Users of mobile messaging applications Line and KakaoTalk in mainland China have been unable to access many of the features on the popular services since Tuesday, in the first major service disruption in the country for the companies.
Yahoo Inc.YHOO in Your ValueYour ChangeShort position ‘s Flickr was also inaccessible on Thursday.
Line Corp. and Kakao Corp. said they didn’t know what caused several services available on their platforms to be unavailable to users in China. In an emailed statement, a Yahoo spokeswoman said: “We are aware of reports that Flickr is blocked for users in China and our team is investigating this now.”
The timing of the outage, which began on the evening of July 1 during the pro-democracy march in Hong Kong, could indicate that the Chinese government took steps to limit usage. China’s government often blocks foreign websites and smartphone services during sensitive times, like the recent 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown.
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Officials at China’s State Council Information Office didn’t respond to a request for comment.
A Line spokeswoman said she didn’t know when the app would become available again in China. Last month, a Line executive said the Japanese company is planning to expand its presence in China because of the hundreds of millions of potential users in the market.
Sonia Im, a spokeswoman for Kakao Corp., based in Pangyo, South Korea, said that while some features of the messaging platform still worked in China, users there couldn’t add new friends, use certain emoticons or check notices. Ms. Im said the company began receiving user complaints Tuesday evening, but that the stoppage affected the bulk of its Chinese users on Wednesday.
She said the company hoped to restore full functionality to its users as soon as possible, adding that she didn’t know what caused the disruption in service. Kakao has about 140 million registered users, but doesn’t break out its user base by country.
In China, users of Line could see that they had received a message, but couldn’t access the message itself. Mobile-phone users also could download the KakaoTalk app, but couldn’t register.
An application icon for Line’s Internet messaging and calling service. Bloomberg News
While Line isn’t widely used in China, it has proved popular with younger users, many of whom were attracted to the app because of its emoticons, which are called stickers. In Hong Kong, the app is very popular and could have easily been used to share news of the pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong across the border to China. Line said it has more than 400 million registered users, but doesn’t give a breakdown for China.
On local social media, censorship of references to the Hong Kong protests has been severe, even eclipsing blockages carried out during the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown, according to WeiboScope, a service provided by the University of Hong Kong that tracks censorship.
Many of Google Inc.’s services remain completely inaccessible in China since they were fully blocked last month in what analysts have described as an escalation of China’s attempts to control the flow of information over the Internet and put restrictions on foreign companies.
Since rising to power in 2012, Chinese President Xi Jinping has taken steps to tighten government control over the Internet. Under his leadership, the government has created a new high-profile committee to increase cybersecurity, has warned Internet celebrities with large numbers of followers about spreading rumors online, and has instituted a particularly strong antipornography campaign.
Other popular messaging services, such as WhatsApp, which Facebook Inc. recently agreed to buy, and WeChat, the popular service created by Shenzhen, China-based Tencent Holdings Ltd.0700.HK in Your ValueYour ChangeShort position , were working. Viber, which Japan’s Rakuten Inc. agreed to acquire earlier this year, is working as usual in China, with no reports of connection problems, said a Rakuten spokeswoman.
In May, though, the government announced that WeChat would be more heavily monitored. Saying that instant messaging services were being used to spread “violence, terrorism and pornography,” the agency charged with policing the Internet said it would “firmly fight infiltration from hostile forces at home and abroad,” according to a government statement.
In its heyday, Weibo promised much more. It came to prominence in 2011 after a high-speed rail crash killed 40 people. Weibo users detailed the mayhem and government shortcomings that led to the accident, part of a surge of criticism that prompted the resignation of the railway minister. It was a signal moment in the Internet’s coming of age in China, a reminder of how the medium could challenge even a formidable authoritarian government and one of its most powerful leaders.
Thailand’s junta-leading Army Chief has dismissed allegations he plotted to seize power for years before May’s coup, issuing an apparent rebuke to the leader of the protests that crippled the former government.
“It is not true” General Prayut Chan-O-Cha said, addressing accusations that he had discussed uprooting the divisive Shinawatra clan from politics with firebrand protest chief Suthep Thaugsuban.
Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban speaks to supporters in Bangkok, Thailand, Thursday, Feb. 27, 2014. (AP Photo/Sakchai Lalit)
“I did not join any process or take part with any side,” Prayut said late Friday in a weekly television address to the nation.
While Prayut did not directly reference Suthep, he was prodded into the denial after reports that the protest figurehead told a charity dinner that he had been in talks with the army chief since 2010.
Shortly after Prayut’s comments, Suthep took to Facebook to say he would cancel all future fundraisers — starting on Saturday.
Supporters of ousted premier Yingluck Shinawatra have blamed a coalition of establishment-linked forces — including the army and judiciary — for colluding to overthrow the government, the second such army putsch in eight years.
But Prayut has been at pains to package his power grab as a necessary evil to restore peace and order after several months of protests by Suthep’s supporters paralysed the government.
Twenty-eight people died and hundreds more were wounded in political violence linked to the protests, which also deflated the kingdom’s once-buoyant economy.
The stern-faced general toppled the government on May 22, a fortnight after Yingluck was booted out off office by a controversial court ruling.
He has imposed martial law on the kingdom, suspended the constitution, muzzled dissent and detained or arrested hundreds of people — mainly supporters of the former government.
“Political talks, fund-raising (activities) are forbidden…. it is a violation of martial law,” Prayut warned in his regular Friday television speech.
Two senior members of the anti-government protests contacted by AFP refused to comment.
Yingluck’s billionaire brother — also a former premier — Thaksin Shinawatra sits at the heart of Thailand’s trenchant political divide.
He was toppled in a 2006 army coup and now lives in self-exile to avoid a corruption conviction he contends was politically motivated.
The Shinawatras draw loyalty from the populous and poor northern part of the country, but are loathed by a Bangkok-based elite, their affiliates in the army and royalist allies in the kingdom’s south.
Gen Prayuth Chan-ocha says democracy will only return after reforms are put in place
Fleshing out his roadmap for Thailand’s political future, Prayut also confirmed that an interim constitution had been drafted and will likely take effect next month.
A national assembly will be appointed in September to select a new premier, while a reform council stacked with hand-picked ‘wise men’ from across the country will be established to craft a new, binding constitution to come into effect in July, 2015.
New elections “will come after the permanent constitution” around three months later, Prayut added.
From the start of his street rallies Suthep, a former deputy prime minister, called for widespread reforms to “root out the Thaksin regime” before elections.
Observers say the reforms are likely to take aim at the electoral dominance of the Shinawatra clan, who have won every Thai poll since 2001.
(Reuters) – Fledging cooperation between the United States and China on fighting cyber crime has ground to a halt since the recent U.S. indictment of Chinese military officials on hacking charges, a senior U.S. security official said on Thursday.
At the same time, there has been no decline in Chinese hackers’ efforts to break into U.S. networks, the official said.
In May, the Justice Department charged five Chinese military members with hacking the systems of U.S. companies to steal trade secrets, prompting Beijing to suspend a Sino-U.S. working group on cyber issues. China denies the charges and has in turn accused Washington of massive cyber spying.
U.S. and Chinese officials had started working together to combat certain types of online crime, including money laundering, child pornography and drug trafficking, the U.S. official said. But that cooperation has stopped.
“We are in time out,” the official told Reuters. “They don’t want to talk to us. Everything is really cold.”
Asked whether attempts to hack into U.S. networks that originate in China had slowed, the official said: “They have been very active and this hasn’t changed a bit.”
The new chill underscores the fragility of the efforts to ease tensions and mutual accusations of hacking and Internet theft between China and the United States, at the expense of the security areas where the nations had reached some understanding.
The indictments, the first criminal hacking charge the United States has filed against specific foreign officials, put more strain on a complex commercial relationship between the two economic powers and created new troubles for some U.S. technology companies doing business in China.
Beijing has responded with a promise to investigate all U.S. providers of important IT products and services, though it has not specified the move was a direct retaliation.
Chinese state media has also lashed out, without indicating a connection, at U.S. firms including Google, Apple, Yahoo, Cisco Systems, Microsoft and Facebook with allegations of spying and stealing secrets.
The charges added to the existing tensions stemming from revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden of vast U.S. Internet surveillance.
Some technology executives have privately complained about the lack of warning from the U.S. Justice Department. The U.S. official said only “a small group” was informed about the indictments ahead of time.
Though unlikely to result in arrests, U.S. observers saw the charges as an aggressive move to thwart the theft of trade secrets. Max Baucus, the new U.S. ambassador to China, called Chinese cyber espionage a threat to U.S. national security in his first major public address on Wednesday.
“We will continue to use diplomatic and legal means to make clear that this type of behavior must stop,” Baucus said.
(Reporting by Alina Selyukh and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Ros Krasny and Leslie Adler)
An Image from an ISIS recruitment video that purports to show militant fighters from the West. Reuters
BAGHDAD—A Sunni jihadist group that has seized vast territories in Iraq and Syria is parlaying its battlefield successes into a recruitment drive that is attracting more foreign fighters, say Western and Arab officials.
The message from the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham, or ISIS: Join us in forming a Sunni-led religious state spanning from the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf.
One recruitment video, released on Friday, shows gun-toting militants, speaking with British and Australian accents, extolling the virtues of jihad and inviting viewers to join their battle in Syria and Iraq.
It isn’t the first time ISIS has tried to recruit Islamists while carefully crafting its image on social media to raise its appeal among jihadists.
But the video, disseminated last week on ISIS’s first non-Arabic Twitter accounts in English, German and Russian, is the group’s first English-language drive for foot soldiers, and reflects its attempt to burnish its jihadist credentials farther afield.
Western and Arab officials say the effort is resonating among recruits due to the group’s success in quickly extending its control over Iraqi territory in the north and west and along the country’s border with Syria.
“The recent developments have raised hopes of jihadists all over the world to establish the state they’ve aspired to create for a long time,” said an Egyptian diplomat. “We worry that more Egyptians are going to Syria and Iraq now, particularly from Sinai.”
Logistically, the fighters are able to join the fight by flying to the south of Turkey, which is one of the region’s few countries not to require a visa from other Muslim countries. From there, they typically slip across the border into Raqqa, in northern Syria, and then can traverse hundreds of miles of ISIS-held territory along western Iraq down to the border with Jordan.
“It’s an open border between Syria and Iraq,” said a senior Obama administration official. “There’s nothing stopping them moving into both fights.”
A doctor in Iraq’s second-biggest city of Mosul, which ISIS fighters overtook earlier in June, said the group’s Islamist ranks now include Europeans and people across the Middle East. He said he sees them shopping in its stores, recalling a blue-eyed, sunburned German militant he met who spoke in broken Arabic.
ISIS has also recruited members through its raids of prisons, releasing hundreds of inmates who it has integrated into its ranks, Iraqi officials say.
The insurgent group’s seizure of $450 million from Mosul’s central bank and caches of weapons seized from Iraqi troops who fled upon their arrival are also drawing rival jihadist groups in Syria to ISIS, Western and Arab officials say. Last week, four commanders from the Western-backed Free Syrian Army joined ISIS, Syrian activists said.
And this week, ISIS touted on ISIS-affiliated Twitter accounts a pledge by a senior al Qaeda operatives, Anas Ali al-Nashwan, to join the insurgents in Syria and Iraq. Saudi Arabia issued international arrest warrant in 2011 and sought help from Interpol to arrest the Saudi national, who Riyadh says fought jihad in Afghanistan.
An image from the recruitment video. Reuters
“The third most wanted man [in Saudi Arabia] has arrived on the ground to the Levant and pledged allegiance to the Islamic state,” read a tweet, linking to an image showing Mr. Nashwan with the black ISIS flag in the background.
ISIS split from al Qaeda this year and has battled its arm in Syria, al Nusra Front. ISIS leaders contend that al Qaeda has grown too soft in its approach to religious minorities and too lax on socially taboo behavior such as smoking or listening to music.
For many rival Islamists, ISIS’s draw is its sheer military might—displays of power such as a military parade in Mosul this week—that it displays on YouTube or Twitter. Those social-media tools are essential for ISIS to draw new recruits and funding, and it diligently documents its war gains online to rally supporters, the Western and Arab officials say.
ISIS asks followers on Twitter and Facebook for private donations, but has received the bulk of its funding from extortion rackets and kidnapping, Western officials say.
“For all of those who aren’t joining jihad yet, you can perform jihad with your money. We want to buy 100 grad missiles to shell Qardaha,” a Syrian town held by the government, read a recent tweet by an ISIS supporter Abdullah Mohisine that was retweeted over 900 times, attaching a Turkish phone number to call.
The group’s success in Iraq and Syria has given it newfound confidence, Syrians living in ISIS-held territory say.
In Raqqa city, which officials believe is ISIS’s operational nerve center, foreign fighters from Asia and North Africa are arriving, residents say. The new arrivals are confident ISIS will successfully resurrect an Islamic caliphate, or religious state.
“New foreign fighters are coming in and some of them are bringing their families with them. They occupied all the hotels in Raqqa and they inhabit al-Thukna, the most beautiful neighborhood in the city,” said a Raqqa resident. “ISIS is calling on Raqqa’s people to open their empty houses for the immigrants.”
European governments estimate that at least 1,400 of their citizens are fighting in Syria, most with ISIS, and pose a threat upon their return, more radicalized and with combat and explosives training.
But the true numbers may be higher—one British parliamentarian said this week that as many as 1,500 Britons have fought in Syria, compared to an official estimate of 500.
The recruitment has continued despite new legislation since late last year in places like the U.K., which has stripped at least 20 Britons of their citizenship for fighting in Syria.
One European diplomat said the conflicts in Syria and Iraq are drawing an unprecedented number of jihadists from his country.
“There were a noticeable number of school seats empty after the winter break, kids going off to war. Social workers have not seen this before” with any other Middle Eastern conflict, said a European diplomat. “We’ve also seen an increasing number of European suicide bombers.”
—Mohammed Nour Alakraa in Beirut, Jay Solomon in Washington and Laith al-Haydair in Baghdad contributed to this article.
Alongside the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant’s (ISIS) battlefield successes in northern Iraq, the group has deployed a sophisticated social media strategy that is redefining its propaganda.
Since the offensive began on 9 June, a string of Twitter accounts claiming to represent ISIS in Iraq and Syria have been active in providing live updates on the group’s operations and images illustrating their advances.
Although the accounts have not been officially endorsed by ISIS, they have been widely promoted as official regional ISIS accounts by the group’s many online supporters.
ISIS has launched a social media campaign and is posting (mainly on Twitter) photos and statements to highlight its military strength and territorial advances in Iraq.
On 15 June, it posted images of what appears to be dozens of captured Iraqi security personnel along with threats and messages to surrounding towns warning residents of the group’s approach. The photos included the apparent capture, transport, and ultimate killing of the soldiers.
The material went viral on the internet and was widely shared by ISIS supporters.
According to a web-based data mining software, a large number of pro-ISIS tweets originated in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other Gulf countries.
In its Twitter feed, ISIS gives extensive details of its operations, including the number of bombings, suicide missions and assassinations it has carried out, and of checkpoints and towns it controls.
The top Twitter hashtags used by the group include: “#Baghdad_is_liberated” and “#Iraq_is_ liberated”.
Screenshot from an ISIS video posted on YouTube on 17 June, calling for support for the group
In addition to the hashtags, the group produces professional promotional videos and urges support for its “one billion campaign”, which calls on Muslims to post messages, photos and videos on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube in support of ISIS.
One video, posted on 17 June, shows an ISIS member speaking in French and asking Muslims to support ISIS’s cause online. Many videos are also posted with English subtitles or translation.
ISIS is launching a global online campaign on 20 June to support the group’s operations in Iraq and Syria. The group is initiating a Twitter hashtag in Arabic which translates to #theFridayofsupportingISIS, asking supporters around the world to wave the ISIS flag in public, film themselves and upload the clips on social media platforms.
In April 2014, the group developed a free internet application called The Dawn of Glad Tidings, which automatically posts tweets – approved by ISIS media managers – to the accounts of the application’s subscribed users.
The posts include hashtags, links, images, videos and other content. Almost 40,000 tweets were posted in a single day during the recent clashes in Iraq.
One post which went viral was of an image of an armed jihadist gazing at the ISIS flag flying over Mosul with the inscription in Arabic: “We are coming, Baghdad”
The application is promoted by some of the organisation’s leading figures.
ISIS is following a well-planned strategy and the group is selective with what is posted.
This cartoon was posted on the @ISIS_Media_Hub Twitter account
It chooses photos that have the potential of having a strong impact, presumably to create fear among its enemies and win the admiration of other radical groups.
Unlike other jihadist groups, such as the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria the Nusra Front, ISIS gives little consideration to the way it is perceived by the general public.
It rarely posts photos about its charity work or the services it provides in the towns it controls.
The Nusra Front, on the other hand, regularly posts statements and videos, showing the group’s social services, including the distribution of food to the poor and traffic management.
The Nusra Front’s approach has helped the group gain support at the grassroots level in Syria.
In an attempt to limit the impact of ISIS’s social media campaign, the Iraqi government has blocked Facebook, Twitter and other platforms.
Users in the country attempting to visit these sites are greeted by a message saying that the Ministry of Communications has barred access.
ISIS supporters strongly protested against the closure of social media platforms, blaming Twitter’s administrators for the unprecedented attack on the group’s presence on the micro-blogging site.
This is not the first time that Twitter has taken such a step. In February 2014, Twitter suspended the account of an ISIS member who tweeted images of an amputation.
However, blocking ISIS’s access to social media sites may not have a significant impact on the group’s publicity activities.
This is because it attracts followers from across the Arab and Muslim worlds, so countermeasures taken in Iraq may not have only a limited effect.
It is important to highlight that the group’s online presence does not necessarily equate to its popularity.
The fact that ISIS is using internet and social media applications to promote its message may indicate that it does not have strong organic support.
Regardless of this, the way ISIS is running its social media campaign could be a sign of a shift in approach from being an insular group to actively reaching out to the world.
Tech companies, civil liberties groups and human rights organizations are calling on the Senate to re-introduce a more comprehensive version of a once-promising NSA reform bill. The USA Freedom Act, which was passed by Congress on May 22, lost the backing of privacy advocates after the House took out several provisions to garner bipartisan support.
Reform Government Surveillance — a coalition comprised of Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Twitter, Dropbox, LinkedIn, Yahoo, and AOL — called on Senators to fix the bill, citing the need to inspire more confidence in the Internet around the world.
Google servers in Douglas County, Ga. The company is encrypting more data as it moves between servers.Credit Connie Zhou/Google
“Unfortunately, the version that just passed the House of Representatives could permit bulk collection of Internet “metadata” (e.g. who you email and who emails you), something that the Administration and Congress said they intended to end. Moreover, while the House bill permits some transparency, it is critical to our customers that the bill allow companies to provide even greater detail about the number and type of government requests they receive for customer information,” the coalition said in a press release.
A coalition comprised of Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Twitter, Dropbox, LinkedIn, Yahoo, and AOL called on Senators to fix the bill.
Civil liberties and human rights organizations echoed the group’s sentiments, saying that the current version of the legislation may give authorities enough leeway for abuse. In a letter addressed to Senate leaders, a coalition led by the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch stated that it is “very concerned” about the changes introduced to the bill.
“All of the undersigned organizations believed the original version of the USA Freedom Act introduced in both the House and the Senate was an important step towards comprehensive reform. However, we are very concerned about the changes made to the bill in the House and the breadth of the surveillance that the bill could abusively be read to authorize,” the group said in a press release.
“Before passage by the House, both the Judiciary and Intelligence Committees marked up the bill and reported out identical language. However, the final bill passed by the House markedly differs from both the original bill and the bill reported out of the committees … We respectfully submit that careful, public and deliberate consideration of this legislation by the Senate, beginning with full process in the Senate Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, is now necessary to ensure that the legislation truly achieves its unambiguously defined objectives.”
The world’s second largest cellular carrier Britain’s Vodafone says many countries have unfettered access to private communications. Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters
While one of the bill’s authors, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wi), admits that the legislation is weaker than its original version, he still insists that it can still prevent the NSA from collecting phone metadata.
The EFF disagrees. In an earlier press release, the organization withdrew its support of the bill, saying: “The Electronic Frontier Foundation cannot support a bill that doesn’t achieve the goal of ending mass spying.”
The most contentious part of the bill is its new definition of “specific selection term,” which outlines who or what the NSA can monitor. The original definition of specific selection term was information “uniquely describes a person, entity, or account.” In the new version of the bill, it was expanded to “person, entity, account, address, or device.”
“The new version not only adds the undefined words “address” and “device,” but makes the list of potential selection terms open-ended by using the term “such as.” Congress has been clear that it wishes to end bulk collection, but given the government’s history of twisted legal interpretations, this language can’t be relied on to protect our freedoms,” the EFF said.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who is credited as a co-author of the bill, said that the legislation will be taken up in the Judiciary Committee this month. While he expressed dismay over the version of the bill that passed Congress, he indicated that he is looking to bring back the tougher version of the bill.
“I hope we can add back in some of the reforms they had to take out of the House, reforms that both Congressman Sensenbrenner and I strongly support,” he said.
Companies based outside the European Union must meet Europe’s data protection rules, ministers agreed on Friday, although governments remain divided over how to enforce them on companies operating across the bloc.
The agreement to force Internet companies such as Google and Facebook to abide by EU-wide rules is a first step in a wider reform package to tighten privacy laws – an issue that has gained prominence following revelations of U.S. spying in Europe.
Vodafone’s disclosure on Friday of the extent of telephone call surveillance in European countries showed the practice is not limited to the United States. The world’s second-largest mobile phone company, Vodafone is headquartered in the United Kingdom.
“All companies operating on European soil have to apply the rules,” EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding told reporters at a meeting in Luxembourg where ministers agreed on a position also been backed by the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ).
Non-European companies with operations in Europe currently comply with data protection laws in the country in which they are based, which some say leads to “jurisdiction shopping” whereby businesses set up shop in countries with a more relaxed attitude to privacy.
But under the new rules all EU countries will have the same data protection laws, meaning companies will no longer be able to challenge which laws apply to them in court.
Earlier this year a German court ruled that Facebook was subject to German data protection law even if its European headquarters are located in Ireland.
Facebook declined to comment on Friday’s agreement.
Germany and the European Commission, the EU executive, have been highly critical of the way the United States accesses data since former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden last year revealed U.S. surveillance programmes.
Disclosures that the United States carried out large-scale electronic espionage in Germany, including bugging Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone, provoked indignation in Europe.
“Now is the day for European ministers to give a positive answer to Edward Snowden’s wake-up call,” Reding said.
Commenting on Vodafone’s disclosure, she said: “All these kind of things show how important it is to have data protection clearly established.”
The reform package, which was approved by the European Parliament in March, has divided EU governments and still needs work to become law despite Friday’s progress.
While ministers also agreed on provisions allowing companies to transfer data to countries outside the European Union, there was no decision on how to help companies avoid having to deal separately with the bloc’s 28 different data protection authorities.
That issue was thrown into stark relief by a ruling from Europe’s top court requiring Google to remove links to a 16-year-old newspaper article about a Spanish man’s bankruptcy.
The search engine has since received tens of thousands of requests across Europe, and under current rules has to deal with each national authority.
A “one-stop-shop” arrangement would allow companies to deal exclusively with the data protection authority in the country where it has its main establishment. But governments are concerned about a foreign data protection authority making binding decisions that they would then have to enforce.
For example, if a complaint originated in Denmark against a company based in Ireland, the Danish authorities would have to implement a decision by the Irish data protection body, something that is both legally and politically difficult.
Convicted of trafficking in 2010, Tyrelle and Myrelle Lockett, 21, are in jail again, accused of luring girls on social media—part of a new generation taking pimping completely digital.
TyrelleLockett and his twin brother,MyrelleLockett, were just 17 years old when they became the first individuals charged under a 2010 Illinois statute against human trafficking.These Chicago-area twins were sentenced to four years, but after a “boot camp” program followed by a sentence reduction, they were soon paroled.
And now, at 21, both are back behind bars on sex-trafficking charges.
“You would think that people learn their lesson,” says Sgt. William Leen of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, who was involved in making the past and recent cases against the twins. “But obviously they didn’t.”
Myrelle is accused of attempting to force a woman he met on the Internet into prostitution. Tyrelle is being held on federal charges of trafficking in underage girls. Authorities say he took sex trafficking completely digital, one of a new generation of pimps who need only a smartphone to recruit girls, take pictures, post ads, and make appointments with johns.
“You can run the whole operation on your phone,” Leen says.
In the earlier case, the twins recruited at least one of the girls after meeting her at an alternative sentencing program where she landed after an unrelated arrest.
After their parole, Myrelle began exchanging messages online with an 18-year-old Minnesota woman. He and Tyrelle drove to meet the woman last June under what police describe as “false pretenses.”
The next thing the woman knew, she was being driven to the Chicago home of the twins’ father, Nathan Nicholson, who is under indictment for promotion prostitution in an unrelated case to which he has pleaded not guilty.
The woman says Myrelle informed her she was expected to engage in sex for money. She managed to escape by clambering over a fence.
“I just wanted to go home,” the woman told a reporter after Myrelle was arrested. “It wasn’t just me I was worried about; I’m pregnant.”
She added, “Don’t believe everything people say on social media.”
Tyrelle appears to have taken a more forthright approach. He allegedly targeted younger girls with a Facebook account he called Rico Finally Paid, describing his past employment as “pimpin.’” He posted photos of himself with large sums of cash as well as handguns.
“COME MAKE MONEY WITH ME,” one caption read.
An FBI criminal complaint unsealed last week recounts chats Tyrelle allegedly had with a number of underage girls, including one who is identified only as Individual I.
Rico Finally Paid: I want you to come get on this $$$ with me
Individual I: Mkay..how
Rico Finally Paid: Escorting boo.
Individual I: Wat wuld i have to do
Rico Finally Paid: Sex
Individual I: Naw I pass
Another girl was identified in the complaint as Individual J.
Rico Finally Paid: hey sexy how you doing im rico…i just wanna say you sexy and I will love for you to come get this money with me i see a lot of potential in you
Individual J: Haha that’s nice
Rico Finally Paid: im serious its all up to you
Individual J: How exactly do you get money lbvs! [laughing but very serious].
Rico Finally Paid: im a pimp boo
Individual J: Oh
Rico Finally Paid: fwm [believed to be an acronym for “fuck with me”] boo and get this money with me
And then there was a chart with Individual K.:
Rico Finally Paid: have you ever did escorting?
Individual K: Escorting what?
Rico Finally Paid: adult service were you have sex with older men but everything is safe and protected…im looking for a girl who down in ready to get this easy as money
Individual K: No I haven’t done escorting and I’m 16
Rico Finally Paid: its easy fast money money and im welling to spoil you to def . im just looking for my down as girl who ready to get rich like her nigga
Individual K: How old are you?
Rico Finally Paid: 21
Individual K: Honestly I don’t see myself doing that shit it’s not meh but I’ll, let you know if I change my mind…
Rico Finally Paid: well take time to think about ok boo. but i like your picturs
Tyrelle was allegedly able to snare a number of other girls. One, identified in the complaint as Minor C from Muncie, Indiana, was just 14.
“[Tyrelle] told Minor C that Minor C could call him, ‘Daddy,’” the complaint states.
Tyrelle allegedly targeted younger girls with a Facebook account he called Rico Finally Paid, describing his past employment as “pimpin.’”
As recounted in the complaint, Minor C and a girl identified as Minor B were lured by the promise of quick cash. Tyrelle allegedly picked them up at a mall in Muncie and drove them to a Chicago-area hotel. Sexually suggestive cellphone photos of them were posted as part of an ad on the website Backpage, which has origins in theVillage Voice and is now considered by the Cook County Sheriff’s Office to be a major facilitator for prostitution.
“A short time after [Tyrelle] placed the ad on the website service, Minors B and C received a call for a service,” the complaint says. “Before the clients arrived, [Tyrelle] instructed Minors B and C that they should get the client’s money, count it and put it away.”
In a little over a week, Minor C collected some $3,000 from clients. Tyrelle is said to have pocketed every penny. But Minor C was far from home with no money of her own. She might have just kept on had an undercover cop with the Cook County’s Sheriff’s Office working with the FBI not arrested Tyrelle.
One of the girls, identified in the complaint as CW-1, agreed to become a witness against Tyrelle. The complaint says she reported Tyrelle had slapped and choked her, telling her, “You’re mine,” and “You’re not going anywhere.” She also recounted two other prostitutes telling her that Tyrelle “gave” them to his father.
Tyrelle went back to jail, where he remains pending a court appearance. He is expected to plead not guilty, as his twin has in the state case. The federal complaint against Tyrelle reports that in one Facebook status, he wrote of the joys of “trapping,” or running prostitutes.
“I LOVE trapping on the weekends. #$Money Making Mission.”
The complaint also describes a Facebook photo of Tyrelle handling what the FBI describes as a “pimp cane…used to control victims of sex trafficking through beatings and intimidation,” a suggestion the digital age has not changed the barbaric fundamentals what is most likely the one profession older than prostitution. The caption under the photo read:
“I see why yo bitch choose me #Chosen 1”
He seems to have seen no contradiction in changing his profile photo in April to one of him holding a newborn baby. A sonogram pic is in the same album as him brandishing a handgun.
Tyrelle is due in court on Friday, the smartphone not having made him even a mini bit smarter.
Victims duped into exposing themselves on webcams, including a Scottish teenager who killed himself after being blackmailed
Sanjay Virmani of Interpol with British ambassador Asif Ahmad and Philippines police chief Alan Purisima in Manila, Photograph: Ted Aljibe/AFP/Getty Images
Philippines police, backed by Interpol, have arrested dozens of suspected members of an online extortion syndicate who duped hundreds of victims into exposing themselves in front of webcams, including a Scottish teenager who killed himself after being blackmailed, officials have said.
At least 58 Filipino suspects in the capital, Manila, and other cities were arrested after investigators from Interpol, the US homeland security department and other police agencies traced online chats from some of the victims’ computers, said the Philippines national police chief, Alan Purisima.
Purisima said the syndicate would secretly record victims after tricking them into exposing their bodies or having cybersex, and later threaten to send the videos to their relatives and friends unless they paid $500 to $2,000 (£300 to £1,200).
He said members of the “sextortion” group would create fake Facebook accounts of fictitious young women and lure victims with pornographic materials after striking up online chats with them.
Hong Kong police inspector Louis Kwan Chung-yin said more than 470 people from Hong Kong fell victim to the scam last year and about 160 this year. In one case, a victim paid the equivalent of $15,000, he said.
Sanjay Virmani, director of the Interpol digital crime centre in Singapore, said the victims came from Asia, Europe and the US. He said that the suspected extortionist had been tracked down using evidence from computers and intelligence information from police.
Warning those still engaged in cyberextortion in the Philippines and elsewhere, Virmani said: “You better be prepared for the consequences of your actions because as you can see we have made a commitment to work together. You will be caught and you will be held accountable for your actions.”
Scottish police officer Gary Cunningham said he was representing the 17-year-old boy’s family in tracking down those responsible for events leading to his death last year. He said the family was “extremely supportive … in bringing to justice to individuals out there who have fallen victims to these crimes.”
Senior Supt Gilbert Sosa, chief of the Philippine national police anti-cybercrime group, said the amounts extorted from the victims ran into millions of pesos, or tens of thousands of dollars.
“This is not an issue directly involving the Philippines exclusively,” the British ambassador to Manila, Asif Ahmad, said. “Cybercrime is international, and is an international problem, it respects no nationality or borders. We are all potential victims of cybercrime, none of us are immune.”
US Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a news conference at NATO Headquarters in Brussels on April 1, 2014. (photo credit: AFP PHOTO / POOL / JACQUELYN MARTIN)
By Julian Hattem
Different countries’ control of the Internet is increasingly dividing the world into “two different visions” reminiscent of the Cold War, Secretary of State John Kerry warned on Monday.
In remarks to a global Internet governance conference, Kerry said that barriers to Internet access and online freedom needed to be torn down, just like the Berlin Wall in 1989.
“Today, we’ve all learned that walls can be made of ones and zeros and the deprivation of access even to those ones and zeros, and that wall can be just as powerful in keeping us apart in a world that is so incredibly interconnected,” he said at the fourth annual Freedom Online Coalition conference.
“So it’s very much our … common responsibility to try to tear down those walls just as it was our responsibility to try to do that during the Cold War.”He specifically mentioned Russia and Venezuela as countries with an “an absolutely unmistakable pattern” of Internet crackdown.“The places where we face some of the greatest security challenges today are also the places where governments set up firewalls against some of the basic freedoms online,” he said.In Russia, for instance, activists have been concerned that President Vladimir Putin is taking greater control of Internet access there amid a standoff in Ukraine.
The Russian leader recently called the Internet a “CIA project“ and the founder of the country’s answer to Facebook left the site and fled the country, citing fears of a Putin takeover.
Kerry said it was “no coincidence” that Russia “forced” the social network chief, Pavel Durov, to leave his country after refusing to hand over personal information about Ukrainians protesting the Kremlin.
The Obama administration recently began a planned handoff of the Internet domain naming system, a move that critics warned would empower Russia, China and other nations that limit their citizens’ access to the Internet.
But supporters have defended the action. The Internet needs support from governments, private companies, rights groups and other organizations to succeed, they say, in a sentiment that Kerry echoed in his Monday remarks.
“Our principle is clear: if you have interests in how the Internet works, you get to play a role in how it’s governed,” Kerry said on Monday. “That’s what global multistakeholder Internet governance is all about.”
Kerry spoke via a Google Plus video chat at the conference in Tallinn, Estonia, as part of an international effort to advance freedom online. The Freedom Online Coalition is comprised of a group of governments who work with private companies and advocacy organizations to further the mission.