The Straits Times’ (ST) recent article, which highlighted how digital literacy applies to social media giant Facebook and Singapore’s Smart Nation and Digital Government Office (SNDGO), drew flak after netizens spotted one glaring error made by its tech editor.
The article, penned by ST’s tech editor Irene Tham, brought up about US President Donald Trump being banned from social media platforms – Twitter and Facebook – in the aftermath of the violent riots at the US Capitol by his supporters.
While Twitter “almost immediately” removed the relevant videos and suspended Mr Trump’s account for 24 hours, Facebook weighed its own response and censored employees’ discussion on whether the company should ban Mr Trump from the platform.
Commenting on Facebook’s lack of speed in dealing with such an extreme situation, Ms Tham wrote: “Google-owned Twitter’s prompt response made Facebook’s delayed action look inadequate – an afterthought.”
The social media giant has reportedly suspended Mr Trump’s accounts – on Facebook and Instagram – “indefinitely” on 7 January, but the editor noted that people were still questioning Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s motives.
“Facebook’s delayed suspension of Mr Trump’s account adds to its many failures to aggressively crack down on disinformation and hate speech for which the firm has already attracted massive criticism – externally as well as internally,” she added.
The tech editor also spoke of Singapore’s TraceTogether programme launched in March last year, in which SNDGO had initially said that TraceTogether data would be used only for contact tracing of COVID-19 cases.
SNDGO subsequently updated TraceTogether’s online privacy statement with other uses, followed by the revelation in Parliament on 4 January that police can obtain TraceTogether data for criminal investigations.
The sudden change in the use of TraceTogether data sparked public outcry which led to the Government introducing legislation that set out seven categories of serious offences for which such data can be used for criminal investigations.
“To be sure, the cases of Facebook and the SNDGO are completely unrelated. They are similar in that both organisations failed to comprehend the changing public norms and expectations in a rapidly evolving digital world,” said Ms Tham.
“Savvy users and citizens are increasingly calling for greater sensitivity to issues such as ethics and privacy,” she added.
Netizens, however, were quick to spot one glaring error on the article.
On Reddit specifically, they pointed out that the tech editor had mistaken for the ownership of microblogging site Twitter as a Google-owned company.
True enough, almost 75 per cent of Twitter Inc’s stock – which was founded in 2006 by Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Noah – is actually owned by institutional investors who buy large stakes in companies for their clients, as reported by Investopedia.
The top ten Twitter’s investors are including The Vanguard Group Inc (9.76%), Morgan Stanley (7.01%), BlackRock Fund Advisors (4.92%), SSgA Funds Management Inc (4.48%), ClearBridge Investments LLC (2.87%), Aristotle Capital Management LLC (2.12%), Geode Capital Management LLC (1.58%), Northern Trust Investments Inc (1.50%), Fidelity Management & Research Co (1.39%), and Credit Suisse Securities LLC (1.28%).
VOX reported that Google acquired most of Twitter’s developer products for an undisclosed price in 2017, but it does not own Twitter as a whole company.
One netizen commented that the ST’s tech editor made “such a rookie mistake”.
Some netizens questioned how the article was approved to be published, given that the author has made “such a glaring factual error” of two well-known tech giants.
ST apologises for the error, removes “Google-owned” part
ST has since removed the “Google-owned” part from the article after receiving negative comments from netizens, and apologized on the matter.
“Correction note: An earlier version of the story referred to Twitter as Google-owned. Google owns a part of Twitter but not the whole company. We are sorry for the error,” it stated.