Thirty countries use ‘armies of opinion shapers’ to control democracy – report

The governments of 30 countries around the world are utilizing military of so known as opinion shapers to meddle in elections, advance anti-democratic agendas and repress their citizens, a brand new report shows.

Unlike broadly reported Russian tries to influence foreign elections, the majority of the offending countries search on the internet to control opinion domestically, states US NGO Freedom House.

“Manipulation and disinformation tactics performed a huge role in elections in a minimum of 17 other nations in the last year, damaging citizens’ capability to choose their leaders according to factual news and authentic debate,” the federal government-funded charitable organization stated. “Although some governments searched for to aid their interests and expand their influence abroad, just like Russia’s disinformation campaigns within the U . s . States and Europe, generally they used these techniques in their own borders to keep their hang on power.”

Even just in individuals countries that didn’t have elections within the this past year, social networking manipulation was still being frequent. From the 65 countries surveyed, 30, including Venezuela, the Philippines and Poultry, were discovered to be using “armies of opinion shapers” to “spread government views, drive particular agendas, and counter government critics on social media”, based on Freedom House’s new Freedom around the Internet report. In each one of the 30 countries it found “strong indications that folks are compensated to distort digital information landscape within the government’s favour, without acknowledging sponsorship”.

Time has risen each year because the first report in ’09. In 2016, just 23 countries were discovered to be utilizing the same kind of pro-government “astroturfing” (an imitation grassroots movement). Lately “the practice is becoming considerably more prevalent and technically sophisticated, with bots, propaganda producers, and pretend news outlets exploiting social networking and check algorithms to make sure high visibility and seamless integration with reliable content,” the report states.

“The results of these quickly distributing techniques on democracy and social activism are potentially devastating … By bolstering the false perception that many citizens stand together, government bodies can justify crackdowns around the political opposition and advance anti-democratic changes to laws and regulations and institutions with no proper debate.”

The report describes the assorted forms this manipulation takes. Within the Philippines, it’s manifested like a “keyboard army” compensated $10 each day to function fake social networking accounts, which supported Rodrigo Duterte within the run-as much as his election this past year, and backed his attack around the drug trade this season. Turkey’s ruling party enlisted 6,000 individuals to manipulate discussions, drive agendas and counter opponents. The federal government of Sudan’s approach is much more direct: one inside the country’s intelligence service produced fake accounts to produce support for government policies and denounce critical journalists.

“Governments are actually using social networking to suppress dissent and advance an anti-democratic agenda,” stated Sanja Kelly, director from the Freedom around the Internet project. “Not only is that this manipulation hard to identify, it’s harder to combat kinds of censorship, for example website blocking, because it’s spread and due to the sheer number of individuals and bots deployed to get it done.Inches

“The fabrication of grassroots support for government policies on social networking results in a closed loop where the regime basically endorses itself, departing independent groups and ordinary citizens around the outdoors,” Kelly stated.

‘Our discomfort for his or her gain’: the American activists manipulated by Russian trolls

It’s painful for Tawanda Johnson to speak about her brother. However when she’s offered an opportunity to speak openly about how exactly he died in Baltimore police child custody, she pushes through her grief to sentence police brutality.

So Johnson was grateful to get familiar with a psychological protest in April this past year and meet other families who’d lost family members to police violence, a indication that they wasn’t alone: “There’s power in figures. There’s power within their tales.”

Then she learned this month that a few of the organizers behind the big event had were built with a completely different agenda.

Russia trying to hinder US politics.

“They are utilizing our discomfort for his or her gain. I’m profoundly disgusted,” stated Johnson, who had been stunned to listen to that Russian propagandists had impersonated Black activists fighting police violence and racism coupled with produced the big event on Facebook, where hundreds RSVP’d. “Facebook must take responsibility. Don’t discover afterwards. Afterwards is simply too late.”

Recent disclosures have says Russian trolls and bots manipulated social networking sites to spread false and inflammatory news within an apparent effort to stoke political divisions on the massive. Facebook accepted recently that the Russian influence operation had purchased $100,000 price of ads to spread divisive messages about racial injustice, Gay and lesbian legal rights, immigration along with other hot-button subjects, and Congress has become investigating. It seems that Twitter, Google, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest along with other sites helped spread the information.

Now, a Moscow-based news outlet known as RBC uncovered the job of the troll factory that infiltrated US social systems, with Russians pretending to be Americans and paying to legitimate activists in america, directly funding protest movements. The revelations claim that the Russian operation went beyond spamming online comment sections and distributing false news – which a classy interference campaign manipulated, controlled and produced real-world occasions.

US activists and citizens who unknowingly took part in Russia-backed schemes have responded with an array of reactions, from anger and confusion to indifference and amusement.

“I don’t understand: why would Russia even waste time?Inches stated Diane Butler, mom of Tyrone West, who died in police child custody after he was stopped for any traffic stop. Butler gave a tearful speech in the 2016 rally organized by Blacktivist, lately revealed to become a Russia-backed account inside a CNN report. “It is not sensible. We’re still in a lot discomfort. How dare someone try to benefit from my discomfort?”

The precise role of Blacktivist in organizing these types of occasions is unclear. In some instances, it seems that genuine activists ultimately grew to become active in the rallies, along with other occasions, the Russian group might have been advertising occasions which were mainly planned by real protesters. Regardless, the Russian accounts were built with a wide achieve – 360,000 adopted Blacktivist on Facebook – and sizable crowds demonstrated to the occasions they promoted.

Matt Albert, a brand new You are able to civil legal rights attorney representing the household asia Cummings, a black lady who died in prison, shrugged in the thought the compromised Blacktivist account helped organize a protest in a detention center in Erie County (evidenced by event pages and Facebook posts which have since been deleted).

“If someone is organizing a celebration that benefits accountability and justice, I do not mind what their motives are or who they really are,Inches stated Albert, who spoke in the Blacktivist-backed rally, addressing a little crowd on the pavement transporting signs for Cummings, who had been allegedly mistreated and mistreated in prison.

“It’s unfortunate that it requires Russia to deal with these problems instead of local leadership,” he stated, “but it shouldn’t undermine the truth that there is a serious issue with regards to police violence.”

Albert stated it appeared the Russian figures were simply giving US civil legal rights leads to a bigger platform: “All they’re doing is shining an easy around the injustices.”

Conrad James, a New York activist who unintentionally collaborated by having an imposter Russia group known as BlackMattersUS, expressed mixed feelings concerning the news uncovered by RBC he have been duped.

“Obviously, the intent was malicious, however the effects were benevolent,” stated James, who organized protests with BlackMattersUS. He stated he didn’t believe that he would be a “puppet” for Russia: “They were coping with real activists with real passion attempting to defend real issues and human legal rights.”

Tawanda Jones, center, said she felt ‘tricked’ by the Blacktivist account but a march had ‘kind of benefited us’. Tawanda Johnson, center, stated she felt ‘tricked’ through the Blacktivist account however a march had ‘kind of benefited us’. Photograph: Baynard Forest

Johnson, the Baltimore lady who spoke in a Blacktivist event, stated she felt “tricked”, but acknowledged the march was somewhat successful: “It type of benefited us. It introduced a comprehensive media presence there.”

Johnson stated she was, however, angry at Twitter and facebook for allowing imposters to achieve a lot of people. She noted that Facebook once quickly required lower an active-stream she published of the ball game, for piracy reasons, indicating the organization has sophisticated tools to trace and take away violating content.

Facebook should now inform users who adopted fake accounts like Blacktivist, Johnson added.

Claire Finkelstein, a College of Pennsylvania law professor, stated Facebook may well be more transparent and openly reveal what they are called of Russian accounts. She also recommended Facebook set up a moratorium on political ads until it developed safeguards.

“Facebook and Twitter haven’t fully walked to the plate in accepting responsibility,” stated Finkelstein.

No Plastic Valley companies would say whether or not they planned to tell users who have been uncovered towards the propaganda.

Requested concerning the achieve of Blacktivist, a spokesperson for Facebook stated it’d switched information to Congress but wasn’t openly releasing details.

A Twitter spokesperson stated that the organization was “not in a position to discuss individual accounts, for security and privacy reasons”, even though the organization commented around the suspension from the actor Rose McGowan’s account a week ago. It seems that among the Russia accounts even duped Twitter’s Chief executive officer, Jack Dorsey, who two times retweeted its messages.

Heber Brown III, a residential area organizer in Baltimore who conveyed with Blacktivist, stated he feared the scandal may lead Facebook along with other sites to accentuate the monitoring and censorship of person accounts, that could further hurt activists.

“I’d be careful about letting that snowball grow bigger in the national security,” he stated.

It’s difficult to appraise the impact from the meddling. One fake Russia-linked page had greater than 130,000 supporters when Facebook closed it recently, only four people demonstrated as much as an anti-immigrant march it organized.

Another difficult question to reply to is the way centrally directed the meddling was. It’s obvious the Kremlin has lengthy been concerned it had become missing out with what it views to become a callous “information war” using the west. A lot of what Russia is charged with doing in america elections is what Moscow accuses Washington to do in the own domestic politics, usually with little evidence.

In 2013, during a vacation to the opening of recent headquarters of Russia Today, the Kremlin’s television funnel, which US investigators have claimed belongs to the Russian disinformation effort, obama, Vladimir Putin, stated the aim of the funnel when it absolutely was setup have been to “break the monopoly of Anglo-Saxon global information streams”. The mission, he stated, had been successful.

Going a step further and infiltrating online discussions will be a logical continuation. Because the analyst Mark Galleotti described inside a recent European Council on Foreign Relations report, “Russia’s is really a broad-based campaign where the most of ventures range from initiative of people within and with no government apparatus, led by their feeling of the Kremlin’s desires instead of any detailed master plan.”

Airbnb removes all Beijing bookings in front of Communist Party congress

US short-term rental service Airbnb has removed listings in Beijing because the capital prepares for hosting a 5-yearly Party Congress later this month, the most crucial event on China’s political calendar where security reaches its greatest.

A Reuters explore Wednesday of Airbnb listings within the city’s center produced “zero” results its October. Listings were present as lately as Tuesday evening for periods such as the congress dates of 18 October to 31 October.

“Due to exterior conditions, homes in a few areas in Beijing are unavailable through October 31,” Airbnb stated within an email to hosts reviewed by Reuters.

The move, mirrored by procurment firms, comes per week prior to the congress where President Xi Jinping is broadly likely to consolidate power inside a leadership reshuffle.

Such high-profile occasions are frequently supported by elevated surveillance an internet-based censorship. Over the past Congress, this year, use of Alphabet’s Google internet search engine was stop. Google services have since been blocked in China.

With this year’s event, government bodies have walked up ID checks at metro stations and elsewhere in order to detain unregistered workers yet others unlawfully surviving in Beijing.


Four Airbnb hosts within the capital told Reuters they’d received notices in the US firm late on Tuesday, which stated qualities in a few regions of the town could be taken off its website before the finish from the month because of “external circumstances”.

“Similar to action taken by other hospitality companies, Airbnb listings in a few areas in Beijing is going to be temporarily unavailable throughout October,” the organization stated inside a statement to Reuters.

Short-term rentals were also unavailable throughout the same period via local services and Neither firm taken care of immediately demands for comment.

Airbnb along with other home-stay sites occupy a legitimate gray area in China, where vacationers are needed to join up accommodation with local police utilizing a passport or identification card. The necessity is harder to enforce with short-term rentals.

The Secretary of state for Public Security and Beijing’s city police didn’t react to faxed demands for comment.

“(The congress blackout) is really a discomfort, but it isn’t for this type of lengthy time,” stated a 28-year-old press relations worker surnamed Liu, who rents out two flats on Xiaozhu and Airbnb. “As lengthy as (bookings) open again eventually, I do not mind.”


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As Google Fights Fake News, Voices around the Margins Raise Alarm

Bay Area — When David North, the editorial chairman around the globe Socialist Site, observed a stop by the site’s traffic in April, he initially chalked up to news fatigue over President Trump or perhaps a transfer of political awareness.

However when he dug in to the figures, Mr. North stated, he found a clearer explanation: Google had stopped redirecting searches towards the site. He learned that the very best search phrases that when introduced people around the world Socialist Site were now approaching empty.

“This isn’t an accident,” Mr. North stated. “This is some type of deliberate intervention.”

Accusations that Google has tampered with search engine results aren’t uncommon and go as far back towards the earliest times of its internet search engine. But they’re dealing with new existence among concerns that technology behemoths are directly — or not directly — censoring questionable subjects within their reaction to concerns over so-known as fake news and also the 2016 presidential election.

In April, Google announced an initiative known as Project Owl to supply “algorithmic updates to come to light more authoritative content” and eliminate fake news tales from the search engine results.

With a, which was an unpleasant step toward Google just as one arbiter of what’s and isn’t a reliable news source.

“They’re really skating on thin ice,” stated Michael Bertini, searching strategist at iQuanti, an electronic marketing agency. “They’re controlling what users see. If Bing is controlling the things they deem to become fake news, I believe that’s bias.”

Despite Google’s insistence that it is search formula undergoes an extensive testing process to make sure that its results don’t reflect political, gender, racial or ethnic bias, there’s growing political support for controlling Google along with other tech giants like public utilities and forcing it to reveal exactly how its gets to search engine results.

Almost everyone has little knowledge of how Google’s internet search engine ranks different sites, what it really decides to include or exclude, and just how it picks the very best results among countless vast amounts of pages. And Google tightly pads the mathematical equations behind everything — all of those other world needs to believe what they say that it’s completed in an impartial manner.

“The complexity of ranking and rating is definitely likely to result in some lack of knowledge for individuals outdoors of the organization,” stated Frank Pasquale, an info law professor in the College of Maryland. “The issue is that many people aren’t prepared to provide them with the advantage of the doubt.” In the book, “The Black Box Society,” Mr. Pasquale cautioned about the hazards from your overreliance on secret algorithms that control what information we have seen and just how critical decisions are created.

Because the dominant internet search engine, by having an believed 90 % global share of the market, Google was belittled by the best and also the left from the political world throughout the 2016 election.

In June 2016, a relevant video in the popular culture site SourceFed accused Google of manipulating instantly completed search tips to favor Hillary Clinton. Google denied the claim, but right-wing media grabbed around the video for example that the organization was tipping the scales in her own favor.

Dads and moms following the election, the very best Search recent results for “final election election count 2016” would be a connect to a tale that wrongly mentioned that Mr. Trump, who won the Electoral College, had also defeated Mrs. Clinton within the popular election.

Within the research that brought to the development of Project Owl, Google discovered that a part of its search engine results — about .a quarter of daily traffic — were linking to intentionally misleading, false or offensive information. For an organization that aims to provide probably the most relevant information for those queries, that constituted an emergency.

Google stated it’d added more in depth types of problematic pages in to the guidelines utilized by human raters to determine which is a great google listing and what’s a poor one. Google stated its global staff in excess of 10,000 raters don’t determine search engine rankings, however their judgments help inform the way the formula performs later on.

Google has frequently stated it cannot reveal an excessive amount of or people would use that information to try and game the rankings. The opacity around Google’s formula has created a cottage industry of internet search engine optimization pros who dissect their comments.

To appease critique about this insufficient transparency, Google published its guidelines for search quality in 2013. Pandu Nayak, a Google fellow who concentrates on search quality, stated disclosing the rules is much more significant.

“The actual formula isn’t as essential as exactly what the formula is attempting to complete,Inches stated Mr. Nayak. “Being completely transparent of the items you’re attempting to achieve is a vital goal because the way you accomplish this can alter.Inches

Google stated countless factors get into its search formula and also the formula can also be constantly evolving. The organization stated it conducted 150,000 search experiments and implemented 1,600 changes this past year.

For this reason it’s difficult to pinpoint precisely why search traffic plummets for any site such as the World Socialist Site, which calls itself the “online newspaper from the worldwide Trotskyist movement.” Mr. North, the site’s chairman, stated traffic arriving from search is lower 70 % since April, citing data from Alexa, an internet traffic analytics firm of Amazon .

Within an open letter to Google recently, Mr. North tracked his site’s traffic decline to Project Owl. Mr. North stated he thought that Google was blacklisting the website, using concerns over fake news like a cover to suppress opinions from socialist, antiwar or left-wing websites and block news that Google doesn’t want covered.

In mid-April, a Search for “socialism versus. capitalism” introduced back among the site’s links around the first search engines but, by August, that very same search didn’t feature any one of its links. The website stated 145 from the top 150 search phrases which had redirected individuals to the website in April are actually lacking of their links.

“They ought to be requested to describe how they’re doing the work,Inches Mr. North stated. “If they are saying we’re not doing anything, that’s not credible.”

Mr. North stated that Google hasn’t taken care of immediately his claims. Google declined to discuss the planet Socialist Site.

Mr. North contended the drop-off in visitors are caused by Google directing users toward mainstream media organizations, such as the New You are able to Occasions. The Planet Socialist Site claimed that search referral traffic had fallen since April at other left-wing, progressive, socialist or antiwar publications like AlterNet and Consortiumnews.

The Brand New You are able to Occasions couldn’t discover the same degree of traffic declines whatsoever of individuals publications, according to data from SimilarWeb, an internet analytics firm. Traffic originating from search engines like google for that World Socialist Site was lower 34 percent throughout the several weeks of May to This summer, in contrast to the preceding three several weeks, based on SimilarWeb. Traffic that didn’t originate from search was up 1 % throughout the same period.

Mr. North stated his site provides critical analysis for current occasions and contains nothing that is similar to sites peddling blatantly false tales. But he stated he’s against any actions taken by Google underneath the pretext of stopping fake news.

“I’m against censorship in all forms,Inches he stated. “It’s as much as people what they need to see. It isn’t likely to stop using the World Socialist Site. It’s likely to expand and spread.”

Facebook Navigates an Internet Fractured by Governmental Controls

On a muggy, late spring evening, Tuan Pham awoke to the police storming his house in Hanoi, Vietnam.

They marched him to a police station and made their demand: Hand over your Facebook password. Mr. Tuan, a computer engineer, had recently written a poem on the social network called “Mother’s Lullaby,” which criticized how the communist country was run.

One line read, “One century has passed, we are still poor and hungry, do you ask why?”

Mr. Tuan’s arrest came just weeks after Facebook offered a major olive branch to Vietnam’s government. Facebook’s head of global policy management, Monika Bickert, met with a top Vietnamese official in April and pledged to remove information from the social network that violated the country’s laws.

While Facebook said its policies in Vietnam have not changed, and it has a consistent process for governments to report illegal content, the Vietnamese government was specific. The social network, they have said, had agreed to help create a new communications channel with the government to prioritize Hanoi’s requests and remove what the regime considered inaccurate posts about senior leaders.

Populous, developing countries like Vietnam are where the company is looking to add its next billion customers — and to bolster its ad business. Facebook’s promise to Vietnam helped the social media giant placate a government that had called on local companies not to advertise on foreign sites like Facebook, and it remains a major marketing channel for businesses there.

The diplomatic game that unfolded in Vietnam has become increasingly common for Facebook. The internet is Balkanizing, and the world’s largest tech companies have had to dispatch envoys to, in effect, contain the damage such divisions pose to their ambitions.

The internet has long had a reputation of being an anything-goes place that only a few nations have tried to tame — China in particular. But in recent years, events as varied as the Arab Spring, elections in France and confusion in Indonesia over the religion of the country’s president have awakened governments to how they have lost some control over online speech, commerce and politics on their home turf.

Even in the United States, tech giants are facing heightened scrutiny from the government. Facebook recently cooperated with investigators for Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the American presidential election. In recent weeks, politicians on the left and the right have also spoken out about the excess power of America’s largest tech companies.

As nations try to grab back power online, a clash is brewing between governments and companies. Some of the biggest companies in the world — Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon and Alibaba among them — are finding they need to play by an entirely new set of rules on the once-anarchic internet.

And it’s not just one new set of rules. According to a review by The New York Times, more than 50 countries have passed laws over the last five years to gain greater control over how their people use the web.

“Ultimately, it’s a grand power struggle,” said David Reed, an early pioneer of the internet and a former professor at the M.I.T. Media Lab. “Governments started waking up as soon as a significant part of their powers of communication of any sort started being invaded by companies.”

Facebook encapsulates the reasons for the internet’s fragmentation — and increasingly, its consequences.

Graphic | Global Reach

The company has become so far-reaching that more than two billion people — about a quarter of the world’s population — now use Facebook each month. Internet users (excluding China) spend one in five minutes online within the Facebook universe, according to comScore, a research firm. And Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, wants that dominance to grow.

But politicians have struck back. China, which blocked Facebook in 2009, has resisted Mr. Zuckerberg’s efforts to get the social network back into the country. In Europe, officials have repudiated Facebook’s attempts to gather data from its messaging apps and third-party websites.

The Silicon Valley giant’s tussle with the fracturing internet is poised to escalate. Facebook has now reached almost everyone who already has some form of internet access, excluding China. Capturing those last users — including in Asian nations like Vietnam and African countries like Kenya — may involve more government roadblocks.

“We understand that and accept that our ideals are not everyone’s,” said Elliot Schrage, Facebook’s vice president of communications and public policy. “But when you look at the data and truly listen to the people around the world who rely on our service, it’s clear that we do a much better job of bringing people together than polarizing them.”

Friending China

By mid-2016, a yearslong campaign by Facebook to get into China — the world’s biggest internet market — appeared to be sputtering.

Mr. Zuckerberg had wined and dined Chinese politicians, publicly showed off his newly acquired Chinese-language skills — a moment that set the internet abuzz — and talked with a potential Chinese partner about pushing the social network into the market, according to a person familiar with the talks who declined to be named because the discussions were confidential.

At a White House dinner in 2015, Mr. Zuckerberg had even asked the Chinese president, Xi Jinping, whether Mr. Xi might offer a Chinese name for his soon-to-be-born first child — usually a privilege reserved for older relatives, or sometimes a fortune teller. Mr. Xi declined, according to a person briefed on the matter.

But all those efforts flopped, foiling Facebook’s attempts to crack one of the most isolated pockets of the internet.

China has blocked Facebook and Twitter since mid-2009, after an outbreak of ethnic rioting in the western part of the country. In recent years, similar barriers have gone up for Google services and other apps, like Line and Instagram.

Even if Facebook found a way to enter China now, it would not guarantee financial success. Today, the overwhelming majority of Chinese citizens use local online services like Qihoo 360 and Sina Weibo. No American-made apps rank among China’s 50 most popular services, according to SAMPi, a market research firm.

Chinese tech officials said that although many in the government are open to the idea of Facebook releasing products in China, there is resistance among leaders in the standing committee of the country’s Politburo, its top decision-making body.

In 2016, Facebook took tentative steps toward embracing China’s censorship policies. That summer, Facebook developed a tool that could suppress posts in certain geographic areas, The Times reported last year. The idea was that it would help the company get into China by enabling Facebook or a local partner to censor content according to Beijing’s demands. The tool was not deployed.

In another push last year, Mr. Zuckerberg spent time at a conference in Beijing that is a standard on the China government relations tour. Using his characteristic brand of diplomacy — the Facebook status update — he posted a photo of himself running in Tiananmen Square on a dangerously smoggy day. The photo drew derision on Twitter, and concerns from Chinese about Mr. Zuckerberg’s health.

For all the courtship, things never quite worked out.

“There’s an interest on both sides of the dance, so some kind of product can be introduced,” said Kai-Fu Lee, the former head of Google in China who now runs a venture-capital firm in Beijing. “But what Facebook wants is impossible, and what they can have may not be very meaningful.”

This spring, Facebook tried a different tactic: testing the waters in China without telling anyone. The company authorized the release of a photo-sharing app there that does not bear its name, and experimented by linking it to a Chinese social network called WeChat.

One factor driving Mr. Zuckerberg may be the brisk ad business that Facebook does from its Hong Kong offices, where the company helps Chinese companies — and the government’s own propaganda organs — spread their messages. In fact, the scale of the Chinese government’s use of Facebook to communicate abroad offers a notable sign of Beijing’s understanding of Facebook’s power to mold public opinion.

Chinese state media outlets have used ad buys to spread propaganda around key diplomatic events. Its stodgy state-run television station and the party mouthpiece newspaper each have far more Facebook “likes” than popular Western news brands like CNN and Fox News, a likely indication of big ad buys.

To attract more ad spending, Facebook set up one page to show China’s state broadcaster, CCTV, how to promote on the platform, according to a person familiar with the matter. Dedicated to Mr. Xi’s international trips, the page is still regularly updated by CCTV, and has 2.7 million likes. During the 2015 trip when Mr. Xi met Mr. Zuckerberg, CCTV used the channel to spread positive stories. One post was titled “Xi’s UN address wins warm applause.”

Fittingly, Mr. Zuckerberg’s eagerness and China’s reluctance can be tracked on Facebook.

During Mr. Xi’s 2015 trip to America, Mr. Zuckerberg posted about how the visit offered him his first chance to speak a foreign language with a world leader. The post got more than a half million likes, including from Chinese state media (despite the national ban). But on Mr. Xi’s propaganda page, Mr. Zuckerberg got only one mention — in a list of the many tech executives who met the Chinese president.

Europe’s Privacy Pushback

Last summer, emails winged back and forth between members of Facebook’s global policy team. They were finalizing plans, more than two years in the making, for WhatsApp, the messaging app Facebook had bought in 2014, to start sharing data on its one billion users with its new parent company. The company planned to use the data to tailor ads on Facebook’s other services and to stop spam on WhatsApp.

A big issue: how to win over wary regulators around the world.

Despite all that planning, Facebook was hit by a major backlash. A month after the new data-sharing deal started in August 2016, German privacy officials ordered WhatsApp to stop passing data on its 36 million local users to Facebook, claiming people did not have enough say over how it would be used. The British privacy watchdog soon followed.

By late October, all 28 of Europe’s national data-protection authorities jointly called on Facebook to stop the practice. Facebook quietly mothballed its plans in Europe. It has continued to collect people’s information elsewhere, including the United States.

“There’s a growing awareness that people’s data is controlled by large American actors,” said Isabelle Falque-Pierrotin, France’s privacy regulator. “These actors now know that times have changed.”

Facebook’s retreat shows how Europe is effectively employing regulations — including tough privacy rules — to control how parts of the internet are run.

The goal of European regulators, officials said, is to give users greater control over the data from social media posts, online searches and purchases that Facebook and other tech giants rely on to monitor our online habits.

As a tech company whose ad business requires harvesting digital information, Facebook has often underestimated the deep emotions that European officials and citizens have tied into the collection of such details. That dates back to the time of the Cold War, when many Europeans were routinely monitored by secret police.

Now, regulators from Colombia to Japan are often mimicking Europe’s stance on digital privacy. “It’s only natural European regulators would be at the forefront,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft’s president and chief legal officer. “It reflects the importance they’ve attached to the privacy agenda.”

In interviews, Facebook denied it has played fast and loose with users’ online information and said it complies with national rules wherever it operates. It questioned whether Europe’s position has been effective in protecting individuals’ privacy at a time when the region continues to fall behind the United States and China in all things digital.

Still, the company said it respected Europe’s stance on data protection, particularly in Germany, where many citizens have long memories of government surveillance.

“There’s no doubt the German government is a strong voice inside the European community,” said Richard Allen, Facebook’s head of public policy in Europe. “We find their directness pretty helpful.”

Europe has the law on its side when dictating global privacy. Facebook’s non-North American users, roughly 1.8 billion people, are primarily overseen by Ireland’s privacy regulator because the company’s international headquarters is in Dublin, mostly for tax reasons. In 2012, Facebook was forced to alter its global privacy settings — including those in the United States — after Ireland’s data protection watchdog found problems while auditing the company’s operations there.

Three years later, Europe’s highest court also threw out a 15-year-old data-sharing agreement between the region and the United States following a complaint that Facebook had not sufficiently protected Europeans’ data when it was transferred across the Atlantic. The company denies any wrongdoing.

And on Sept. 12, Spain’s privacy agency fined the company 1.2 million euros for not giving people sufficient control over their data when Facebook collected it from third-party websites. Watchdogs in Germany, the Netherlands and elsewhere are conducting similar investigations. Facebook is appealing the Spanish ruling.

“Facebook simply can’t stick to a one-size-fits-all product around the world,” said Max Schrems, an Austrian lawyer who has been a Facebook critic after filing the case that eventually overturned the 15-year-old data deal.

Potentially more worrying for Facebook is how Europe’s view of privacy is being exported. Countries from Brazil to Malaysia, which are crucial to Facebook’s growth, have incorporated many of Europe’s tough privacy rules into their legislation.

“We regard the European directives as best practice,” said Pansy Tlakula, chairwoman of South Africa’s Information Regulator, the country’s data protection agency. South Africa has gone so far as to copy whole sections, almost word-for-word, from Europe’s rule book.

The Play for Kenya

Blocked in China and troubled by regulators in Europe, Facebook is trying to become “the internet” in Africa. Helping get people online, subsidizing access, and trying to launch satellites to beam the internet down to the markets it covets, Facebook has become a dominant force on a continent rapidly getting online.

But that has given it a power that has made some in Africa uncomfortable.

Some countries have blocked access, and outsiders have complained Facebook could squelch rival online business initiatives. Its competition with other internet companies from the United States and China has drawn comparisons to a bygone era of colonialism.

For Kenyans like Phyl Cherop, 33, an entrepreneur in Nairobi, online life is already dominated by the social network. She abandoned her bricks-and-mortar store in a middle-class part of the city in 2015 to sell on Facebook and WhatsApp.

“I gave it up because people just didn’t come anymore,” said Ms. Cherop, who sells items like designer dresses and school textbooks. She added that a stand-alone website would not have the same reach. “I prefer using Facebook because that’s where my customers are. The first thing people want to do when they buy a smartphone is to open a Facebook account.”

As Facebook hunts for more users, the company’s aspirations have shifted to emerging economies where people like Ms. Cherop live. Less than 50 percent of Africa’s population has internet connectivity, and regulation is often rudimentary.

Since Facebook entered Africa about a decade ago, it has become the region’s dominant tech platform. Some 170 million people — more than two thirds of all internet users from South Africa to Senegal — use it, according Facebook’s statistics. That is up 40 percent since 2015.

The company has struck partnerships with local carriers to offer basic internet services — centered on those offered by Facebook — for free. It has built a pared-down version of its social network to run on the cheaper, less powerful phones that are prevalent there.

Facebook is also investing tens of millions of dollars alongside telecom operators to build a 500-mile fiber-optic internet connection in rural Uganda. In total, it is working with about 30 regional governments on digital projects.

“We want to bring connectivity to the world,” said Jay Parikh, a Facebook vice president for engineering who oversees the company’s plans to use drones, satellites and other technology to connect the developing world.

Facebook is racing to gain the advantage in Africa over rivals like Google and Chinese players including Tencent, in a 21st century version of the “Scramble for Africa.” Google has built fiber internet networks in Uganda and Ghana. Tencent has released WeChat, its popular messaging and e-commerce app, in South Africa.

Facebook has already hit some bumps in its African push. Chad blocked access to Facebook and other sites during elections or political protests. Uganda also took legal action in Irish courts to force the social network to name an anonymous blogger who had been critical of the government. Those efforts failed.

In Kenya, one of Africa’s most connected countries, there has been less pushback.

Facebook expanded its efforts in the country of 48 million in 2014. It teamed up with Airtel Africa, a mobile operator, to roll out Facebook’s Free Basics — a no-fee version of the social network, with access to certain news, health, job and other services there and in more than 20 other countries worldwide. In Kenya, the average person has a budget of just 30 cents a day to spend on internet access.

Free Basics now lets Kenyans use Facebook and its Messenger service at no cost, as well as read news from a Kenyan newspaper and view information about public health programs. Joe Mucheru, Kenya’s tech minister, said it at least gives his countrymen a degree of internet access.

Still, Facebook’s plans have not always worked out. Many Kenyans with access to Free Basics rely on it only as a backup when their existing smartphone credit runs out.

“Free Basics? I don’t really use it that often,” said Victor Odinga, 27, an accountant in downtown Nairobi. “No one wants to be seen as someone who can’t afford to get online.”

Bitcoin value plummets after China orders buying and selling in currency to cease

The need for bitcoin collapsed below $3,000 (£2,200) at some point on Friday after Chinese government bodies announced a attack around the digital currency.


What’s bitcoin and it is it a poor investment?


Bitcoin may be the first, and also the greatest, “cryptocurrency” – a decentralised tradable digital asset. It could be a bad investment may be the $70bn question (literally, since this is the current worth of all bitcoins around). Bitcoin are only able to be utilized for a medium of exchange as well as in practice continues to be much more essential for the dark economy of computer has for many legitimate uses. The possible lack of any central authority makes bitcoin remarkably resilient to censorship, corruption – or regulation. Which means it’s attracted a variety of backers, from libertarian monetarists who enjoy the thought of a currency without any inflation with no central bank, to drug dealers who choose the truth that it’s difficult (although not impossible) to follow a bitcoin transaction to an actual person.

The virtual currency, which emerged as a direct consequence from the 2008 economic crisis, fell as little as $2,972 on Friday – a small amount of 40% from the a lot of $5,000 earlier this year – before recovering to around $3,600 within the mid-day.

The drop came after Beijing purchased cryptocurrency exchanges to prevent buying and selling and block new registrations, because of fears that growing quantity of consumers piling in to the market could prompt wider financial problems.

“All buying and selling exchanges must by night time of 15 September create a notice to create obvious once they stop all cryptocurrency buying and selling and announce an end to new user registrations,” the federal government notice stated, based on Chinese condition newspaper Securities Occasions.

BTCChina, among the greatest Chinese exchanges, stated on Thursday it might stop all buying and selling by 30 September. It had been adopted by a number of other exchanges, including OkCoin and Huobi, announcing closures on Friday.

Jamie Dimon, the main executive from the greatest US bank, JP Morgan, cautioned the digital currency was “a fraud” that will “eventually blow up”.

Bitcoin value graph

Dimon stated he’d fire “in a second” anybody in the investment bank discovered to be buying and selling in bitcoin. “The currency isn’t likely to work. You cannot possess a business where individuals can invent a currency from nothing and believe that those who are purchasing it are actually smart,” he stated. “If you had been a medication dealer, a killer, things like that, you’re best doing the work in bitcoin than $ $ $ $.Inches

A number of Dimon’s former colleagues hit back, suggesting he didn’t comprehend the currency. Alex Gurevich, an old JP Morgan executive, tweeted: “Jamie, you’re an excellent boss and also the GOAT [finest of-time] bank Chief executive officer. You aren’t an investor or tech entrepreneur. Please, STFU [shut the fuck up] about buying and selling.”

Alex Gurevich (@agurevich23)

Jamie, you are an excellent boss and also the GOAT bank Chief executive officer. You are not really a trader or tech entrepreneur. Please, STFU about buying and selling $BTC.

September 12, 2017

David Coker, a specialist in bitcoin at Westminster Business School, stated it had been surprising that Dimon attacked bitcoin as JP Morgan ran its very own cyrptocurrency known as Quorum. “One can’t help but question if Mr Dimon’s comments regarding cryptocurrencies would affect JP Morgan’s own choices, whenever they arrived at market?” Coker stated.

Bitcoin is really a fraud which will inflate, states JP Morgan boss

Bitcoin is really a fraud which will ultimately inflate, based on JP Morgan boss Jamie Dimon, who stated digital currency was just fit to be used by drug dealers, murderers and individuals residing in places for example North Korea.

Speaking in a conference in New You are able to, in charge of America’s greatest bank stated he’d fire “in a second” anybody in the investment bank discovered to be buying and selling in bitcoin. “For two reasons: it’s against our rules, and they’re stupid. And both of them are harmful.”


What’s bitcoin and it is it a poor investment?


Bitcoin may be the first, and also the greatest, “cryptocurrency” – a decentralised tradable digital asset. It could be a bad investment may be the $70bn question (literally, since this is the current worth of all bitcoins around). Bitcoin are only able to be utilized for a medium of exchange as well as in practice continues to be much more essential for the dark economy of computer has for many legitimate uses. The possible lack of any central authority makes bitcoin remarkably resilient to censorship, corruption – or regulation. Which means it’s attracted a variety of backers, from libertarian monetarists who enjoy the thought of a currency without any inflation with no central bank, to drug dealers who choose the truth that it’s difficult (although not impossible) to follow a bitcoin transaction to an actual person.

He added: “The currency isn’t likely to work. You cannot possess a business where individuals can invent a currency from nothing and believe that those who are purchasing it are actually smart.

“If you had been in Venezuela or Ecuador or North Korea or a lot of parts like this, or you were a medication dealer, a killer, things like that, you’re best doing the work in bitcoin than $ $ $ $,Inches he stated. “So there might be an industry for your, but it might be a restricted market.”

Bitcoin is really a virtual currency that emerged as a direct consequence from the economic crisis. It enables individuals to bypass banks and traditional payment processes to cover products or services. Banks along with other banking institutions happen to be worried about bitcoin’s early associations with money washing an internet-based crime, and contains not been adopted by government.


It’s greater than quadrupled in value since December, hitting about $4,700 recently before falling back. It fell by about 5% after Dimon’s comments on Wednesday to below $4,000.

“It is worse than tulip bulbs,” Dimon stated, talking about a famous market bubble in the 1600s. He predicted big losses for individuals purchasing bitcoin. “Don’t ask me to short it. It may be at $20,000 before happens, but it’ll eventually inflate,Inches he stated. “Honestly, I’m just shocked that anybody can’t view it for what it’s.Inches

However, the banker revealed his daughter had bought bitcoin: “It increased and she or he thinks she’s a genius now.”

A week ago, Lady Mone launched a significant property rise in Dubai, priced in bitcoins, saying digital currency would be a growing market that may ‘t be overlooked.

a London property developer is allowing its tenants to pay for their deposits in bitcoin – the very first time the cryptocurrency has been utilized within the United kingdom residential homes market.

Through the finish of the year the Collective may also accept rent payments within the virtual currency. It stated the move was as a result of demand predominantly from worldwide customers.

Dimon’s critique from the currency coincided having a warning in the United kingdom financial regulator against a speculative craze in initial gold coin choices (ICOs), where internet start-ups are funded by investors using cryptocurrencies for example bitcoin.

Within an ICO, a trader pays in bitcoins to acquire a “coin” or “token” that’s essentially their be part of the firm.

The FCA stated anybody purchasing ICOs should be ready to lose all of their money. “ICOs are extremely high-risk, speculative investments,” it stated. “You should take heed to the potential risks involved … and eager to get rid of your whole stake.”

Yann Quelenn, an analyst in the online bank Swissquote, stated bitcoin “still has great potential”.

“We believe it is a potential safe place. Less than .01% from the world’s population includes a bitcoin wallet,” he stated. “If this could achieve 1%, the interest in bitcoin would skyrocket, since there are only 18m coins available.

“Cryptocurrencies really are a new asset class, one at war with fiat [paper] money, which war is going to be fought against on regulatory issues. Central banks want to preserve their monopoly on money, something they’re not going to forget about with no fight.”

Scholar states Google critique cost him job: ‘People are getting out of bed to the power’

Every second of each and every day Google processes over 40,000 searches – that’s about 3.5bn questions each day or 1.2tn annually. But there’s one question that Google apparently doesn’t want clarified: is Google a monopoly?

Craig Lynn, until now a senior fellow at Washington thinktank the brand new America Foundation, has spent years staring at the growing power tech giants like Google and Facebook. He believes the reply is yes. Which opinion, he argues, has cost him his job.

Now Lynn and the team were ousted from New America following the New You are able to Occasions printed emails that recommended Google was unhappy together with his research. The tech giant, together with executive chairman Eric Schmidt, have donated $21m to New America since 1999. Schmidt chaired the organisation for a long time and it is primary conference room is known as the “Eric Schmidt Ideas Lab”.

€2.42bn ($2.7bn) for breaching antitrust rules and mistreating its market dominance.

Lynn published a short note applauding the choice and contacting US regulators “to build this important precedent”. The publish effectively ended his 15-year career at New America, he claims.

Inside a statement New America’s leader Anne-Marie Slaughter known as the claims “absolutely false” and blamed Lynn’s “repeated refusal to stick to New America’s standards of openness and institutional collegiality” for that decision.

Google stated it might “not be considered a fair portrayal at all” responsible Google for that decision. “I will tell you our funding levels for 2017 haven’t altered because of NAF’s June publish, nor did Eric Schmidt ever threaten to chop off funding correctly,Inches a spokeswoman stated via email.

However for Lynn yet others, it was not only a workplace spat having a thinktank backer or office politics gone wrong . It represents a menace to independent research at any given time when the likes of Google are consolidating their enormous power.

“Things began failing last summer time,” Lynn told the Protector. Open Markets started dealing with senator Elizabeth Warren to assist her make a speech on America’s monopolies and how to handle them.

Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company. The conference room at New America Foundation is called the ‘Eric Schmidt Ideas Lab’. Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company. The conference room at New America Foundation is known as the ‘Eric Schmidt Ideas Lab’. Photograph: Christophe Morin/IP3/Getty Images

Google, Amazon . com and Facebook were platforms that may become tools “to snuff out competition,” Warren cautioned. “Anyone who loves markets recognizes that for markets to operate, there needs to be competition. However nowadays, in the usa, levels of competition are dying. Consolidation and concentration are rising in sector after sector. Concentration threatens our markets, threatens our economy, and threatens our democracy.”

Prior to the conference Slaughter’s response ended up being to email Lynn, a correspondence that the New You are able to Occasions acquired. “We are while attempting to expand our relationship with Google on some absolutely tips … just think about how exactly you’re imperiling funding for other people.Inches

Soon after the Occasions story was printed the 2009 week, Lynn and the team lost.

New America had typically given its experts autonomy. “They could say the things they desired to say,” stated Lynn. “We had the unit of expert knowledge and also the tradition at New America was that you simply reliable these experts.”

Lynn stated he’d reckon that Google’s attitude had altered for 2 reasons. First, Open Markets have been acquired greater weight within the eyes of policymakers and enforcers. Second, regulators, particularly in Europe, have clearly moved towards taking more action.

“Google is an extremely sophisticated group of people. They understand how to spend their cash and wield their influence with techniques that always have them what they need,Inches Lynn stated. “In relation to researchers, the risk is the fact that research and work covering Google, about platform monopoly generally, work that needs to be do for that good from the American public won’t be done.”

the Financial Occasions he yet others believe antitrust laws and regulations ought to be reverted to old laws and regulations which limited political power – especially, ongoing the Foot article, “the ability of wealthy companies and individuals in seaside areas to manage everybody and everything else”.

Lynn has incorporated Open Markets Initiative like a separate entity and it is focusing on launching a brand new thinktank. He stated he hopes his new group will give you a platform for independent research into the strength of the likes of Google and Facebook.

“These effects have been in a lot of corners from the political economy,” stated Lynn.