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.
SINGAPORE, August 19 -- Internet search giant Baidu has launched cloud computing services in Singapore, as the company moves to catch up with Chinese rivals Alibaba Group Holding and Tencent Holdings in Southeast Asia’s biggest information technology market.
Nasdaq-listed Baidu will focus on supporting mainland Chinese companies expanding in the region, as well as meeting the requirements of domestic firms for “high-performing, secured and reliable” cloud services, the company said in a statement on Monday.It is offering a full stack of cloud services for a range of industries – including gaming, finance and internet services – in Singapore, which was forecast by Forrester Research to spend US$30 billion on enterprise technology in 2019 and 2020 to lead all economies in Southeast Asia. The huge demand for cloud computing services in the city state, according to Baidu, is driven by its prime geographic location in Asia and its role as one of the world’s largest international financial centers.
Cloud computing enables companies to buy, sell, lease or distribute over the internet a range of software and other digital resources as an on-demand service, just like electricity from a power grid. These resources are managed inside data centers. Baidu’s foray into Singapore’s cloud services market comes as Southeast Asia has become one of the focal points for global investors, start-ups and Chinese technology conglomerates, led by Alibaba and Tencent, which have been expanding outside their home market.
SEOUL, August 14 -- South Korean company to start making Isocell Bright HMX sensor, developed with Chinese firm Xiaomi, that offers detailed images similar to those of high-end DSLR cameras.
Samsung announced a new camera sensor on Monday, designed for smartphones, which packs 108 megapixels. Smartphone cameras typically have about 12 to 16 megapixels, where each megapixel, or million pixels, represents the small individual areas on a computer screen that are used measure the quality of an image or digital screen. However, Samsung’s new 108-megapixel camera sensor, the Isocell Bright HMX, is the first to go above 100 megapixels for a smartphone camera, the South Korean technology company says. The megapixel count is comparable to a high-end digital single-lens reflex camera.
With its 108 megapixels, the Isocell Bright HMX is designed to take extremely detailed photos. It’s also designed to take better lowlight shots by merging the pixels to absorb more light. When the pixels are merged, the megapixel count is reduced from 108 to 27, which is still more than twice as many as a standard smartphone camera. For recording video, Samsung’s Isocell Bright HMX can shoot up to 6K resolution at 30 frames per second, where the highest video resolution that smartphone cameras have been able to shoot is 4K at 60 frames a second. Samsung worked in partnership with Chinese smartphone giant Xiaomi to develop the sensor, so it is likely that it will be featured in a forthcoming Xiaomi phone. The South Korean firm did not mention whether its own smartphones or other smartphone makers in the future will feature the 108-megapixel sensor. It said it was starting mass production of the Isocell Bright HMX sensor this month.
He had been placed on suicide watch last month but then taken off within a week, according to a person familiar with the matter. White House officials did not immediately return a request for a comment on why Mr Trump was spreading the conspiracy theory. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment on the president's retweet. A Clinton spokesman responded on Twitter: "Ridiculous, and of course not true - and Donald Trump knows it. Has he triggered the 25th Amendment yet?" On Saturday, Senator Marco Rubio warned against embracing conspiracy theories. While scrutiny of Epstein's apparent suicide is warranted, Mr Rubio said, he added that "the immediate rush to spread conspiracy theories about someone on the 'other side' of partisan divide having him killed illustrates why our society is so vulnerable to foreign disinformation & influence efforts".Still, Mr Trump's retweet will surely help fuel the conspiracy theories that have quickly spread online since the news of Epstein's death broke on Saturday. And the president - who is on vacation at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey - is no stranger to using his considerable public platform to promote conspiracy theories, particularly those that target his political opponents.
For years, Mr Trump promoted the myth that former president Barack Obama was born in Kenya rather than in the United States. During the 2016 presidential campaign, Mr Trump spread a conspiracy theory that Mr Rafael Cruz, the father of Senator Ted Cruz, was somehow connected to the assassination of president John F. Kennedy. Mr Trump has claimed without evidence that Mr Obama wiretapped Trump Tower in New York, and once entertained an unsubstantiated theory that former Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who died in his sleep in February 2016, may have been murdered.
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.
WASHINGTON, July 16 -- President Donald Trump on Sunday assailed a group of Democratic congresswomen of color as foreign-born troublemakers who should go back to the “broken and crime infested places from which they came,” ignoring the fact that the women are American citizens and all but one was born in the U.S.
Trump’s tweets drew sharp rebukes from Democrats, who derided his remarks as racist. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the president wants to “make America white again.” And Republican Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan, a Trump critic who recently took steps to leave his party, called the remarks “racist and disgusting.” Trump was almost certainly referring to Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and her allies in what’s become known as “the squad.” The others are Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. Only Omar, from Somalia, is foreign-born.
Ocasio-Cortez swiftly denounced his remarks. “Mr. President, the country I come from, & the country we all swear to, is the United States,” she tweeted. “You are angry because you can’t conceive of an America that includes us. You rely on a frightened America for your plunder.” With his tweet, Trump again inserted himself into a rift between Pelosi and the liberal congresswomen, after offering an unsolicited defense of the Democratic speaker days earlier. Pelosi has been seeking to minimize Ocasio-Cortez’s influence in recent days, prompting Ocasio-Cortez to accuse Pelosi of trying to marginalize women of color. “She is not a racist,” Trump said Friday.
On Sunday, Trump’s tone turned nativist
“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” he said in tweets. “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done.” He added: “These places need your help badly, you can’t leave fast enough. I’m sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”
The attacks may have been meant to further the divides within the Democrat caucus, strained over internal debates on liberal policies and on whether to proceed with impeachment proceedings against Trump. Instead, Democrats as one voice denounced the comments, which evoked the old racist trope of telling a black person to go back to Africa. “Unfortunately there is an American tradition of telling people to go back where they came from,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, a Democratic presidential contender, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” ”It’s a very bad tradition that we need to weed out of our nation because we are a nation of immigrants, that is who we are by our nature for hundreds of years. But you don’t expect to hear it from the president.”
Another 2020 contender, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, tweeted at the president: “This is racist. These congresswomen are every bit as American as you — and represent our values better than you ever will.” Few Republicans immediately weighed in on the president’s comments. Shortly after the tweets, and a later post defending the harsh scenes at a border detention facility where hundreds of migrant men are being held in sweltering, foul-smelling conditions, Trump left the White House to go golfing at his Virginia club. It was far from the first time that Trump has been accused of holding racist views. His political career was launched on the backs of falsely claiming that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States. In his campaign kickoff in June 2015, he deemed many Mexican immigrants “rapists.” And last year, during a White House meeting on immigration, he wondered why the United States was admitting so many immigrants from “shithole countries” like Haiti, El Salvador and several African nations.
Ocasio-Cortez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, was born in the Bronx, New York, and raised in suburban Westchester County. Pressley, the first black woman elected to the House from Massachusetts, was born in Cincinnati. Omar, the first Somali native elected to Congress and one of its first Muslim women, was born in Somalia but spent much of her childhood in a Kenyan refugee camp as civil war tore apart her home country. She immigrated to the United States at age 12, teaching herself English by watching American TV and eventually settling with her family in Minneapolis.
Tlaib was born in Detroit.
PALO ALTO, July 16 -- iOS 13 is still in beta and therefore bugs are to be expected, but a recently-discovered security vulnerability in the operating system is especially worth noting.
This iOS 13 bug makes it easy for someone to gain access to the “Website & App Passwords” data in Settings. Essentially, when running iOS 13 developer beta 3 or the second public beta of iOS 13, it’s incredibly easy to bypass the Face ID or Touch ID authentication prompt in Settings when trying to access your iCloud Keychain passwords. The issue was first noted on Reddit. As detailed by iDeviceHelp on YouTube, you can access all of the saved usernames and passwords in Settings by repeatedly tapping the “Website & App Passwords” menu and avoiding the Face ID or Touch ID prompt. After several tries, iOS 13 will show all of your passwords and logins, even if you never successfully authenticated with Face ID or Touch ID.
9to5Mac confirmed that this vulnerability is present in the latest iOS 13 developer beta. Apple has been informed of the issue via the Feedback app in iOS 13, but has yet to acknowledge it. The bug is also present in the latest betas of iPadOS 13. Of course, in order to access the “Website & App Passwords” menu, someone would also need to unlock your device to begin with, whether it be through Face ID, Touch ID, or with your passcode. By running an iOS beta, you accept a certain level of risk and this vulnerability is a good example of such risk. Though, it is notable that such a major security hole is present in the public beta of iOS 13, which Apple released ahead of schedule to users. Nonetheless, you should never expect an iOS beta to be perfectly secure and stable, especially only 6 weeks into the testing process. Apple released iOS 13 beta 3 to developers on July 2nd. This means we’re likely just a day or two away from the release of iOS 13 beta 4. Ideally, iOS 13 beta 4 and iOS 13 public beta 3 will resolve this vulnerability, but there’s no guarantee.
WASHINGTON, July 12 -- The US will investigate a French plan to impose taxes on technology companies, a move that has been a prelude to new US tariffs under the Trump administration.
US trade representative Robert Lighthizer will have as long as a year to examine whether the plan would hurt US technology firms, and suggest remedies. The so-called 301 investigation is the same tool president Donald Trump used to impose tariffs on Chinese goods because of the country's alleged theft of intellectual property.
Other European countries have started to pursue their own digital tax plans after a EU-wide effort stalled earlier this year.
Author: Lora Smith
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