SAN FRANCISCO, August 20 -- Twitter and Facebook said on Monday (Aug 19) they had dismantled a state-backed information operation originating in mainland China that sought to undermine protests in Hong Kong.
Twitter said it suspended 936 accounts and the operations appeared to be a coordinated state-backed effort originating in China. It said these accounts were just the most active portions of this campaign and that a "larger, spammy network" of approximately 200,000 accounts had been proactively suspended before they were substantially active. Facebook said it had removed accounts and pages from a small network after a tip from Twitter. It said that its investigation found links to individuals associated with the Chinese government. Social media companies are under pressure to stem illicit political influence campaigns online ahead of the US election in November 2020. A 22-month US investigation concluded Russia interfered in a "sweeping and systematic fashion" in the 2016 US election to help Donald Trump win the presidency. The Chinese embassy in Washington and the US State Department were not immediately available to comment. The Hong Kong protests, which have presented one of the biggest challenges for Chinese President Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012, began in June as opposition to a now-suspended bill that would allow suspects to be extradited to mainland China for trial in Communist Party-controlled courts. They have since swelled into wider calls for democracy. Twitter in a blog post said the accounts undermined the legitimacy and political positions of the protest movement in Hong Kong.
Examples of posts provided by Twitter included a tweet from a user with photos of protesters storming Hong Kong's Legislative Council building, which asked: "Are these people who smashed the Legco crazy or taking benefits from the bad guys? It's a complete violent behavior, we don't want you radical people in Hong Kong. Just get out of here!" In examples provided by Facebook, one post called the protesters "Hong Kong cockroaches" and claimed that they"refused to show their faces". In a separate statement, Twitter said it was updating its advertising policy and would not accept advertising from state-controlled news media entities going forward. Twitter told Reuters the advertising change was not related to the suspended accounts. In the past week, China’s official Xinhua news agency and state broadcaster China Global Television Network (CGTN) paid to promote videos that portrayed the protests as violent and said Hong Kong citizens wanted the demonstrations to end, according to Twitter’s Ads Transparency Centre. Twitter said it did not have data on how much revenue it generates from state-controlled media advertising. Many countries including the United States do not have clear standards on state media’s purchase of online advertising. Total digital ad spending in Hong Kong will grow 11 per cent to reach US$786.1 million in 2019, according to projections by US digital market data analyst eMarketer.
Alphabet's YouTube video service told Reuters in June that state-owned media companies maintained the same privileges as any other user, including the ability to run ads in accordance with its rules. YouTube did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday on whether it had detected inauthentic content related to protests in Hong Kong. In a tweet on Sunday, China’s influential state-run tabloid, The Global Times, hailed the response of Chinese “netizens” to the protests, saying: “Chinese netizens’ power! Amid escalating protests in Hong Kong, Chinese netizens on Saturday swept Facebook and Instagram to denounce secessionist posts and show support for Hong Kong police.” About 98 per cent of social network users in Hong Kong, or 4.7 million people, will log into Facebook at least once a month in 2019, according to eMarketer projections, while 9.4 per cent of social network users will use Twitter.
CHANTILLY, July 17 -- The Group of Seven industrialized nations started a two-day financial meeting Wednesday in France, focusing on effective measures to regulate Facebook Inc.'s proposed digital currency Libra to prevent potential money laundering and terrorist financing.
The G-7 finance ministers and central bank governors are also expected to discuss ways to reform global corporate tax rules amid criticism that big internet companies get away without paying their fair share of taxes as they can book profits in low-tax jurisdictions. The meeting came as regulators, lawmakers and central bankers are scrutinizing Facebook's project -- unveiled just last month -- to create a crypto currency-based retail payments system in a move that critics say could affect the global financial system and challenge the role of the dollar as the world's main reserve currency. Speaking to reporters ahead of the meeting in Chantilly, north of Paris, Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda sought close international coordination in drawing up regulations for Libra and crypto currency payments. "If (Libra) were to be used as a means of payments, it could well affect the economy and finance," Kuroda said, calling for necessary regulations to curb a significant impact if the project were to be implemented "on a huge platform." He was referring to the social media giant's global reach with its user base of 2.7 billion, about a third of the world's population.
The BOJ chief said that together with measures for financial stability, antitrust and privacy issues could also be part of regulations.
Kuroda and Finance Minister Taro Aso are representing Japan at the gathering, which also brings together their counterparts from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United States and the European Union. U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has warned that Libra and other cryptocurrencies are a "national security issue," and that digital asset providers must be subject to government regulations and oversight just like any bank. Mnuchin said President Donald Trump's administration has "very serious concerns" that Libra, which Facebook plans to launch as early as next year, could be used for unlawful activity such as money laundering and financing terrorism. France, which holds this year's G-7 presidency, has launched a task force to study how central banks can regulate Libra and other cryptocurrencies to prevent money laundering and ensure consumer protection and financial system stability. The G-7 also plans to discuss a French call for minimum corporate taxation as part of efforts to appropriately tax information technology giants such as Google LLC, Amazon.com Inc., Facebook and Apple Inc. in a revamp of cross-border tax rules proposed by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. But it is not known whether France will win G-7 backing for its initiative, partly because the United States has criticized Paris' new tax on major internet companies' revenue in the country for "unfairly" targeting American companies.
Customarily, the G-7 will assess the state of the world economy and look into measures to mitigate downside risks to global growth such as trade tensions between the United States and China. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has signaled the U.S. central bank will likely cut interest rates in late July for the first time in 11 years, given uncertainties about trade policy and the world economic outlook. China's economic growth slowed to 6.2 percent in the April-June quarter, the weakest pace in at least 27 years, as Trump sharply raised tariffs on Chinese imports in May to pressure Beijing into altering what Washington says are unfair trade practices. The G-7 finance ministers and central bankers are not planning to issue a joint statement after the meeting, but French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire is expected to release a summary of discussions, according to Japanese delegation sources.
NEW YORK, July 11 -- Instagram has launched new measures to prevent bullying online, including a novel use of artificial intelligence to catch offensive messages prior to posting.
Bullying on social media, particularly among youth, has been seen in Japan and many other countries around the world, with online problems sometimes escalating to crime or suicide. Noting that it has endeavored for years to reduce bullying via AI that detects harmful comments, photos and videos, the Facebook-owned platform said, "We started rolling out a new feature powered by AI that notifies people when their comment may be considered offensive before it's posted." Calling bullying "a complex issue," Instagram said in a release on Monday, "We can do more to prevent bullying from happening on Instagram, and we can do more to empower the targets of bullying to stand up for themselves."
The new tool "gives people a chance to reflect and undo their comment and prevents the recipient from receiving the harmful comment notification," Instagram said, adding that teens are unlikely to report online bullying even though they experience it the most. Instagram said it will also test a new method called "Restricted" to protect a user's account from unwanted interactions. "Once you restrict someone, comments on your posts from that person will only be visible to that person. You can choose to make a restricted person's comments visible to others by approving their comments." Under the new feature, restricted people will not be able to see "when you're active on Instagram or when you've read their direct messages," the operator said.
Author: Lora Smith
LONDON, July 10 -- It’s the F1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone this weekend which means many from London and the south-east will be headed up the M1, M40, A5 or taking a “quick route only we know” over the coming days to take in the spectacle in Northamptonshire.
Doubtless many of them will be followers of current F1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton. But, how many of them actually “follow” Hamilton on Twitter? Research carried out by private number plates company Click4reg.co.uk suggests the figure is not as big as it might appear. The research concludes that 34.3% of Hamilton’s followers are, to use a currently popular word – fake! Even allowing for these figures, Hamilton still has the biggest following among F1 drivers who have a personal Twitter account (two – Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel – don’t have one).
The research showed that:
Last November, Instagram cracked down on celebrities and influencers with followers who aren’t genuine. This ‘purge’ reduced significant numbers of fake, inactive, spam, bots, or as often discovered – bought – followers. Why buy followers? Users may do so to appear more influential, to harness more media and therefore commercial attention, among other reasons. But Instagram isn’t the only social platform faced with this issue. Twitter has battled the problem of bots and spam accounts for many years. So, with the British Grand Prix as its cue, Click4reg wanted to discover how many followers of the 20 competing F1 drivers are fake.
Author: Lora Smith
LONDON, June 26 -- Bitcoin jumped to its highest in eighteen months on Wednesday on safe-haven investment flows and growing expectations that Facebook’s Libra could turn cryptocurrency investments mainstream.
“It obviously does appear to be benefiting from some sort of flows that gold is benefiting too,” said Michael Hewson, chief market strategist at CMC Markets. “You’ve got all this stuff about Libra going on which is renewing interest in bitcoin”. Bitcoin traded last at $12,485 after reaching a high of $12,935 earlier in the Asian session. So far this year, the cryptocurrency has nearly tripled in value after being in the doldrums last year.
Az-Zahra Hussein, his daughter, said in a Facebook post her father will be released "with precautionary measures", and will soon be transferred to a police station from the prison. Gamal Eid, the executive director of the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, said under Egyptian law Hussein must be freed within 24 hours. "This is a final court ruling but the problem is that security forces tend to delay releases when they do not like those freed," said Eid, adding in some previous cases the execution of the release order took several months. The journalist has been in custody since 2016 without formal charges, trial or conviction. Hussein was accused of "incitement against state institutions and broadcasting false news with the aim of spreading chaos", allegations he and Al Jazeera Media Network deny. Nasr told Anadolu news agency the Cairo Criminal Court rejected the prosecutors' appeal on Thursday. "This case shows the misuse of pre-trial detention as a form of punishment in Egypt," said Eid. He said there are at least 20,000 people currently in detention without charge in Egypt for political reasons. Hundreds of them have already exceeded the legal two-year pre-trial term, he added. Since the overthrow of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi in 2013, Al Jazeera Media Network has been portrayed as Egypt's national enemy for its coverage of the group. Many of its reporters have been arrested on grounds of spreading lies and supporting "terrorists" - a reference to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood organisation.
Hussein's detention was in violation of both Egyptian and international laws, with the former setting 24 months as the maximum period for pre-trial detention. Egyptian authorities have repeatedly renewed his two-year detention. He was arrested on December 20, 2016, by Egyptian authorities upon his arrival in Cairo to visit his family. In February, the United Nations called Hussein's jailing "arbitrary detention", saying the "appropriate remedy would be to release Mr Hussein immediately". In 2013, Egypt also arrested and later imprisoned Al Jazeera's Abdullah Elshamy, Baher Mohamed, Mohamed Fahmy and Peter Greste on charges of spreading "false news" - cases that were widely condemned by international media outlets and many politicians. All have since been freed. Ibrahim Helal, former editor-in-chief of Al Jazeera Arabic, was sentenced to death in absentia for purportedly endangering national security. Several other colleagues have also been charged in absentia, such as journalists Sue Turton and Dominic Kane.
ROTTERDAM, May 22 -- WhatsApp Status, which is the equivalent of Instagram and Facebook Stories will get advertisements by the year 2020. This was revealed at an ongoing Facebook Marketing Summit taking place in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Facebook has already said in the past that it will be bringing advertisements to the platform, and this latest information just confirms the timeline. Instagram Stories already had advertisements. Matt Navarra, who is a social media consultant and commentator, posted on Twitter that WhatsApp Status will get ads in 2020 and that businesses on the platform will get support for richer messaging format options. It also looks like the WhatsApp product catalog will be integrated with existing Facebook Business Manager catalog. Olivier Ponteville, who is the Head of Media at BeConnectAgency also posted details about the upcoming features on his Twitter page along with photos from the Facebook presentation. He posted images from the presentation, which showcase how ads will appear on WhatsApp in the Status feature. The richer former support will include Image+text along with PDF+ text support for businesses who use the messaging platform.
LOS ANGELES, May 20 -- Alphabet’s Google has suspended business with Huawei that requires the transfer of hardware, software and technical services except those publicly available via open source licensing, a source familiar with the matter.
In a blow to the Chinese technology company that the US government has sought to blacklist around the world. The move could hobble Huawei’s smartphone business outside China as the tech giant will immediately lose access to updates to Google’s Android operating system. The next version of its Android smartphones will also lose access to popular services including the Google Play Store and Gmail and YouTube apps. “Huawei will only be able to use the public version of Android and will not be able to get access to proprietary apps and services from Google,” the source said. The Trump administration on Thursday added Huawei Technologies to a trade blacklist, immediately enacting restrictions that will make it extremely difficult for the company to do business with US counterparts.
On Friday the US Commerce Department said it was considering scaling back restrictions on Huawei to “prevent the interruption of existing network operations and equipment.” It was not immediately clear on Sunday whether Huawei’s access to mobile software would be affected.
LOS ANGELES, May 15 -- Authorities in mainland China have blocked Wikipedia, its owner said on Wednesday.
“In April, the Wikimedia Foundation determined that Wikipedia was no longer accessible in China,” Samantha Lien, spokeswoman for the foundation, which owns the online encyclopaedia, said. “After closely analysing our internal traffic reports, we can confirm Wikipedia is blocked across all language versions,” Lien said. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media sites have long been blocked in mainland China, as have individual Wikipedia articles about sensitive issues, like the 1989 pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square and the Himalayan region of Tibet. Suspicion of a total block on Wikipedia surfaced in late April when some Chinese internet users took to social media to complain the site was no longer accessible. Tests run by GreatFire.org, an organisation that tracks internet censorship in China, showed the site had not been accessible from within mainland China since April 23.
MENLO PARK, April 3 -- Facebook has been caught practicing the worst ever user-verification mechanism that could put the security of its users at risk.
Generally, social media or any other online service asks users to confirm a secret code or a unique URL sent to the email address they provided for the account registration. However, Facebook has been found asking some newly-registered users to provide the social network with the passwords to their email accounts, which according to security experts is a terrible idea that could threaten privacy and security of its users.
First noticed by Twitter account e-Sushi using the handle @originalesushi, Facebook has been prompting users to hand over their passwords for third-party email services, so that the company can "automatically" verify their email addresses. However, the prompt only appears for email accounts from certain email providers which Facebook considers to be suspicious.
"Tested it myself registering 3 times with 3 different emails using 3 different IPs and 2 different browsers. 2 out of 3 times I faced that email password verification thing right after clicking "register account" on their front page sign up form," e-Sushi said in a tweet. "By going down that road, you're practically fishing for passwords you are not supposed to know!"
It’s ironic that this news came just two weeks after Facebook admitted that it mistakenly stored passwords for "hundreds of millions" of its users insecurely in plaintext for years in company logs which were accessible to 2,000 Facebook employees.
In a statement provided to the Daily Beast, Facebook confirmed the existence of such "dubious" verification process but also claimed it doesn't store the user-provided email passwords on its server. Facebook also said it would end the practice of asking for email passwords altogether. "We understand the password verification option isn’t the best way to go about this, so we are going to stop offering it," Facebook said. Facebook also noted that the users asked for their email passwords as a means of verifying their accounts could opt for other verification methods such as a passcode sent to their phone number or a link to their email address by clicking the "Need help?" button on the page.