By ANI | Updated: 1 January 2022
China is mining Western social media to equip its military and police with information on foreign targets, according to a new report by The Washington Post. This revelation was made following the review of hundreds of Chinese bidding documents, contracts, and company filings.
This new report says that China maintains a nationwide network of data surveillance services that were developed over the past decade and are used domestically to warn officials of politically sensitive information online.
The software, which targets domestic Internet users and media, also collects data on foreign targets from sources such as Twitter, Facebook, and other Western social media.
The documents accessed by the Washington-based publication also show that Chinese agencies including state media, propaganda departments, police, military and cyber regulators are purchasing new or more sophisticated systems to gather data.
The report states that the Chinese state media software program mines Twitter and Facebook to create a database of foreign journalists and academics.
The report further reveals that a Beijing police intelligence program analyses Western content on Hong Kong and Taiwan. It also catalogues Uyghur language content abroad.
“Now we can better understand the underground network of anti-China personnel,” said a Beijing-based analyst who works for a unit reporting to China’s Central Propaganda Department.
The unit was once tasked with producing a data report on how negative content relating to Beijing’s senior leadership is spread on Twitter, including profiles of individual academics, politicians, and journalists, according to the report.
“They are now reorienting part of that effort outward, and I think that’s frankly terrifying, looking at the sheer numbers and sheer scale that this has taken inside China,” said Mareike Ohlberg, a senior fellow at the German Marshall Fund, as quoted by The Washington Post.
She added: “It really shows that they now feel it’s their responsibility to defend China overseas and fight the public opinion war overseas.”
National Disaster Response Force Twitter Handle Hacked, Fully Restored Later
By Press Trust of India | Updated: 24 January 2022
The official Twitter handle of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) was hacked late Saturday and fully restored by Sunday evening, officials said.
The cyberattack at the handle ‘@NDRFHQ’ took place around 10:45pm on Saturday with some random messages being posted and the display name and photo being changed.
NDRF Director General (DG) Atul Karwal told PTI that the account was fully restored and functional on Sunday after technical experts worked on the breach and restored the original display name and picture within 2-3 minutes of the attack.
He said the force has lodged a complaint about the hacking with the Delhi Police cyber incidents investigation unit.
The attack was also noticed by Twitter and the social media platform temporarily froze access to the account and hence, the already published messages of the force were not showing for hours.
The account was later restored with full access to the force and it began posting messages beginning with a quote tweet of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) at 6:12pm on Sunday.
The DG said the force will conduct a security audit so that such incidents do not recur.
The NDRF was raised in 2006 as a federal contingency force against natural and man-made disasters and it celebrated its 17th Raising Day on January 19.
Twitter Says Two Security Team Leaders Leaving Company
By Reuters | Updated: 22 January 2022
Twitter said on Friday its head of security is no longer at the company and its chief information security officer will depart in the coming weeks.
The shakeup comes after Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey stepped down as chief executive in November, handing the reins to top deputy Parag Agrawal, who has since reorganized the leadership structure of the social media company.
Twitter did not specify whether the departures were voluntary.
Peiter Zatko, a famed hacker more widely known as “Mudge,” was appointed head of security in 2020 after Twitter suffered a security breach that allowed hackers to tweet from verified accounts for public figures including billionaire Bill Gates and Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
The New York Times first reported Zatko’s departure and Rinki Sethi’s upcoming departure as CISO earlier on Friday. Zatko and Sethi could not be immediately reached for comment.
© Thomson Reuters 2021
Twitter Must Reveal Measures on Online Hate, French Court Rules
By Agence France-Presse | Updated: 20 January 2022
A Paris court on Thursday ruled that Twitter must reveal its measures for fighting hate speech, in one of several cases thrashing out whether the French justice system has jurisdiction over the US social media giant.
Ireland-based Twitter International had appealed a July decision ordering it to share documents and details about its French moderation team and data on their activities against hate speech.
That case had been brought by several anti-discrimination groups over what they said was the company’s longstanding failure to properly moderate posts.
The appeals court on Thursday confirmed the first judgement and further ordered Twitter to pay EUR 1,500 (roughly Rs. 1.2 lakh) to the groups, including SOS Racisme, SOS Homophobie and the International League against racism and anti-Semitism (Licra).
In another Paris case, three victims of terrorist attacks who have suffered online harassment are suing Twitter France.
They argue it was the company’s fault that their cases against their harassers failed, as it did not provide identifying information that investigators had asked for.
In that case, Twitter France chief Damien Viel told a court last week that “I’m in charge of Twitter’s business development and nothing more”.
Providing data to the authorities was “up to the good will of Twitter International, which is outside French jurisdiction and can decide whether to cooperate or not,” his lawyer Karim Beylouni added.
In still another case in Versailles, just outside Paris, Twitter France has said it is unable to comply with a police request for information on people who sent insults and threats to a public official.
The local office says it does not store any information, with all data handled by the group’s European mothership based in Ireland.
But prosecutors have asked for fines as high as EUR 75,000 (roughly Rs. 63 lakh) against both Twitter France and manager Viel personally.
Facebook-Parent Meta’s VR Oculus Business Said to Be Probed by US States Over Potential Violations
By Reuters | Updated: 15 January 2022
Multiple states have begun investigating potential violations in how Facebook, now known as Meta Platforms, runs its virtual-reality Oculus business, according to three sources familiar with the matter.
Two of the sources said the US Federal Trade Commission was also involved in the antitrust investigation. Meta did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
New York, North Carolina and Tennessee were among the states involved in the inquiry, one source said. A group of almost 50 states also asked an appeals court on Friday to reinstate their antitrust lawsuit, filed in December 2020, against Facebook.
The inquiries into Facebook’s Oculus business are part of the larger probe, one of the sources said.
The offices of the New York, North Carolina and Tennessee attorneys general did not immediately respond to requests for comments.
The inquiry was first reported by Bloomberg News.
© Thomson Reuters 2022
Facebook Faces GBP 2.3-Billion UK Class Action Over Market Dominance
By Reuters | Updated: 14 January 2022
Facebook, now known as Meta Platforms, faces a GBP 2.3 billion (roughly Rs. 23,420 crore)-plus class action in Britain over allegations it abused its market dominance by exploiting the personal data of 44 million users.
Liza Lovdahl Gormsen, a senior adviser to Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) watchdog and a competition law academic, said she was bringing the case on behalf of people in Britain who had used Facebook between 2015 and 2019.
The lawsuit, which will be heard by London’s Competition Appeal Tribubal, alleges Facebook made billions of pounds by imposing unfair terms and conditions that demanded consumers surrender valuable personal data to access the network.
Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, the law firm representing Lovdahl Gormsen, has notified Facebook of the claim.
Facebook said people used its services because it delivered value for them and “they have meaningful control of what information they share on Meta’s platforms and who with.”
The case comes days after Facebook lost an attempt to strike out an antitrust lawsuit by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), one of the biggest challenges by the US government against a tech company in decades as Washington attempts to tackle Big Tech’s extensive market power.
“In the 17 years since it was created, Facebook became the sole social network in the UK where you could be sure to connect with friends and family in one place,” Lovdahl Gornsen said.
“Yet, there was a dark side to Facebook; it abused its market dominance to impose unfair terms and conditions on ordinary Britons, giving it the power to exploit their personal data.”
Lovdahl Gormsen alleges Facebook collected data within its platform and through mechanisms like the Facebook Pixel, allowing it to build an “all-seeing picture” of Internet usage and generate valuable, deep data profiles of users.
Opt-out class actions, like Lovdahl Gormsen’s, bind a defined group automatically into a lawsuit unless individuals opt out.
© Thomson Reuters 2022
Twitter, Meta, YouTube Among Tech Giants Subpoenaed by January 6 US Capitol Riot Panel
By Associated Press | Updated: 14 January 2022
Months after requesting documents from more than a dozen social platforms, the House committee investigating the US Capitol insurrection has issued subpoenas targeting Twitter, Meta, Reddit and YouTube after lawmakers said the companies’ initial responses were inadequate.
The committee chairman, Rep. Bennie Thompson, demanded records Thursday from the companies relating to their role in allegedly spreading misinformation about the 2020 election and promoting domestic violent extremism on their platforms in the lead-up to the insurrection on January 6, 2021.
“Two key questions for the Select Committee are how the spread of misinformation and violent extremism contributed to the violent attack on our democracy, and what steps — if any — social media companies took to prevent their platforms from being breeding grounds for radicalisng people to violence,” Thompson, D-Miss., said in the letter.
Thompson added that it’s “disappointing that after months of engagement,” the four companies have not voluntarily turned over the necessary information and documents that would help lawmakers answer the questions at the heart of their investigation.
In his letter, Thompson outlined the way the companies were complicit in the deadly insurrection perpetrated by supporters of Donald Trump and far-right groups.
YouTube, owned by Alphabet, was the platform where a significant amount of communication took place “relevant to the planning and execution” of the siege against the Capitol, “including livestreams of the attack as it was taking place,” the letter stated.
In a statement to the Associated Press, a YouTube spokesperson said it is “actively cooperating” with the committee and is committed to stopping content that incites violence or undermines faith in elections.
”We enforced these policies in the run-up to January 6 and continue to do so today,” the spokesperson wrote.
The committee also outlined how how Meta, formerly known as Facebook, was reportedly used to exchange hateful, violent and inciting messages between users as well as spread misinformation that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent in an attempt to coordinate the “Stop the Steal” movement.
In response, Meta said it too was working with the committee to get lawmakers the information they requested.
On Reddit, the r/The_Donald “subreddit” community grew significantly, the letter said, before members migrated to an official website where investigators believe discussions around the planning of the attack were hosted. A spokesperson for Reddit said Thursday that the company had received the subpoena and “will continue to work with the committee on their requests.”
The letter further detailed how Twitter was warned about the potential violence that was being planned on its platform in advance of the attack and how its users engaged in “communications amplifying allegations of election fraud, including by the former President himself.”
One specific tweet from Trump on December 19, 2020 was highlighted: “Statistically impossible to have lost the 2020 Election” as he urged followers to come to Washington to engage in a “wild” protest on January 6, 2021.
A spokesperson for Twitter declined to comment on the subpoenas.
The committee made its initial request for the documents from 15 social media companies in August, which also included TikTok, Parler, Telegram, 4chan, and 8kun.
The subpoenas come as the nine-member committee continues its wide-reaching investigation into how a mob was able to infiltrate the Capitol and disrupt the certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s presidential victory, in what was the most serious assault on Congress in two centuries.
The committee of seven Democrats and two Republicans has interviewed more than 340 people and issued dozens of subpoenas to those in Trump’s inner circle, including his former chief of staff, as well as requests to their own colleagues in the House.
On Wednesday, the committee requested an interview with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.
McCarthy as well as GOP Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and Scott Perry of Pennsylvania have denied the committee’s request to sit down for interviews or turn over documents related to their conversations on January 6, 2021, with Trump or those close to him as hundreds of his supporters beat police, stormed the building and interrupted the certification of the 2020 election.
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