Misinformation Watch

By Donie O'Sullivan, Kaya Yurieff, Kelly Bourdet, the CNN Business team and contributors from across CNN

Updated 4:00 p.m. ET, January 15, 2021
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4:38 p.m. ET, January 13, 2021

Facebook sees online signals indicating more potential violence 

From CNN Business' Donie O'Sullivan

Facebook has seen online signals, on its platform and elsewhere, indicating the potential for more violence following last week’s insurrection, a company spokesperson told CNN Wednesday. 

The company is working with organizations that track terrorists and dangerous groups to monitor conversation on other platforms, like 8Kun (formerly 8chan) and 4chan, in an effort to prevent talk of violence from those platforms becoming popular on Facebook, the spokesperson said.

One example of work Facebook is doing on this, according to the spokesperson, is collecting and indexing promotional fliers being distributed on other sites for more demonstrations this weekend and on Inauguration Day. Indexing promotional material like this can help make it easier for Facebook to identify and remove that material from its platforms or prevent it from being posted in the first place.

The spokesperson said Facebook is monitoring and removing praise of or support for last week’s storming of the US Capitol from its platform. 

Facebook has passed on information to the FBI and is cooperating with the agency’s efforts to identify members of last week’s insurrection, the spokesperson said. 

11:32 a.m. ET, January 13, 2021

Google pauses all political ads until after the inauguration

From CNN Business' Brian Fung

Google will temporarily ban all political advertising on multiple platforms after formally designating the Capitol riots, the impeachment process and the inauguration as "sensitive events" under its policies, the company said Wednesday.

The pause will last from Jan. 14 until at least the day after the inauguration next week, the company said in a letter to marketers, which was obtained by CNN Business.

Google said in the letter that it will restrict advertising "referencing candidates, the election, its outcome, the upcoming presidential inauguration, the ongoing presidential impeachment process, violence at the US Capitol, or future planned protests on these topics."

"There will not be any carveouts in this policy for news or merchandise advertisers," Google continued in the letter.

Ads will be banned from Google as well as YouTube, according to the letter.

In a statement to CNN Business, a Google spokesperson said the ban is driven by last week's Capitol violence.

"Given the events of the past week, we will expand our Sensitive Event policy enforcement to temporarily pause all political ads in addition to any ads referencing impeachment, the inauguration, or protests at the US Capitol," Google said in the statement. "We regularly pause ads over unpredictable, 'sensitive' events when ads can be used to exploit the event or amplify misleading information. Beyond this, we have long-standing policies blocking content that incites violence or promotes hate and we will be extremely vigilant about enforcing on any ads that cross this line.”

Google imposed a similar "sensitive events" ad blackout surrounding Election Day and for several weeks after. The company lifted its election-related moratorium on political advertising on Dec. 10, indicating in a letter to advertisers obtained by CNN Business that "we no longer consider the post-election period to be a sensitive event."

But the events of the past several weeks, culminating in last week's riots, suggest that determination may have been premature.

7:59 a.m. ET, January 13, 2021

Fact check: Man in viral airport tantrum video was kicked off plane for rejecting mask policy, not because of Capitol insurrection

From CNN's Daniel Dale

A video that shows an agitated man in an airport terminal, complaining that he had been kicked off a plane and insulted, has now been viewed more than 20 million times on Twitter.

Why has the 18-second video gone so viral? In part because someone on Twitter -- not the person who actually recorded the video -- added a caption that suggested that the man had been put on a no-fly list for being part of the insurrection at the US Capitol.

"People who broke into the Capitol Wednesday are now learning they are on No-Fly lists pending the full investigation. They are not happy about this," the tweeter, who goes by the handle @RayRedacted, said in the caption. 

Facts FirstThe Twitter caption was inaccurate: The airport incident was not about the Capitol insurrection. Rather, the man in the video had been asked to get off a Charlotte-to-Denver flight for refusing to comply with American Airlines' mandatory mask policy, airline spokesman Curtis Blessing told CNN.

Read more here.

7:53 a.m. ET, January 13, 2021

YouTube is suspending President Donald Trump's channel

From CNN Business' Brian Fung

YouTube is suspending President Donald Trump's channel for at least one week, and potentially longer, after his channel earned a strike under the platform's policies, the company said Tuesday evening.

A recent video on Trump's channel had incited violence, YouTube told CNN Business. That video has now been removed.

YouTube declined to share details of the video that earned Trump the strike, but said that after the one-week timeout, it will revisit the decision. YouTube also removed content from the White House's channel for violating policy, the company told CNN Business, but the channel itself has not been suspended or been given a strike -- just a warning.

Until now, YouTube had been the only remaining major social media platform not to have suspended Trump in some fashion. Facebook has suspended Trump's account "indefinitely," while Twitter has banned Trump completely.

Read more here.

12:55 p.m. ET, January 12, 2021

How a 'nobody' in Texas with 200 Twitter followers created a viral post with false impeachment claims

From CNN's Daniel Dale

A viral tweet claims that impeaching President Donald Trump for a second time would mean he would lose the ability to run for president in 2024.

That's not true. Nor are other claims in the tweet.

The tweet was posted on Friday, two days after a Capitol insurrection by a mob of Trump supporters sparked a new impeachment push from House Democrats. As of early Monday, it had more than 181,000 retweets and 725,000 likes.

When we called Ben Costiloe, the person behind the tweet, to tell him that we were planning a fact check and that much of the tweet was inaccurate, he said good-naturedly: "Tear it a new one. Go for it, baby." He said he is "nobody," a man who lives with diabetes in Texas and did the tweet because he had seen the information pop up somewhere on his Facebook feed and "it made me feel good." 

He said he was never sure the content was correct and was amazed the tweet went so viral. He said he had only 200 Twitter followers at the time he posted it. 

"I don't want to mess up the world. I just wanted to make me feel good," he said. "It turns out it made a lot of people feel good."

Read more here.

10:05 p.m. ET, January 11, 2021

Twitter says it has banned 70,000 accounts since Friday that promoted QAnon

From CNN Business' Brian Fung

Since Friday, Twitter has suspended more than 70,000 accounts from its platform for promoting the baseless QAnon conspiracy theory, the company said in a blog post Monday evening. 

The social media platform has been on an enforcement spree in recent days as it has removed major QAnon adherents including Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell. Many of the banned account-holders operated multiple accounts, Twitter said.

The moves have contributed to major fluctuations in some users’ Twitter accounts, the company acknowledged. 

“In some cases, these actions may have resulted in follower count changes in the thousands,” Twitter said. 

The company’s blog post also goes over other steps the company has taken in recent days to limit the spread of violent rhetoric on its platform, including making it impossible for any tweets “labeled for violations of our civic integrity policy to be replied to, Liked or Retweeted.” 

8:35 p.m. ET, January 8, 2021

Parler has been removed from the Google Play store

From CNN Business' Brian Fung

Parler, the alternative social media platform popular with conservatives, has been banned from the Google Play Store, Google told CNN Business Friday evening. 

Google said its app store has long required that apps displaying user generated content have moderation policies in place to prevent the spread of violent rhetoric. 

"We're aware of continued posting in the Parler app that seeks to incite ongoing violence in the US," a Google spokesperson said. "We recognize that there can be reasonable debate about content policies and that it can be difficult for apps to immediately remove all violative content, but for us to distribute an app through Google Play, we do require that apps implement robust moderation for egregious content. In light of this ongoing and urgent public safety threat, we are suspending the app's listings from the Play Store until it addresses these issues." 

The decision marks a major blow to President Donald Trump's supporters, many of whom have found a home on the Parler platform. But it does not completely deny them access to the app. Because Android allows for third-party app stores, Parler can still be hosted on app stores not operated by Google. 

Google's decision follows a report by BuzzFeed News that Apple has threatened to remove Parler from the iOS App Store. (Apple declined to comment on the report.)

Parler is among a group of relatively new platforms that have billed themselves as free speech alternatives in hopes of courting conservatives who believe larger platforms are censoring their views. 

Read more here.

8:25 p.m. ET, January 8, 2021

YouTube says it has banned Steve Bannon's "War Room" channel

From CNN Business' Brian Fung

YouTube has banned Steve Bannon's "War Room" podcast channel after earning three strikes on the platform in the last 90 days, the company told CNN.

Bannon's first strike came in November after he called for putting Dr. Anthony Fauci's head "on a pike." 

Two other videos were removed on Friday afternoon for violating YouTube's policies against questioning the 2020 election outcome, YouTube said, resulting in two additional strikes. Under YouTube's policy, a channel may be permanently banned after three strikes.

"In accordance with our strikes system, we have terminated Steve Bannon’s channel 'War room' and one associated channel for repeatedly violating our Community Guidelines," a YouTube spokesperson said.

"As we said yesterday, any channel posting new videos with misleading content that alleges widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election in violation of our policies will receive a strike, a penalty which temporarily restricts uploading or live-streaming."

7:30 p.m. ET, January 8, 2021

Twitter bans President Trump permanently

From CNN Business' Brian Fung

Twitter has suspended President Donald Trump from its platform, the company said Friday evening.

"After close review of recent Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account and the context around them we have permanently suspended the account due to the risk of further incitement of violence," Twitter said.

"In the context of horrific events this week, we made it clear on Wednesday that additional violations of the Twitter Rules would potentially result in this very course of action."

Twitter's decision followed two tweets by Trump Friday afternoon that would end up being his last. The tweets violated the company's policy against glorification of violence, Twitter said, and "these two Tweets must be read in the context of broader events in the country and the ways in which the President's statements can be mobilized by different audiences, including to incite violence, as well as in the context of the pattern of behavior from this account in recent weeks."

The first tweet was about Trump's supporters.

"The 75,000,000 great American Patriots who voted for me, AMERICA FIRST, and MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, will have a GIANT VOICE long into the future. They will not be disrespected or treated unfairly in any way, shape or form!!!"

The second indicated Trump did not plan to attend Joe Biden's inauguration.

Read more here