Posts Tagged ‘democracy’

China “Attacks” Taiwan With “God of War” Propaganda Video

April 20, 2018

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s air force has released a propaganda film dubbed into Hokkien, a language strongly identified with Taiwan’s pro-independence movement, showing bomber aircraft which have been involved in flying patrols around the self-ruled island.

China has been issuing increasingly stern warnings for democratic Taiwan to toe the line, including a stepped up military presence and flying bomber patrols around the island as it seeks to curb what Beijing believes are efforts to push for the island’s formal independence.

China claims Taiwan as its sacred territory, and the issue of Taiwan is extremely sensitive in Beijing.

In the latest salvo fired by China, the air force late on Thursday afternoon unveiled on its Weibo account a Hokkien version of an earlier video called “God of War”, which shows H-6K bombers flying over the South China Sea and near to Taiwan.

Image result for H-6K bombers, photos

“A powerful nation must have comparable forces capable of safeguarding its sovereignty and security,” the voice-over says.

Hokkien hails from China’s southeastern province of Fujian and is the native language of the majority of people in Taiwan, where it is also known as Taiwanese or Hoklo . It is also spoken by many ethnic Chinese communities in Southeast Asia.

Hokkien has little official support in China, where the government has for decades pushed the use of Mandarin, and it is rarely given any public platform.

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In Taiwan, however, the language is widely spoken in public, including in parliament, seen as a symbol of the island’s distinctiveness, as opposed to Mandarin, the official tongue in both Taiwan and China.

On Friday, Taiwan’s air force released its own much more slickly produced video through its Facebook page, showing Taiwan’s U.S.-made F-16s and French Mirage fighters soaring into the air and pilots discussing their combat readiness.

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Taiwan’s air force

“We have the confidence and the strength to defend the country’s democracy and freedom!” the Taiwan air force says its in introductory remarks for the video.

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Chinese bomber

A Taiwan defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters they were aware of China’s Hokkien video, but it was too much of a stretch to say their film had been released in response.

“We’ve always made films to show the military’s good face, as all countries do,” the official said.

Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Judy Peng in TAIPEI; Editing by Robert Birsel

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Erdogan Critic Says Turkey’s Election Won’t Be Fair — Nationalist, chauvinist and Islamist front gathering steam in Turkey

April 19, 2018

In an interview with DW, Sevim Dagdelen said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was deliberately creating tension ahead of the vote in June. The snap elections are being held during an extended state of emergency.

 Deutschland | Stellvertretende Fraktionsvorsitzende Die Linke Sevim Dagdelen (DW)

Sevim Dagdelen

President Erdogan’s announcement on Wednesday that Turkey would have snap presidential and parliamentarian elections on June 24 came the same day that the parliament voted to extend the state of emergency for a further three months.

The announcements caused Sevim Dagdelen, a Bundestag representative for the Left Party, to look at what is in store in the coming weeks. She shared her thoughts with Deutsche Welle.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

DW: What are Erdogan’s aims in calling early elections?

Sevim Dagdelen: It’s a combination of outward aggression, such as the military action in Afrin [in northwest Syria] that contravened international law, and inward repression, the state of emergency remains in force in Turkey.

Erdogan fears, after such a close result in the constitutional referendum in April, 2017 [which concentrated his political power], that [winning] might not be so easy. And right now, the mood is good for him.

Turkish army tank in Syria (Getty Images/AFP/B. Kilic)

Turkey’s military operation in Syria has proven popular among Erdogan’s voter base

There is currently a very nationalist, chauvinist and Islamist front gathering steam in Turkey because of the war in Syria and Turkey’s intervention. Given this starting point, there’s a good chance he can win the presidency in the first round of the vote.

Can you have a fair election during this state of emergency, considering the restrictions on things like freedom of assembly?

There’s just as little a chance of this being a democratic, fair and free vote as was the case, for instance, in the constitutional referendum of 2017 — which also took place during the state of emergency.

Read more: Turkey getting a last shot at democracy

That’s because the opposition — the “no” camp — was completely disrupted when organizing its campaign. And one part of the opposition, the real opposition if you wish, the pro-Kurdish HDP [Peoples’ Democratic Party] is now in large part in jail; for example, the chair and the former chair of the party, as well as some of its MPs. Meanwhile, dozens of other pro-Kurdish MPs have had their mandates revoked, as is the case for some social democratic MPs. Given that, we can’t even begin to talk about a democratic election taking place under such conditions.

Am I right to say that eligible Turkish voters in Germany will be able to participate in this vote too?

There must be a decision from the German government to permit this. … Chancellor Merkel has to provide this permission for any vote abroad.

I presume that Turkey will seek this permission this time. That’s because, at least in past votes, there was always majority support for Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) abroad — in Germany and several other European countries. So diaspora votes are very relevant for the AKP.

Would you deny the diaspora vote, if it was in your power?

It was Chancellor Merkel herself who first made this possible in 2012. Before that, there were no Turkish voting stations in Germany. I do not think it was particularly clever to bring this battle to German soil.

Erdogan supporters in Cologne (Getty Images/V. Rys)

Erdogan supporters in Cologne (Getty Images/V. Rys)

Erdogan and the AKP have strong support among Germany’s Turkish community

We saw this, for instance, with these vile Nazi comparisons from the Turkish government during the constitutional referendum campaign. And I also don’t think it’s right that people can vote in favor of introducing the death penalty from German soil (Editor’s note: Erodgan has advocated the penalty’s reintroduction).

To that extent, I consider it highly irresponsible of the [German] government to permit this. But I expect that Merkel will allow it, firstly because she opened herself up to blackmail with the refugee deal with Erdogan [agreed between the EU and Turkey and aimed at stemming migrant flows into Europe].

Read more: Germany and Turkey in 2017: a rollercoaster relationship

We were promised a new direction in German-Turkish politics last summer, and it was nothing but hot air: The military, secret service and policing cooperation continues to work, arms exports are still being approved and indeed exported to Turkey, and now the new minister for the economy has recently stated that he wants to extend economic ties with Turkey.

That means we’re even helping the Turkish president to survive this vote, because economically, his back is against the wall at the moment. Turkey’s lira currency is at a historic low; yes, there’s statistical economic growth, but the figures are dubious and unemployment is rising. And so Erdogan needs financial assistance from Germany and the EU, and evidently there’s a willingness to provide this support.

You advocate much more restricted Western ties with Turkey…

I consider continuing to work with a dictatorial regime “a la Erdogan” towards EU accession to be incompatible with the European ideal. It’s actually perverse to continue the accession negotiations with Turkey. It should be stopped, and along with it the multi-million annual financial assistance programs that have to be provided for as long as the Turkish accession process continues.

Sevim Dagdelen is a German MP of Kurdish origin in the Bundestag with left-wing opposition party The Left (Die Linke). She authored a 2016 book whose title roughly translates as “The Erdogan case: How Merkel is selling us out to an autocrat.”

James Comey proves he only cares about himself — Most of the merchandise being peddled here is tawdry — Beneath any great law man or investigator

April 15, 2018

“FBI abused their powers to play politics during the 2016 campaign.”

By Michael Goodwin
The New York Post

The Chinese Dissident Who Wrote in Blood

April 14, 2018

Fifty years after her execution for criticizing Mao, Lin Zhao continues to rally democracy activists and to worry Chinese authorities

Lin Zhao visiting a tomb at Taoranting Park, Beijing in 1959.
Lin Zhao visiting a tomb at Taoranting Park, Beijing in 1959. PHOTO: COURTESY NI JINGXIONG

Few in the West know of the Chinese dissident Lin Zhao, who was executed 50 years ago this month at the height of the Cultural Revolution for her fierce opposition to Mao, but she is still very much a presence in China. On the anniversary of her death in two weeks, some of her many admirers will attempt to pay their respects at her tomb, and the Chinese authorities will try to stop them—all of which suggests something of the power of her words, even after a half-century.

Born in 1932 in Suzhou, Lin Zhao attended a Methodist mission school in the 1940s, where she converted to Christianity and then to Communism. She secretly joined the party at the age of 16 to agitate for a just society with “no corrupt officials.” Her disillusionment with the revolution came in 1957-58, after Mao launched his Anti-Rightist campaign against liberal intellectuals; some 1.2 million people were purged.

Named a Rightist herself in 1958 and designated for re-education, she attempted to kill herself, but survived. She returned to a fervent Christian faith, and her career of literary dissent began. In 1960, she was arrested.

To the common people alone our country rightly belongs;

‘how can mountains and rivers turn into an emperor’s private grounds?

——Lin Zhao, from a poem written in blood from prison

In her cell, Lin Zhao produced a series of impassioned writings, composed in her own blood when she had no ink. She would prick her finger, drain the blood into a plastic spoon and use a straw or bamboo strip to write on clothing or a bed sheet. When she had a pen, she would copy the texts onto paper. Prison rules required that her writings be kept as evidence against her, and no functionary dared to dispose of them.

In her poems, essays, and letters, Lin Zhao wrote about the sanctity of individual freedom and the evils of Mao’s dictatorial rule. One of her poems directed at Mao, written on a shirt, said, “To the common people alone our country rightly belongs;/how can mountains and rivers turn into an emperor’s private grounds?”

She chose Bastille Day in 1965 to begin what became a five-month project: a 137-page letter to the editorial board of the People’s Daily, the party mouthpiece, excoriating “ Mao Zedong Thought” as the “blackened marrow of totalitarian politics.” Democratic rights are God-given, she insisted: “Nobody has the right to tell me: In order to live, you must have chains on your neck and endure the humiliation of slavery.” She was executed three years later.

Pilgrimages to Lin Zhao’s tomb on Lingyan Hill in Suzhou have made the authorities increasingly nervous about her ideas and influence.

After Mao’s death in 1976, she was exonerated posthumously, and in 1982 her prison writings were released to her family. In the early 2000s, Lin Zhao’s former fiancé and classmates edited some of the texts, and they were digitized and posted on the internet. Her work quickly became a rallying point for political dissent.

Pilgrimages to Lin Zhao’s tomb on Lingyan Hill in Suzhou have made the authorities increasingly nervous about her ideas and influence. A decade ago, on the eve of the 40th anniversary of her execution, the government installed a security camera at the site, and over the years, the police have increasingly engaged in a battle of wills with visitors.

The concentration of power in the hands of President Xi Jinping has given Lin Zhao’s voice a new resonance and urgency for democracy advocates in China. With the 50th anniversary of her death approaching, some Chinese who tried to organize a pilgrimage to her tomb were again harassed by police. A recent government notice posted nearby led some to fear that the tomb would be destroyed, though the management of the graveyard denied this.

Either way, on April 29, there will likely be a heavy police presence on Lingyan Hill. Such fear of a young woman who was shot 50 years ago may seem paranoid, but it is actually quite rational. To borrow biblical language, she is one who, though dead, still speaks.

Appeared in the April 14, 2018, print edition as ‘The Chinese dissident who wrote in Blood.’

Philippine President Duterte lashes out again at ‘ignorant’ Supreme Court Chief Justice Sereno

April 13, 2018
Duterte lashes out again at ‘ignorant’ Sereno


President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, in his speech during the meeting with the Filipino community at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Hong Kong on April 12, 2018, reiterates that he has been exerting effort in fulfilling his campaign of promises of addressing illegal drugs, crime and corruption.

Presidential photo/Valerie Escalera

Kristine Joy Patag ( – April 13, 2018 – 11:18am

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday has lashed out anew against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, branding her as an “ignorant chief justice.”

The firebrand leader, upon his arrival at Davao International Airport from Hong Kong early morning of Friday, said: “You know why I castigated you in public? You are ignorant.”

Duterte recalled a time when, “in the thick of a campaign,” Sereno cautioned against submitting to warrantless arrests.

The president was apparently referring to the letter of Sereno in August 2016.

Part of which read: “To safeguard the role of the judges as the protector of constitutional rights, I would caution them very strongly against ‘surrendering’ or making themselves physically accountable to any police officer in the absence of any duly-issued warrant of arrest that is pending.”

The chief magistrate was referring to judges identified by the president as those linked to drugs. She also told Duterte that the judiciary will look into his accusations and their basis.

More than a year later, Duterte said that Sereno’s comment angered him. “That is why I got angry at you because even an ordinary flunker of law knows that.”

“You really should be removed (from position), even before. You are stupid,” Duterte added.

The chief executive, who is also a lawyer and was once a prosecutor, said that Sereno should have known about warrantless arrests.

The head magistrate’s letter is among the “impeachable acts” cited by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon in his verified complaint against Sereno.

Sereno’s stint as chief justice ‘too long’

Duterte also commented that an “ignorant” chief justice like Sereno should not be sitting in the position for too long.

Sereno was appointed to the position in 2012, and has been serving as chief justice for five years and eight months. She is poised to hold the position for 18 years, or until 2030 when she reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70.

Duterte served as Mayor of Davao for 22 years before gunning for the presidential seat.

“If you are that ignorant, you better go. Leave,” Duterte said. “That’s too long for an ignorant chief justice. That’s enough,” he added.

A fuming Duterte on Monday openly ordered the Congress to fast-track the impeachment of Sereno. This was in response to Sereno’s remark that it cannot be denied that the president has a hand on the ouster moves against her.

He later clarified that his order was only addressed to his party-mates at the Partido Demokratikong Pilipino.

READ: International group of jurists assails Duterte for slamming Sereno

The Congress is currently on break and will resume its session on May 15.

The House plenary is set to vote on the articles of impeachment drafted by its justice panel upon resumption of session.



International group of jurists assails Duterte for slamming Sereno
Audrey Morallo ( – April 12, 2018 – 9:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — An international group of judges and lawyers has recently condemned President Rodrigo Duterte for railing against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, calling it an “assault” on both the chief magistrate and judiciary’s independence.

Reacting to Sereno’s insinuations that the Philippine leader is directly behind efforts to dislodge her from office, Duterte on Monday declared that he was already the chief justice’s enemy.

He also directed his PDP Laban party mates at the House of Representatives to hasten the impeachment of Sereno, whom he said needed to be removed from the Supreme Court.


Two more activists jailed in Vietnam amid widening dissent crackdown — Vietnamese wonder if Facebook is helping the government to harass, detain, prosecute and imprison

April 12, 2018


HANOI (Reuters) – Courts in Vietnam handed prison sentences to two activists on Thursday, as the communist-ruled government widens its crackdown on dissent.

A court in Nghe An province sentenced 32-year-old Nguyen Viet Dung to seven years in prison for posting “anti-state propaganda” on his Facebook account, police said after a trial that lasted a few hours.

Despite sweeping economic and social reforms in Vietnam, the ruling Communist Party retains tight media censorship and does not tolerate criticism. It has been stepping up sentencing and arrests of activists and handing them longer jail terms.

Two more activists jailed in Vietnam amid widening dissent crackdown

Activist Nguyen Van Tuc, center, stands trial in Thai Binh, Vietnam, Tuesday, April 10, 2018. Nguyen Van Tuc is accused of the same charges as Nguyen Viet Dung (The Duyen/ Vietnam News Agency via AP)

Dung was charged with posting information on his Facebook account last year that distorted the policies of the party and the state and defamed state leaders, the police said, citing the indictment.

Dung, who was jailed for a year in 2015 for causing public disorder, will also face five years of house arrest after serving his latest prison term, police said.

“These trumped up charges, used to attack peaceful activists like Nguyen Viet Dung and many other dissidents before him, show just how easy it is for the government to harass, detain, prosecute and imprison any person,” said Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director at New York-based Human Rights Watch.


He said Vietnam should heed calls from the United Nations and foreign diplomats demanding the immediate and unconditional release of Dung.

Separately, a court in the nearby province of Ha Tinh on Thursday jailed Tran Thi Xuan for nine years after she was convicted of “attempting to overthrow the people’s administration”, police in the province said.

Police said Xuan was a member of a group called the Brotherhood for Democracy, whose other members were jailed at other trials this month.

Lawyers for Dung and Xuan could not be reached for comment on Thursday.


Their trials followed heavy sentences for at least seven other activists convicted of attempting to overthrow the people’s administration.

This month, a Hanoi court sentenced human rights lawyer and activist Nguyen Van Dai to 15 years in prison on the grounds that he “aimed at overthrowing the people’s administration”.

Five other activists affiliated with Brotherhood Democracy were jailed for seven to 12 years.

On Tuesday, a court in the northern province of Thai Binh handed a 13-year prison sentence to another activist, Nguyen Van Tuc, accused of the same charges.

Vietnamese human rights activists and independent media groups wrote this week to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook Inc’s chief executive, questioning whether the social media platform was helping suppress dissent in Vietnam.

The letter, released on Tuesday by U.S.-based human rights group Viet Tan and signed by nearly 50 other groups, said Facebook’s system of automatically pulling content if enough people complained could “silence human rights activists and citizen journalists in Vietnam”.

Facebook said its community standard in Vietnam was in line with that elsewhere.

“There are also times when we may have to remove or restrict access to content because it violates a law in a particular country, even though it doesn’t violate our community standards,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement.

Reporting by Hanoi Newsroom; Editing by Darren Schuettler

Vietnam activists accuse Facebook of censoring content — 10,000-strong military cyber force in Vietnam fights “wrongful views”

April 10, 2018




© AFP/File | Internet in Vietnam is classified as “not free”, according to web watchdog Freedom House, the worst in Southeast Asia and second only to China in all of Asia
HANOI (AFP) – A group of 50 Vietnamese activists and rights organisations have written an open letter to Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg suggesting his company may be colluding with communist authorities to scrub out online dissent.

Vietnam ranks among Facebook’s top 10 users by numbers and the site is hugely popular among dissidents in the one-party state where independent media is banned and blog sites are routinely removed.

The letter to the head of the world’s largest social media platform was signed by 50 organisations, activists and bloggers who said they have seen an uptick in “account suspensions and content takedown” since last year.

Vietnam’s government said in April 2017 that Facebook has agreed to remove “bad and malicious” content that violates local laws, including fake news and imposter accounts, but made no explicit mention of anti-regime material.

“It would appear that after this high-profile agreement to coordinate with a government that is known for suppressing expression online and jailing activists, the problem of account suspension and content takedown has only grown more acute,” said the letter published late Monday.

“We urge you to reconsider your company’s aggressive practices that could silence human rights activists and citizen journalists in Vietnam,” it added.

The group said that several Facebook posts were censored last week during a high-profile trial of six democracy activists who were handed heavy sentences for “attempting to overthrow the state”.

Vietnamese officials and Facebook did not immediately reply to requests for comment Tuesday.

Internet in the country is classified as “not free”, according to web watchdog Freedom House, the worst in Southeast Asia and second only to China in all of Asia.

Activist Le Van Son, who signed the letter, told AFP his Facebook page is frequently censored and his profile was taken down temporarily last week after he posted in support of the activists on trial.

“My Facebook account reflects my critical opinions and enables my right to talk about democracy, press freedom and freedom of expression in Vietnam,” said Son.

“I have never violated regulations by posting racy pictures, false information or humiliating others with curse words.”

Vietnam announced last year a 10,000-strong military cyber force tasked with fighting “wrongful views” online.

Activists have said the online brigade, dubbed ‘Force 47’, has flooded their sites with pro-government commentary and harassment.

Unlike in China, Vietnam does not employ a Firewall to block major social media sites, although Facebook access is sometimes interrupted during protests in the country.

The letter to Zuckerberg comes amid deepening controversy at Facebook over privacy and security lapses after the revelation that British firm Cambridge Analytica — which worked with Donald Trump’s campaign — hijacked data on millions of users.

Vietnam was among 10 countries affected by the breach, according to a Facebook blog post last week saying that data from more than 420,000 users in Vietnam may have been improperly shared with Cambridge Analytica.

Philippines’ Duterte urges ‘fast-track’ sacking of top judge

April 9, 2018



© AFP/File | Philippine Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno: under fire from Duterte

MANILA (AFP) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday lawmakers must “fast-track” the impeachment of the nation’s top judge, further stacking the odds against her staying in office.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is one of several high-profile critics who have found themselves in legal trouble after battling with Duterte over his deadly anti-drug crackdown.

“I’m putting you (Sereno) on notice that I am now your enemy and you have to be out of the Supreme Court,” Duterte told reporters before flying to China for an economic forum.

“I held my temper before because she’s a woman. This time I’m asking the congressmen and the Speaker: ‘Do it now. Cut out the drama, or else I will do it for you’,” he added.

A committee in the legislature’s lower chamber the House of Representatives last month found “probable cause” to impeach Sereno, in a move which critics allege is part of wider efforts by Duterte to destroy foes and usher in one-man rule.

If lawmakers in the full House support the finding, Sereno would face a US-style impeachment trial in the Senate or upper house. Congress is currently in recess and is due to reconvene May 14.

The Supreme Court is set Tuesday to hear a separate petition to unseat Sereno from the country’s highest tribunal.

She has been accused of failing to pay about two million pesos ($40,000) in taxes as well as falsifying and tampering with court resolutions.

She is also alleged to have spent excessively on “opulent” hotels and a luxury official vehicle, as well as flying business or first class.

Until Monday Duterte had repeatedly denied having anything to do with the moves to sack Sereno.

He called on House Speaker and key ally Pantaleon Alvarez to “kindly fast-track the impeachment” of Sereno.

“If it calls for your forced removal I will do it,” Duterte said, referring to Sereno.

Duterte and Sereno first clashed in 2016 when she criticised his order that judges whom he linked to the illegal drugs trade turn themselves in as part of his crackdown.

Police say they have killed roughly 4,000 drug suspects who fought back during arrest since Duterte launched the war nearly two years ago. Rights groups allege the actual number is three times higher.

Other Duterte critics have also been ousted, punished or threatened including detained Senator Leila de Lima, the Commission on Human Rights, and an anti-corruption prosecutor who investigated allegations Duterte has hidden wealth.


Philippine Supreme Court Chief Justice: President Rodrigo Duterte has had a hand in the moves to oust her from office

April 9, 2018


Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is facing two petitions seeking her ouster.

Boy Santos
Kristine Joy Patag ( – April 9, 2018 – 1:25pm

MANILA, Philippines — Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Monday said that despite the denials, it is clear that President Rodrigo Duterte has had a hand in the moves to oust her from office.

A day before she appears before her colleagues as a respondent in an ouster petition, Sereno, in one of her fiercest speeches yet, said: “You cannot deny that there is a hand moving behind these.”

“That is why I am asking for an answer: Is that the way it is, President Duterte­—I should be removed either through quo warranto or impeachment?” the chief justice also said.

Sereno was among the honorees of the Movement against Tyranny for her “courage fighting for democracy.”

The president has repeatedly distanced himself from the petitions filed against Sereno, with whom he had been at loggerheads early in his administration.

The chief magistrate is facing two petitions with the same prayer for ouster: An impeachment complaint, pending before the House plenary, and a petition for quo warranto before the Supreme Court.

Petition for quo warranto

“Mr. President, if you said that you are in no way involved in this, please explain why Solicitor General [Jose] Calida filed this (quo warranto petition), who is reporting to you?” she added in Filipino.

Solicitor General Calida also initiated a Securities and Exchange Commission into allegations of foreign ownership in news site Rappler, which has been releasing reports critical of the Duterte administration. The probe led to a SEC order canceling Rappler’s business registration, which the news website has brought to court.

Duterte himself had accused Rappler of being American owned in his State of the Nation Address in 2017.

Sereno did not mince her words in calling Calida’s petition “laughable,” and the “height of hypocrisy.” She added that what is being done to her right now reeks of “evil.”

She added that it is “embarrassing” for the Philippine government’s chief legal counsel to explain an “unconstitutional act.”

Calida and Sereno will both appear on the SC’s oral arguments of the petition seeking the nullification of the chief justice’s appointment on Tuesday, at the session hall in Baguio.

Sereno has argued that an impeachment case is the only legal course to ouster her, while Calida explained that his petition runs on different ground from an impeachment complaint.

Impeachment case

The chief justice is also facing an impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon.

The House, in plenary, is set to vote on the impeachment articles, drafted by its justice panel, upon the resumption of its sessions.

Sereno pointed out that she has never met Gadon, whose complaint cited instances that transpired during en banc sessions, where only justices are allowed to participate.

She added that she learned that Gadon has met with Duterte before.

RELATED: Duterte seen with Sereno impeachment accuser

She said that she keeps wondering why a “very respectful” letter that she sent to Duterte in August 2016 was one of the grounds cited by Gadon in his impeachment complaint. In the said letter, Sereno pointed out that the judiciary should be allowed to investigate its own ranks after Duterte named judges who were allegedly involved in the illegal drug trade.

“The Filipino people are smart. They understand. You do not have to spell it out for them,” she added in Filipino.

Sereno has denied all allegations against her. She is on indefinite leave from her office.


Facebook’s Business Model is Incompatible With Basic Human Rights — “May be one of the most powerful radicalising instruments of the 21st century”

April 5, 2018

Facebook has had a bad few weeks. The social media giant had to apologise for failing to protect the personal data of millions of users from being accessed by data mining company Cambridge Analytica. Outrage is brewing over its admission to spying on people via their Android phones. Its stock price plummeted, while millions deleted their accounts in disgust.

Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, closeup

Facebook has also faced scrutiny over its failure to prevent the spread of “fake news” on its platforms, including via an apparent orchestrated Russian propaganda effort to influence the 2016 US presidential election.

Facebook’s actions – or inactions – facilitated breaches of privacy and human rights associated with democratic governance. But it might be that its business model – and those of its social media peers generally – is simply incompatible with human rights.

The good

In some ways, social media has been a boon for human rights – most obviously for freedom of speech.

Previously, the so-called ‘marketplace of ideas’ was technically available to all (in “free” countries), but was in reality dominated by the elites. While all could equally exercise the right to free speech, we lacked equal voice. Gatekeepers, especially in the form of the mainstream media, largely controlled the conversation.

But today, anybody with internet access can broadcast information and opinions to the whole world. While not all will be listened to, social media is expanding the boundaries of what is said and received in public. The marketplace of ideas must effectively be bigger and broader, and more diverse.

Social media enhances the effectiveness of non-mainstream political movements, public assemblies and demonstrations, especially in countries that exercise tight controls over civil and political rights, or have very poor news sources.

Social media played a major role in co-ordinating the massive protests that brought down dictatorships in Tunisia and Egypt, as well as large revolts in Spain, Greece, Israel, South Korea, and the Occupy movement. More recently, it has facilitated the rapid growth of the #MeToo and #neveragain movements, among others.

The bad and the ugly

 Image may contain: 1 person, text

But the social media “free speech” machines can create human rights difficulties. Those newly empowered voices are not necessarily desirable voices.

The UN recently found that Facebook had been a major platform for spreading hatred against the Rohingya in Myanmar  which in turn led to ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.

Video sharing site YouTube seems to automatically guide viewers to the fringiest versions of what they might be searching for. A search on vegetarianism might lead to veganism; jogging to ultra-marathons; Donald Trump’s popularity to white supremacist rants; and Hillary Clinton to 9/11 trutherism.

YouTube, via its algorithm’s natural and probably unintended impacts, “may be one of the most powerful radicalising instruments of the 21st century”, with all the attendant human rights abuses that might follow.

The business model and human rights

Human rights abuses might be embedded in the business model that has evolved for social media companies in their second decade.

Essentially, those models are based on the collection and use for marketing purposes of their users’ data. And the data they have is extraordinary in its profiling capacities, and in the consequent unprecedented knowledge base and potential power it grants to these private actors.

Indirect political influence is commonly exercised, even in the most credible democracies, by private bodies such as major corporations. This power can be partially constrained by “anti-trust laws” that promote competition and prevent undue market dominance.

Anti-trust measures could, for example, be used to hive off Instagram from Facebook, or YouTube from Google. But these companies’ power essentially arises from the sheer number of their users: in late 2017, Facebook was reported as having more than 2.2 billion active users. Anti-trust measures do not seek to cap the number of a company’s customers, as opposed to its acquisitions.

Power through knowledge

In 2010, Facebook conducted an experiment by randomly deploying a non-partisan “I voted” button into 61 million feeds during the US mid-term elections. That simple action led to 340,000 more votes, or about 0.14% of the US voting population. This number can swing an election. A bigger sample would lead to even more votes.

So Facebook knows how to deploy the button to sway an election, which would clearly be lamentable. However, the mere possession of that knowledge makes Facebook a political player. It now knows that button’s the political impact, the types of people it is likely to motivate, and the party that’s favoured by its deployment and non-deployment, and at what times of day.

It might seem inherently incompatible with democracy for that knowledge to be vested in a private body. Yet the retention of such data is the essence of Facebook’s ability to make money and run a viable business.


A study has shown that a computer knows more about a person’s personality than their friends or flatmates from an analysis of 70 “likes”, and more than their family from 150 likes. From 300 likes it can outperform one’s spouse.

This enables the micro-targeting of people for marketing messages – whether those messages market a product, a political party or a cause. This is Facebook’s product, from which it generates billions of dollars. It enables extremely effective advertising and the manipulation of its users. This is so even without Cambridge Analytica’s underhanded methods.

Advertising is manipulative: that is its point. Yet it is a long bow to label all advertising as a breach of human rights.

Advertising is available to all with the means to pay. Social media micro-targeting has become another battleground where money is used to attract customers and, in the political arena, influence and mobilise voters.

While the influence of money in politics is pervasive – and probably inherently undemocratic – it seems unlikely that spending money to deploy social media to boost an electoral message is any more a breach of human rights than other overt political uses of money.

Yet the extraordinary scale and precision of its manipulative reach might justify differential treatment of social media compared to other advertising, as its manipulative political effects arguably undermine democratic choices.

As with mass data collection, perhaps it may eventually be concluded that that reach is simply incompatible with democratic and human rights.

‘Fake news’

Finally, there is the issue of the spread of misinformation.

While paid advertising may not breach human rights, “fake news” distorts and poisons democratic debate. It is one thing for millions of voters to be influenced by precisely targeted social media messages, but another for maliciously false messages to influence and manipulate millions – whether paid for or not.

In a Declaration on Fake News several UN and regional human rights experts said fake news interfered with the right to know and receive information – part of the general right to freedom of expression.

Its mass dissemination may also distort rights to participate in public affairs. Russia and Cambridge Analytica (assuming allegations in both cases to be true) have demonstrated how social media can be “weaponised” in unanticipated ways.

Yet it is difficult to know how social media companies should deal with fake news. The suppression of fake news is the suppression of speech – a human right in itself.

The preferred solution outlined in the Declaration on Fake News is to develop technology and digital literacy to enable readers to more easily identify fake news. The human rights community seems to be trusting that the proliferation of fake news in the marketplace of ideas can be corrected with better ideas rather than censorship.

However, one cannot be complacent in assuming that “better speech” triumphs over fake news. A recent study concluded fake news on social media:

… diffused significantly farther, faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information.

Also, internet “bots” apparently spread true and false news at the same rate, which indicates that:

… false news spreads more than the truth because humans, not robots, are more likely to spread it.

The depressing truth may be that human nature is attracted to fake stories over the more mundane true ones, often because they satisfy predetermined biases, prejudices and desires. And social media now facilitates their wildfire spread to an unprecedented degree.

Perhaps social media’s purpose – the posting and sharing of speech – cannot help but generate a distorted and tainted marketplace of fake ideas that undermine political debate and choices, and perhaps human rights.

What next?

It is premature to assert the very collection of massive amounts of data is irreconcilable with the right to privacy (and even rights relating to democratic governance).

Similarly, it is premature to decide that micro-targeting manipulates the political sphere beyond the bounds of democratic human rights.

Finally, it may be that better speech and corrective technology will help to undo fake news’ negative impacts: it is premature to assume that such solutions won’t work.

However, by the time such conclusions may be reached, it may be too late to do much about it. It may be an example where government regulation and international human rights law – and even business acumen and expertise – lags too far behind technological developments to appreciate their human rights dangers.

At the very least, we must now seriously question the business models that have emerged from the dominant social media platforms. Maybe the internet should be rewired from the grass roots rather than be led by digital oligarchs’ business needs.

Sarah Joseph, Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University 

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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