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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Social media giants have taken a number of steps to try to clear misinformation off their platforms, but those efforts aren't likely to appease furious lawmakers in both parties.

What's happening: When they testify virtually before House lawmakers on Thursday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will point to recent company policy changes to argue they're doing what they can to stem the tide of misinformation and extremism online.

Yes, but: Policy changes are not the same thing as effective results.

  • "The performance that they've shown us to date is largely, much of it, unacceptable," Rep. Jan Schakowsky, who chairs the House Energy & Commerce consumer protection panel, said at an event Monday. "We are moving ahead with legislation and with regulation.... It's happening."

Flashback: Democratic lawmakers have long been angry about misinformation on social platforms and have previously questioned the CEOs on the problem.

  • The anger peaked again after pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6, with lawmakers pointing to extremists organizing on Facebook groups, posting their indiscretions on Instagram Live and following former President Trump's tweets calling supporters to go to the Capitol.
  • Shortly after, Twitter permanently suspended Trump, while Facebook and YouTube have suspended his account until further notice. Trump's appeal of the account suspension is currently before Facebook's oversight board.
  • Conservative lawmakers have argued that platforms' decisions to suspend Trump and groups who support him are examples of censorship and political bias.

Facebook outlined its work to deter misinformation in an op-ed Monday that noted that warning screens placed on false posts deter people from clicking 95% of the time.

  • This month, Facebook expanded its restrictions on recommending civic and political groups to users around the world, after previously imposing the limits on recommending such groups in the U.S.
  • Other changes include penalizing groups that break Facebook rules by not recommending them as often and warning users when they're about to join a group that violates Facebook's standards.
  • In February, the company announced a crackdown on pandemic misinformation, saying it would bar the posting of debunked claims about vaccines.

Twitter has suspended more than 150,000 accounts for sharing QAnon content since the Capitol attack, a spokesperson told Axios.

  • The company also announced this month it will label tweets with potentially misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines, and introduce a strike system that can lead to permanent account suspension.
  • Twitter is revisiting its policies on politicians and government officials, seeking public input on whether world leaders should be subject to the same rules as everyone else.

YouTube said this month it has taken down more than 30,000 videos that made misleading or false claims about COVID-19 vaccines over the last six months.

  • Parent company Google barred advertisers from running ads that referenced the 2020 election or topics related to the Jan. 6 insurrection.

The other side: Facebook could have prevented about 10.1 billion estimated views on pages sharing misinformation if it had implemented certain algorithm and moderation policies in March 2020, according to a new study from progressive non-profit Avaaz.

  • Prominent pages repeatedly sharing misinformation tripled views on Facebook from October 2019 to October 2020, the Avaaz researchers also found, along with evidence that the 100 most popular false or misleading stories on Facebook received about 162 million views.
  • Facebook disputes the findings. “This report distorts the serious work we’ve been doing to fight violent extremism and misinformation on our platform,” said Facebook spokesman Andy Stone. “Avaaz uses a flawed methodology to make people think that just because a Page shares a piece of fact-checked content, all the content on that Page is problematic.”

What's next: Lawmakers are prepared to introduce legislation to address the spread of misinformation and disinformation.

Update: This story has been updated to include a comment from Facebook.

Go deeper

White House: Over 500,000 new shots recorded Friday, highest since July 1

Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The United States recorded more than half a million new COVID-19 vaccine shots on Friday, the highest number since July 1, White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

Why it matters: The Delta variant is continuing to spread across the United States and it now comprises over 80% of the coronavirus cases in the country, Jean-Pierre said. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that "vaccination is the most important strategy to prevent severe illness and death."

Biden to announce sanctions, other efforts to address crisis in Cuba amid protests

Photo: Sarah Silbiger/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden will announce sanctions against one entity and two Cuban individuals this afternoon and provide details on his administration's efforts to improve internet connectivity in Cuba, a senior administration official said Friday.

Why it matters: After initially hoping to place the issue on the back burner, the White House has recently ramped up its focus on Cuba amid protests on the island and in the United States, congressional backlash and political pressure from the South Florida Cuban community.

  • The president is also expected to make announcements on remittances and plans for U.S. embassy augmentation, the official said.
  • The official noted that the administration is in talks with private sector providers about the possibility of providing wireless LTE communications to the Cuban people.
  • "Given the protest of July 11, it is important for U.S. diplomats to engage directly with the Cuban people and if we can do that in a way that ensures the safety of U.S. personnel, that is something that we will undertake," he said, noting that the president would announce more details later this afternoon.

The details: The president will meet today with Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), a Cuban-American, and House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), among other political and community leaders and artists.

  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), an outspoken voice on Cuban issues, is not expected to attend the meeting.
  • The meeting follows a series of engagements by Cedric Richmond and the Office of Public Engagement with the Cuban-American community, the official said.

What they're saying: "We're gonna do everything we can to keep Cuba on the front burner, so we can keep the conversation on the rights of the Cuban people and their rights to manifest peacefully," the official said on the call with reporters.

Be smart: Cuba is a tricky political issue for Democrats, who are split on the matter. The president was defeated by Donald Trump in South Florida during the 2020 election, and Democrats fear similar results, particularly in the upcoming midterms, if they mishandle the situation.

Go deeper: The newly announced sanctions today will follow already imposed sanctions against Cuban officials and entities allegedly responsible for human rights abuses during the government's crackdown on island-wide protests earlier this month.

1 hour ago - Health

DeSantis to bar Florida schools from mandating masks

Photo: Michael Reaves via Getty Images

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said Friday he will issue an executive order "very soon" barring local school districts from requiring students to wear masks when they return to school next month, NBC News reports.

Why it matters: The spread of the Delta variant has led to a spike in new infections across the U.S., triggering another round of debate about COVID guidelines in schools.