'Who the hell are you?': US lawmakers ask Twitter, Facebook, Google CEOs

Agencies
October 29, 2020

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Washington, Oct 29: "Baloney!", "sham!" and "who the hell are you" scoldings dominated a Senate hearing on Wednesday where the CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Google took heat in a talking match with US lawmakers over the idea of free speech and alleged anti-conservative bias on the companies' mighty platforms.

The Congressional grilling quickly shifted into the realm of political circus around the social media content moderation dumpster fire.

With less than a week to go for the US election, Republican lawmakers got an earful from critics for the timing of the "sham" hearing.

At the heart of the heated arguments were 26 words tucked away in a 1996 US law - Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act.

Section 230 states that "no provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider".

Under American law, Internet firms are typically exempt from liability for content that users post on platforms. President Donald Trump has challenged this via executive order which threatens to strip those protections if online platforms wade into "editorial decisions".

For 3 hours and 42 minutes, the CEOs of Twitter, Facebook and Google were at the receiving end of a firehose version of bipartisan alarm over their phenomenal power to influence behaviour at scale.

The Republicans' drumbeat centered on Facebook's and Twitter's decision earlier this month to slam the brakes on an unverified political story from the conservative-leaning New York Post about Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. The story cited unverified emails from Biden's son Hunter.

Trump acolytes jumped on the chance to prove their loyalty. One of them called Twitter's action on the newspaper "a pattern of censorship and silencing Americans with whom Twitter disagrees".

For their part, Twitter, Facebook and Google have struggled to frame exactly how they would intervene and in how many scenarios. And what about content that doesn't fall into their precast rubric or categories of bad stuff? The answers have been less than clear.

Of the three companies, Facebook's sway over behavioural targeting has raised a string of red flags in the context of the US 2020 election.

Multiple lawmakers pushed back against the idea of "unelected San Francisco elites" deciding if content makes the grade or not.

In opening statements, Dorsey, Zuckerberg and Pichai spoke to the proposals for changes to Section 230. Zuckerberg said Congress "should update the law to make sure it's working as intended."

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said that if Google was "acting as a publisher", he would be okay with the company being liable for content published on its platform.

Wednesday's hearing comes barely a week after the US Justice Department's landmark antitrust lawsuit against Google which argues that both advertisers and regular people are harmed by the tech giant's position as "the unchallenged gateway to the Internet for billions of users worldwide."

Warnings abound of the coming restrictions and for the "free pass" to end, maybe on the other side of the election results.

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News Network
November 29,2020

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About 1,000 protesters gathered outside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem on Saturday night, pressing ahead with their months-long campaign demanding his resignation.

A mix of grassroots groups have held the weekly protests, saying Netanyahu should step down while he is on trial for corruption and because of his handling of the coronavirus in Israel. After two lockdowns this year, the nation’s economy is struggling, and hundreds of thousands of Israelis remain out of work. Many protesters are Israelis who have lost their jobs.

After six months of demonstrations and with wintry weather setting in, the protest crowds have started to shrink. But participants remained vocal and animated Saturday. Nearly all wore masks, though not everyone observed social distancing.

Many held Israeli and pink flags, one of the symbols of the protest movement. Others hoisted model submarines, a reference to a scandal over an Israeli purchase of German submarines in which several Netanyahu associates have been implicated. Netanyahu has not been named as a suspect in that case, though his rival, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, ordered an investigation into the affair this week.

Smaller protests also took place at junctions and overpasses across Israel, and at Netanyahu’s private home in the upscale coastal town of Caesaria.

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Agencies
November 18,2020

Washington, Nov 18: US President Donald Trump on Tuesday night fired his administration’s most senior cybersecurity official responsible for securing the presidential election, Christopher Krebs, who had systematically disputed Trump’s false declarations in recent days that the presidency was stolen from him through fraudulent ballots and software glitches that changed millions of votes.

The announcement came via Twitter, the same way Trump fired his defence secretary a week ago and has dismissed other officials throughout his presidency. The President seemed set off by a statement released by the Department of Homeland Security late last week, the product of a broad committee overseeing the elections, that declared the 2020 election “the most secure in American history.”

“The recent statement by Chris Krebs on the security of the 2020 Election was highly inaccurate,” Trump wrote a little after 7 p.m., “in that there were massive improprieties and fraud — including dead people voting, Poll Watchers not allowed into polling locations, ‘glitches’ in the voting machines which changed votes from Trump to Biden, late voting, and many more.” He said Krebs “has been terminated” as director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, a post to which Trump himself had appointed him.

Krebs, 43, a former Microsoft executive, has been hailed in recent days for his two years spent preparing the states for the challenges of the vote, hardening systems against Russian interference and setting up a “rumour control” website to guard against disinformation. But much of that disinformation came not from Moscow, but from the White House.

Only two weeks ago, on Election Day, Krebs’ boss, Chad Wolf, the acting secretary of homeland security, had praised Krebs’ work, including the “rumour control” effort. But behind-the-scenes efforts by administration officials to keep Trump from firing Krebs apparently failed.

Krebs started telling colleagues he expected to be fired after the election as early as June, when the president started claiming that mail-in voting would be “rigged.” The refusal by Krebs and his agency to back up the president’s claims put him on a list of disloyal officials, Krebs believed, that included Mark Esper, who was fired as secretary of defence shortly after the election; Christopher Wray, the FBI director; and Gina Haspel, the director of the CIA. Wray and Haspel remain in their jobs.

In recent weeks, Krebs drew the president’s ire again with his refusal to echo Trump’s conspiracy theories about software glitches and dead people voting. Quite the contrary: Within hours of Trump tweeting false reports that millions of Trump votes were deleted, Krebs joined election officials in calling the 2020 election “the most secure in American history.” 

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News Network
November 29,2020

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New Delhi, Nov 29: Pakistan cricket has landed in fresh turmoil after a woman accused its captain Babar Azam of sexual abuse. The woman, whose name is not known, revealed that Babar exploited her for 10 years and gave her false marriage hopes, while making some unpleasant claims. The woman claimed that Babar got her pregnant and threatened her. The video of the woman addressing a press conference was shared by journalist Saj Sadiq.

“He promised to marry me, he got me pregnant, he beat me up, he threatened me and he used me,” the woman was quoted as saying.

“I have known Babar since the time he had nothing to do with cricket. He was from a poor household. I hope all my brothers and sisters here are going to help me get justice so that no daughter gets to go through what I have. Babar and I have grown up in the same colony, we used to stay together.”

The woman further stated that she and Babar have known each other from their school days and it was in 2010 that he proposed to her.

“He was my school friend. In 2010, he proposed to me and I accepted his proposal. He in fact proposed to me after coming to my house. As time progressed, our understanding got better. We had planned to get married and informed our families too but they refused,” she added.

“Then Babar and I decided to have a court marriage. In 2011, Babar and I eloped and having promised me of marriage, kept me at rented places. During that time, I kept asking him to get married but he said ‘we are not in a position to. With time, we will get married’.”

It was further revealed that the woman used to take care of all their expenses, including the money Babar needed for his cricket. However, in 2016 when the lady got pregnant is when she sensed a huge change in the cricketer’s attitude.

The PCB is yet to respond to these claims. Babar and the rest of the Pakistan team are currently in New Zealand, undergoing a 14-day quarantine period in Christchurch. Seven members of the team have tested positive for Covid-19 and have been moved to a separate floor.

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