By AMANDA SEITZ Associated Press
CHICAGO (AP) — Twitter announced Monday it will start alerting users when a tweet makes disputed or misleading claims about the coronavirus.
The new rule is the latest in a wave of stricter policies that tech companies are rolling out to confront an outbreak of virus-related misinformation on their sites. Facebook and Google, which owns YouTube, have already put similar systems in place.
The announcement signals that Twitter is taking its role in amplifying misinformation more seriously. But how the platform enforces its new policy will be the real test, with company leaders already tamping down expectations.
Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of site integrity, acknowledged as much: “We will not be able to take enforcement action on every tweet with incomplete or disputed information about COVID-19.”
Roth said Monday the platform has historically applied a “lighter touch” when enforcing similar policies on misleading tweets but said the company is working to improve the technology around the labels.
In February, Twitter said it would add warning labels to doctored or manipulated photos and videos after a recording of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was slowed down to make it appear as though she slurred her words. But even with obviously fake videos, such as one showing Joe Biden lolling his tongue and grinning that was shared by President Donald Trump, the company has since used the label only twice, in part because of technical glitches.
And Twitter has not added any warning labels to politicians’ tweets that violate its policies but are deemed in the “public interest” under a policy the company announced in June 2019.
Under the newest COVID-19 rules, Twitter will decide which tweets are labeled — only taking down posts if they are harmful.
Politicians’ tweets will be subject to the notices, which will be available in roughly 40 languages.
Some of the questionable tweets will run with a label underneath that directs users to a link with additional information about COVID-19. Other tweets might be covered entirely by a warning label alerting users that “some or all of the content shared in this tweet conflict with guidance from public health experts regarding COVID-19.”
Twitter won’t directly fact check or call tweets false on the site, said Nick Pickles, the company’s global senior strategist for public policy. The warning labels might send users to curated tweets, public health websites or news articles.
“People don’t want us to play the role of deciding for them what’s true and what’s not true but they do want people to play a much stronger role providing context,” Pickles said.
The notices, which could start appearing as soon as today, could also apply retroactively to past tweets.
The fine line is similar to one taken by tech rival Facebook, which has said it doesn’t want to be an “arbiter of the truth” but has arranged for third-party fact checkers to review falsehoods on its site. The Associated Press is part of Facebook’s fact-checking program.
One example of a disputed tweet that might be labeled on its site includes claims about the origin of COVID-19, which remains unknown. Conspiracy theories about how the virus started and if it is man-made have swirled around social media for months.
Twitter will continue to take down COVID-19 tweets that pose a threat to the safety of a person or group, along with attempts to incite mass violence or widespread civil unrest. The company has been removing bogus coronavirus cures and claims that social distancing or face masks do not curb the virus’ spread for several weeks.
AP Technology Writer Barbara Ortutay contributed to this story from Oakland, Calif.
GM looking to build 2nd US battery factory, Tennessee likely
General Motors says it’s looking for a site to build a second U.S. battery factory with joint venture partner LG Chem of Korea.
The companies hope to have a decision on a site in the first half of the year, spokesman Dan Flores said Thursday.
Flores would not say where the company is looking, but it’s likely to be near GM’s Spring Hill, Tennessee, factory complex, which is one of three sites the company has designated to build electric vehicles.
A joint venture between GM and LG Chem currently is building a $2 billion battery factory in Lordstown, Ohio, near Cleveland, that will employ about 1,000 people. The site is fairly close to GM’s two other designated electric vehicle plants, one in Detroit and the other north of the city in Orion Township, Michigan.
GM is likely to need far more battery capacity if it’s able to deliver on a goal of converting all of its new passenger vehicles from internal combustion engines to electricity by 2035.
LG Chem now has a battery cell plant in Holland, Michigan, that supplies power to the Chevrolet Bolt hatchback and the new Bolt electric SUV.
Industry analysts have said that automakers face a global shortage of batteries as the industry moves away from gasoline powered vehicles. Most of the world’s batteries are built in China and other countries.
The Wall Street Journal first reported that GM and LG Chem are pursuing a site in Tennessee to build a new battery plant.
GM’s venture is risky, at least based on U.S. electric vehicle sales. Last year full battery electric vehicles accounted for only 2% of the U.S. market of 14.6 million in new vehicle sales. But automakers are set to roll out 22 new electric models this year and are baking on wider consumer acceptance.
The consulting firm LMC Automotive predicts that U.S. battery powered vehicle sales will hit over 1 million per year starting in 2023, reaching over 4 million by 2030.
DETROIT (AP) — By TOM KRISHER
UK competition watchdog investigates Apple’s App Store
U.K. authorities have launched an investigation into Apple’s App Store over concerns it has a dominant role that stifles competition and hurts consumers.
The Competition and Markets Authority said Thursday it was looking into “suspected breaches of competition law” by Apple. The announcement adds to regulatory scrutiny of the iPhone maker’s app distribution platform, which is also the subject of three antitrust probes by the European Union’s executive Commission.
Apple said the App Store is “a safe and trusted place for customers” and a “great business opportunity for developers.”
The investigation was triggered in part by complaints from app developers that Apple will only let them distribute their apps to iPhone and iPad users through the App Store. The developers also complained that the company requires any purchases of apps, add-ons or upgrades to be made through its Apple Pay system, which charges up to 30% commission.
“Millions of us use apps every day to check the weather, play a game or order a takeaway,” Andrea Coscelli, the authority’s CEO, said in a statement. “So, complaints that Apple is using its market position to set terms which are unfair or may restrict competition and choice – potentially causing customers to lose out when buying and using apps – warrant careful scrutiny.”
The watchdog said it would consider whether Apple has a “dominant position” in app distribution for Apple devices in the U.K., and, if it does, whether the company “imposes unfair or anti-competitive terms on developers” that results in less choice or higher prices for consumers buying apps and extra.
Apple said it looked forward to explaining its App Store guidelines to the U.K. watchdog.
“We believe in thriving and competitive markets where any great idea can flourish,” the company said by email. “The App Store has been an engine of success for app developers, in part because of the rigorous standards we have in place — applied fairly and equally to all developers — to protect customers from malware and to prevent rampant data collection without their consent.”
By The Associated Press
UK extends job support, tax breaks for pandemic-hit economy
Britain’s treasury chief on Wednesday announced an additional 65 billion pounds ($91 billion) of support for an economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, extending job support programs and temporary tax cuts to help workers and businesses in his annual budget.
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak told the House of Commons that it is too soon for the government to rein in spending, saying that his plans would “protect the jobs and livelihoods of the British people” through September as the government slowly lifts lockdown restrictions that have shut businesses across the U.K.
At the same time, he said Britain must be prepared to cut the deficit, announcing plans to increase the tax on corporate profits and boost revenue from personal income taxes in 2023.
“An important moment is upon us,” Sunak told the House of Commons. “A moment of challenge and of change. Of difficulties, yes, but of possibilities, too. This is a budget that meets that moment.”
U.K. public borrowing has risen to levels not seen since World War II as the government seeks to cushion the fallout from COVID-19, which has reduced gross domestic product by 10% and cost more than 700,000 people their jobs. Projections released Wednesday by the Office for Budget Responsibility show that the economy will still be 3% smaller five years from now than it would have been without the pandemic.
Sunak said government support programs have succeeded in mitigating the impact. The unemployment rate is now expected to peak at about 6.5%, rather than the 11.9% forecast last July, he said, citing estimates from the Office for Budget Responsibility. The economy is forecast to grow 4% this year and 7.3% in 2022.
On Wednesday, Sunak announced plans to extend those support programs for six months. They include a furlough program, under which the government pays 80% of the wages for private employees unable to work during the pandemic, as well as grants for self-employed workers, a temporary increase in welfare payments and tax relief for businesses.
Sunak cheered business leaders by offering a tax credit of up to 130% of the money companies invest in expanding and improving their operations. Sunak said the credit is expected to increase investment by 10% or 25 billion pounds over the next two years, creating jobs and boosting economic growth.
Stephen Phipson, chief executive of Make UK, described the policy as bold.
“Manufacturers have strong intentions to invest in capital equipment as well as digital and green technologies which are crucial for our long-term recovery,” he said. “Today’s announcement should help turbocharge investment to ensure that those plans turn into reality in the short-term.”
Looking to the future, Sunak said the government will in 2023 increase corporation tax to 25%, from the current rate of 19%, and freeze personal income tax thresholds, which will increase revenue as inflation boosts incomes.
But opposition leader Keir Starmer accused Sunak of failing to address deep-seated economic problems and banking on a “consumer spending blitz” to bail out the economy.
Starmer said the budget fails millions of key workers who are having their pay frozen, businesses swamped by debt, and families paying higher local property taxes.
“The central problem in our economy is a deep-rooted insecurity and inequality, and this budget isn’t the answer to that,” Starmer said. “So rather than the big, transformative budget that we needed, this budget simply papers over the cracks.”
Ian Blackford, the Scottish National Party’s leader in Parliament, criticized Sunak for continuing a strategy of temporary support that leaves businesses and consumers unsure of the future.
The budget leaves Scottish voters with a clear choice as the SNP campaigns to hold a second referendum on independence from the U.K., Blackford said.
“For the people of Scotland, this budget comes at a critical moment of choice,” he said, echoing Sunak’s language. “Post-Brexit and post-pandemic, Scotland now has a choice of two futures: The long-term damage of Brexit and more Tory austerity cuts, or the opportunity to protect her place in Europe and to build a strong, fair and green recovery with independence.”
LONDON (AP) — By DANICA KIRKA
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