'People don't want...': Microsoft president on tech giant's step on 'fake news'

Published on Sep 22, 2022 02:08 PM IST

Microsoft President says tech companies and democratic governments need to be very thoughtful and careful because basically people rightly want to make up their own mind, which they should.

Although, Microsoft has done substantial investment in information operation analysts and tools to monitor propaganda campaigns.(Reuters)
Although, Microsoft has done substantial investment in information operation analysts and tools to monitor propaganda campaigns.(Reuters)
By | Written by Singh Rahul Sunilkumar | Edited by Aryan Prakash

Microsoft Corp. has announced it won’t label social media posts that appear to be false in order to project the company stands against online censorship. In what could be a big paradigm shift in defining disinformation, President Brad Smith said in an interview with Bloomberg News that people don’t want governments as well as tech companies to tell what’s true or false.

This stance of Microsoft severely deviates from other technology firms who advocate stern action on fake news. The comments are Smith’s clearest sign yet that Microsoft is taking an unprecedented path to tracking and disrupting digital propaganda efforts.

Facebook and Twitter have come under fire for their efforts to flag and take down false or misleading posts from their platforms. The debate over truth has turned into a politicised topic, with governments charging that social media companies suppress a certain ideology.

In India, the Centre is at loggerhead with Twitter over the issue of removal of certain contents from the social media platform. The government charged the social media company was “not taking effective steps to prevent the spread of fake news or deliberate misinformation.”

Microsoft claims it has done substantial investment in information operation analysts and tools to monitor propaganda campaigns. The company, which operates the Bing search engine and LinkedIn social network, has dismantled the infrastructure needed to keep the malicious software of suspected Russian, Iranian, Chinese, and North Korean state hackers active.

Smith said, presently, Microsoft is concentrating on transparently tracking disinformation campaigns that target their private and public sector customers and publicise their existence.

Microsoft will take similar steps as it does with cybersecurity incident reports. The company will share its propaganda-related findings with international governments, intending to lobby politicians to agree on a set of rules for a nation-state strategy in cyberspace.

Microsoft released a report this year on Russian cyber-espionage targeting Ukraine, stating that attackers carried out the hacks in tandem with disinformation campaigns and military assaults. In one instance, it was claimed that hackers stole material from organisations in the nuclear industry to help the military and state-run media spread lies about Ukraine’s supposed development of chemical and biological weapons and to support the capture of nuclear power stations by Russia.

Smith said Microsoft chose to present the public with more information about who is speaking, what they are saying, and support them to come to their own conclusion about whether the information was genuine. He further added that tech companies and democratic governments need to be very thoughtful and careful because basically people rightly want to make up their own mind, which they should.

(With inputs from Bloomberg)

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