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By Usama Jawad96
Microsoft confirms it has halted PAC donations
by Usama Jawad
A Political Action Committee (PAC) is a private body that funds political campaigns via donations. Under U.S. laws, a PAC cannot give more than $5,000 to a candidate committee per election, and the amount is funded purely based on voluntary donations. Most Fortune 500 companies have a PAC which typically donates money to campaigns which support their interests.
One such company is Microsoft, whose PAC came under the magnifying glass following the attack on the Capitol earlier this month. As a result, the firm has now publicly confirmed that it has suspended PAC donations until it completes its assessment of the situation. The matter was first internally discussed a few weeks ago, but has now been made public.
In an employee meeting on January 21, Microsoft president Brad Smith highlighted that although 80% of the donations had gone to members of Congress who voted to uphold the Electoral College, 20% of its PAC donations in the last four years went to Congress members who voted against the certification of Electoral College votes.
Consequently, there have been some internal discussions at Microsoft as to whether it should pause PAC donations to these Congress members and take stricter action against "members who led that effort or who fed disinformation, in our view, to the American public". Now, the firm has confirmed that it is suspending PAC donations until at least February 15, saying that:
It remains to be seen what "consequences" Microsoft has in mind for Congress members who voted against the Electoral College, but we'll learn more in a few weeks. It is also important to note that other big tech organizations such as Google and Facebook have also paused PAC donations for now in light of the Capitol siege.
By Usama Jawad96
Facebook believes it made the right decision in banning Trump, but has referred the case
by Usama Jawad
Former U.S. President Donald Trump was banned from various social media platforms earlier this month. Among these was Facebook, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg personally announcing the suspension, stating that it was indefinite and would continue at least until then President-elect Joe Biden takes office.
With the aforementioned stipulation now complete, Facebook has deferred the case to its independent Oversight Board, while emphasizing that it believes it made the right call in suspending Trump's account a couple of weeks ago.
In a blog post, Facebook has highlighted that the case has been referred to the Oversight Board, which was formed last year and consists of global civic leaders from various backgrounds and industries. You can view the full list of members here.
Facebook has emphasized that it believes that it made the right decision in suspending Trump's account under "extraordinary circumstances" on January 7, and it hopes that the Oversight Board will agree to the indefinite ban based on the justifications provided. The firm went on to say that:
It is important to note that the Oversight Board's decision will be final and not even Zuckerberg will have the authority to veto it. Facebook will also be open to recommendations from the organization about how to deal with cases of suspending political leaders, should the need arise in the future.
The Oversight Board's process for assessing the case will also be of interest to some readers. From a bird's eye view, a five-member panel will review the case and Trump's page administrators will be allowed to submit statements as to why Facebook's original decision will be overturned. The panel will have up to 90 days to achieve a decision that has to be supported by a simple majority of Oversight Board members. In response, Facebook will have seven days to implement the recommendations made by the panel and up to 30 days to respond to them. The findings of the case and the final outcome will be published on the Oversight Board's website here.
By Namerah S
YouTube starts removing videos claiming Trump won the election
by Namerah Saud Fatmi
Google-owned video streaming giant YouTube has just announced some new policies that will now be implemented on the platform. These recent changes have been made in light of the results of this year's elections in the United States.
In accordance with the site's community guidelines, YouTube is going to start removing content that provides false information, specifically about the outcome of the U.S. 2020 election. Although the platform has already been removing such false content regularly since September, the removal process will now also include videos claiming that Donald J. Trump won.
The updated policy has been put in place today as yesterday was the last day for the safe harbour deadline for the election as per the U.S. federal law. This means that the latest decision that was reached for selecting the next presidential candidate must be accepted. Any legal disputes that existed and have been resolved by states so far can be certified and considered final. This means that even Congress will not be able to challenge them. Therefore, with over 270 electoral votes, it can now be concluded that Joe Biden is now officially and indisputably the next U.S. president.
Going forward, any videos posted on YouTube which question the position of Biden as the newly elected president or spread similar misinformation will be taken off the platform. This includes conspiracy theories or doubts surrounding the fair manner of the voting process itself. If a YouTuber uploads videos suggesting the votes were counted incorrectly due to whatever reason, such clips will be taken down.
By Ather Fawaz
Trump campaign website briefly defaced by hackers
by Ather Fawaz
Image via Alex Brandon With the U.S. Presidential Elections just around the corner, President Donald Trump's campaign website was briefly taken over and defaced by hackers. In an act that lasted close to 30 minutes, The New York Times reports that hackers replaced a section of Trump's campaign website. Gabriel Lorenzo Greschler, who is a journalist at the Jewish News of Northern California, was among the first to report of the incident. Greschler stumbled upon the hack while researching climate change, and proceeded to make a video demonstrating the seized website:
As seen above, hackers took over the 'Coalitions' tab on the President's website and claimed to have compromised 'multiple devices', essentially giving them access to 'most internal and secret conversations', including classified information. They further threatened to discredit the POTUS by choosing to either release the sensitive data or keep it a secret. The choice of this was left at the hands of site visitors; an encryption key was also dropped on the page so that the hackers could solicit votes in a cryptocurrency called Monero. The hackers also accused the Trump administration of cooperating with foreign actors in manipulating the upcoming elections and of having a hand in the advent of the coronavirus.
Tim Murtaugh, the spokesman for the Trump campaign confirmed the reports of the website being defaced and said they were “working with law enforcement authorities to investigate the source of the attack.” He later clarified that there was no leak of sensitive data either and that the website had been restored.
This hack comes less than a week after an ethical hacker claimed to have obtained access to President Trump's official Twitter account with the password 'maga2020!'. It's also days after the President claimed in a campaign rally that “Nobody gets hacked. To get hacked you need somebody with 197 I.Q. and he needs about 15 percent of your password.” Regardless, intelligence agencies have claimed that today's defacement could've been yet another cryptocurrency fraud to solicit money via phishing.
Source: Gabriel Lorenzo Greschler (Twitter) via The New York Times
Facebook bans QAnon representing accounts across all platforms
by Hamza Khan
Social media giant Facebook said on Tuesday that it is banning groups, pages, and Instagram accounts that represent QAnon, as the firm believes the QAnon conspiracy theory movement to be dangerous and is spreading misinformation.
Facebook first attempted to crack down the movement by imposing restriction on QAnon representing accounts in August, resulting in a complete ban of over 1,500 Pages and groups that discussed violence, while allowing others to stay. The firm said that the change is an update to its previous policy.
“Starting today, we will remove Facebook Pages, Groups and Instagram accounts for representing QAnon. We’re starting to enforce this updated policy today and are removing content accordingly, but this work will take time and will continue in the coming days and weeks,” the company wrote in a press release. “Our Dangerous Organizations Operations team will continue to enforce this policy and proactively detect content for removal instead of relying on user reports.”
The company labels QAnon as “Militarized Social Movements”. The company's spokesperson said that the firm believed it needed to limit the “ability of QAnon and Militarized Social Movements to operate and organize on our platform.”