musk

Tom Zhu Xiaotong, Tesla’s current executive in charge of China, speaks as a new Tesla experience store opens on Aug. 18, 2015 in Hangzhou, China.

Visual China Group | Getty Images

Tesla’s China chief Tom Zhu has been promoted to take direct oversight of the electric carmaker’s U.S. assembly plants as well as sales operations in North America and Europe, according to an internal posting of reporting lines reviewed by Reuters.

The Tesla posting showed that Zhu’s title of vice president for Greater China had not changed and that he also retained his responsibilities as Tesla’s most senior executive for sales in the rest of Asia as of Tuesday.

The move makes Zhu the highest-profile executive at Tesla after Chief Executive Elon Musk, with direct oversight for deliveries in all of its major markets and operations of its key production hubs.

The reporting lines for Zhu would keep Tesla’s vehicle design and development — both areas where Musk has been heavily involved — separate while creating an apparent deputy to Musk on the more near-term challenges of managing global sales and output.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Reuters reviewed the organizational chart that had been posted internally by Tesla and confirmed the change with two people who had seen it. They asked not to be named because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

Elon Musk needs to go back to Tesla and have others run Twitter, says Jim Cramer

Zhu and a team of his reports were brought in by Tesla late last year to troubleshoot production issues in the United States, driving an expectation among his colleagues then that he was being groomed for a bigger role.

Zhu’s appointment to a global role comes at a time when Musk has been distracted by his acquisition of Twitter and Tesla analysts and investors have urged action that would deepen the senior executive bench and allow him to focus on Tesla.

Under Zhu, Tesla’s Shanghai plant rebounded strongly from Covid lockdowns in China.

Tesla said on Monday that it had delivered 405,278 vehicles in the fourth quarter, short of Wall Street estimates, according to data compiled by Refinitiv.

The company had delivered 308,600 vehicles in the same period a year earlier.

The Tesla managers reporting to Zhu include: Jason Shawhan, director of manufacturing at the Gigafactory in Texas; Hrushikesh Sagar, senior director of manufacturing at Tesla’s Fremont factory; Joe Ward, vice president in charge of Europe, the Middle East and Africa; and Troy Jones, vice president of North America sales and service, according to the Tesla notice on reporting lines reviewed by Reuters.

Tesla country managers in China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand continued to report to Zhu, the notice showed.

Zhu does not have a direct report at Tesla’s still-ramping Berlin plant, but a person with knowledge of the matter said responsibility for that operation would come with the reporting line for Amsterdam-based Ward. Ward could not be immediately reached for comment.

Zhu, who was born in China but now holds a New Zealand passport, joined Tesla in 2014. Before that he was a project manager at a company established by his MBA classmates at Duke University, advising Chinese contractors working on infrastructure projects in Africa.

During Shanghai’s two-month Covid lockdown, Zhu was among the first batch of employees sleeping in the factory as they sought to keep it running, people who work with him have said.

Zhu, a no-fuss manager who sports a buzz cut, favors Tesla-branded fleece jackets and has lived in a government-subsidized apartment that is a 10-minute drive from the Shanghai Gigafactory. It was not immediately clear whether he would move after his promotion.

He takes charge of Tesla’s main production hubs at a time when the company is readying the launch of Cybertruck and a revamped version of its Model 3 sedan. Tesla has also said it is developing a cheaper electric vehicle but has not provided details on that plan.

When Tesla posted a picture on Twitter last month to celebrate its Austin, Texas, plant hitting a production milestone for its Model Y, Zhu was among hundreds of workers smiling on the factory floor.

Why China is beating the U.S. in electric vehicles

Allan Wang, who was promoted to vice president in charge of sales in China in July, was listed as the legal representative for the operation in registration papers filed with Chinese regulators in a change by the company last month.

Tesla board member James Murdoch said in November the company had recently identified a potential successor to Musk without naming the person. Murdoch did not respond to a request for comment.

Electrek previously reported that Zhu would take responsibility for U.S. sales, delivery and service.

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