Facebook, Twitter Sued Over Anti-COVID-19 Misinformation Tool

A Xerox subsidiary alleges that social media platforms made use of its patents without permission.

Palo Alto Research Center Inc (PARC), a subsidiary of Xerox Corp, has accused Facebook and Twitter of infringing several of its patents, including some tools that the company has used to stop the spreading of fake news and misinformation.

In three suits filed in the US District Court for the Central District of California, PARC accused Facebook of infringing seven of its patents, Twitter of infringing six and Snapchat of infringing three, with eight patents at issue overall. PARC claimed that its patented technologies were used to support numerous key functionalities of the social media companies.

All three platforms were alleged to have infringed on PARC’s patents covering methods for collecting contextual information and for using that information to create and present informative content, which PARC says the social media companies used to solve problems related to determining relevant audiences and targeting them with tailored advertising.

“Because PARC was at the nucleus of the idea that later birthed the Internet, it anticipated many of these issues before they ever became a problem for Facebook,” the company said in its filings, adding that its technology “forms the backbone” of solutions now used by Facebook and other platforms.

PARC also claimed that Facebook and Twitter infringed US Patent No. 7,167,871, which it describes as a method for “determining the reliability of a document based on its textual contents,” and which it claims is being used by the social media platforms to identify and flag misinformation.

The company claimed that Facebook made extensive use of this technology in combating misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic. “In April 2020, Facebook weeded out and flagged 50 million false posts and 2.5 million exploitative ads for COVID-19 related products such as PPE and testing kits,” PARC said in its suit.

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