Does Microsoft plan to disable the computers of users who share “non-mainstream content” online?

By February 7, 2024 Technology

This claim has been widely circulated on messaging groups and social media. According to the claim, Microsoft plans to disable the computers of users who share “non-mainstream content” online.

This claim was originally published on The People’s Voice – a website Black Dot Research has covered and fact-checked several times. Sporting a “fact checked” label despite not containing fact-checked content, the article is based on a report by Reclaim the Net containing commentary on an interview given by Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on 30th January.Part of that commentary includes the following sentence: “Nadella’s response seemed to imply a willingness to use technology for censoring content in pursuit of fighting what he identified as disinformation.” The People’s Voice article appears to have taken and reshaped this commentary from Reclaim the Net into their own article’s headline.We watched Nadella’s interview in full (Snopes has also obtained a full transcript of the interview). In it, Nadella discusses the use of technology to “identify issues around disinformation and misinformation,” as well as how tech companies might take steps to “build guardrails” against disinformation. We were unable to find any responses which reference an intent to disable user’s computers – neither was “non-mainstream content” even mentioned.

We therefore give this claim a rating of false – it appears to be pure speculation rather than an interpretation of the Microsoft CEO’s words.

The People’s Voice article – which is less than 100 words long – does not contain any new commentary beyond the misleading headline. It uses an image of Gates (who has not been CEO of Microsoft since 2000) and has been widely shared on social media despite nothing in the article supporting or even loosely referencing the claim.

The assumption many people make when encountering articles being shared online – usually with only the headline and accompanying image – is that they are at least somewhat based in fact or supported by evidence. This assumption of journalistic integrity, however, can be preyed upon by platforms such as The People’s Voice and used to spread disinformation widely under the guise of reporting and commentary.

The completely unsupported nature of the claim in this case stands out as an example of how easily even completely fabricated dis/misinformation can slip into the current social media news landscape amidst the constant stream of headlines. It also illustrates how important it is to seek out evidence, research credibility, and clarify the basis of such claims before re-sharing headlines.

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