Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

Censorship the elephant in the room as Twitter courts Chinese firms at CES Asia in Shanghai

May 26, 2015

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By James Griffiths
South China Morning Post

A senior Twitter executive laid out the company’s benefits to Chinese businesses looking to connect with a global audience at a talk in Shanghai that ignored restrictions placed on the service in China.

Opening the second day of the inaugural Consumer Electronics Show (CES) Asia, Twitter vice president of Asia Pacific, Latin America and emerging markets Shailesh Rao gave a keynote speech squarely aimed at Chinese firms in attendance.

“Twitter can help Chinese companies and organisations reach world audiences,” Rao said.

“You have the power to … reach people with shared interests anywhere in the world.”

The unspoken exception to that global reach is mainland China, where Twitter has been blocked since 2009.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post in March, Peter Greenberger, Twitter’s sales director for emerging markets, said the company was targeting “big [Chinese] advertisers looking to reach overseas”.

This goal was clear in Rao’s speech, which served as something of an introduction to Twitter for Chinese business leaders perhaps less familiar with the service than their foreign counterparts.

Twitter was inaccessible during CES Asia. It has been blocked in mainland China since 2009. Photo: James Griffiths

Twitter, which also has a booth in the main CES Asia conference hall, is completely inaccessible for attendees who do not use a virtual private network (VPN) to bypass internet restrictions, something which has become significantly more difficult in mainland China since the beginning of this year.

While Rao did not reference the fact that Twitter was blocked in China, the country was noticeably absent from slides discussing global participation in conversations around events such as the football World Cup or the Sochi Winter Olympics.

Speaking at the opening of Twitter’s Hong Kong office earlier this year, Greenberger said that it was not the firm’s intention to re-enter the mainland Chinese market, where it would face stiff competition from domestic social media platforms even if the government ban was lifted.

Instead, Twitter aims to become a tool for Chinese businesses that are already engaged with local audiences on social media to build similar followings overseas.

DON’T MISS: At CES Asia expo, tech gurus lay out vision for ‘internet of things’

“Our ideal customer is someone who is advertising on Weibo and wants to do the same for an international audience,” Greenberger said.

Rao mentioned Alibaba, Air China and Xiaomi as three examples of Chinese companies which are using Twitter to build their brands overseas.

“We’re seeing Chinese companies extend to reach audiences around the world [and] Twitter can be … the bridge to do that,” he said.

One sector which has embraced Twitter, as well as fellow blocked-in-China service Facebook, is Chinese state media. State news agency Xinhua, major newspapers including the People’s Daily and Global Times, and broadcaster CCTV all have active Twitter accounts on which they publish content in multiple languages.

Hong Kong government asks Google to reveal data on Hong Kong users

May 16, 2015

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Google received a record number of requests from Hong Kong authorities to disclose data about its users in the second half of last year, according to figures from the search engine giant.

Google’s latest six-monthly Transparency Report says there were 367 requests for data involving 407 users. But only 43 per cent of the requests were deemed of merit to hand over data.

Although the figures were only marginally higher than those for the first half of last year, the number of requests for data has been on the rise.

Charles Mok, lawmaker for the information technology sector, said the government’s lack of transparency on data requests was a threat to Hongkongers’ privacy.

“This ongoing trend underlines the threat present to netizens’ online privacy and freedom of speech,” Mok said.

“These government requests for user information are often made under very opaque circumstances for investigation and law-enforcement purposes, and internet service providers are not in a position to refuse.”

Ranked against 85 countries and territories, Hong Kong came in 12th in the number of data requests made, compared to 9,981 in the United States, 2,080 in Britain and 217 in Taiwan.

Singapore’s government made 1,410 requests for data involving 1,471 user accounts, and was successful in obtaining the data in 68 per cent of cases.

Foreign tech companies, including Facebook and Yahoo, regularly publish reports about requests for data from law enforcement.

Jennifer Zhang, project manager for the Hong Kong Transparency Report, a project by the journalism and media studies centre at the University of Hong Kong, said local online service providers had yet to publish similar transparency reports and legal guidelines on data requests.

“This raises both transparency and accountability concerns for the user,” she said. “Users are counting on their service providers to safeguard their data, but the reality is we have no way of knowing.”

A spokeswoman for the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer said: “Such requests are mainly related to crime prevention and detection as well as law enforcement.”

The office said there was no central mechanism by which it can be seen what requests had been made, and “as such the office does not have readily available information on the details of requests for data from government departments”.

Internet problems in China blamed on malware from overseas servers

May 1, 2015

A hacking attack using malware from overseas servers was to blame for Internet problems in China earlier this week that prevented users accessing a number of popular foreign websites, an official state-run newspaper said on Friday.

Social media users first reported on Sunday that they were being sent to software website wpkg.org and travel website ptraveler.com when trying to access news websites like cnn.com, news portal yahoo.co.jp, and games website runescape.com, among others.

 

The incident was the latest in a series of challenges businesses and individuals have faced going online in the world’s second-largest economy.

The English-language China Daily, citing the National Computer Network Emergency Response Technical Team Coordination Centre, an agency that monitors China’s Internet safety, said the redirection happened because some servers in China were “contaminated” by malware from overseas servers.

Access to the internet — both speed and stability — have long been a major issue especially among foreign businesses and individuals. Internet services operated by Facebook, Google and Twitter, to name a few, are unusable in China. The country operates the world’s most sophisticated censorship mechanism in order to quell sources of information the Communist Party sees as potentially destabilizing or undermining its rule.

IN-DEPTH

— Reuters

http://www.nbcnews.com/tech/tech-news/china-blames-hacking-attack-recent-internet-problems-n351821

Why Google Remains A Top Tech Buy – Much Like Apple And Facebook

April 29, 2015

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By Gene Marcial
Forbes

Google, the world’s largest Internet company specializing in search and advertising, remains the tech wonder stock it has always been: Innovative, globally aggressive in connectivity and, yes, still undervalued.

But investors of late have pushed back from the technology sector, including tech leaders Apple (AAPL), Facebook (FB), Amazon.com (AMZN) and, yes, Google (GOOG, GOOGL). These are the four U.S. stocks that the European Commission loves to hate, referred to in Europe as “GAFA,” as noted by the New York Times’ Joe Nocera in his Apr. 28, 2015, column.

And these are the tech leaders some investors in the U.S. worry about because of their robust performance in recent months. But these tech and Internet giants remain the market’s stalwarts even as they are temporarily being sidelined by many investors. In particular, Google is getting the brunt of investor concern as the EC lambastes its alleged antitrust violations.

But as the stock pulls back because of such concerns, the stock has become more alluring for investors looking for a lower-price entry opportunity to buy into the stock, or to add more to their shareholdings.

“Google remains one of the more attractive investment opportunities in the technology sector,” says Morningstar’s analyst Rick Summer. He is sticking with his “wide economic moat rating and $715 a share fair value estimate at this time.” Summer notes that Google recently announced Project Fi, a new wireless service in the U.S. that will provide mobile voice, messaging, and data services. While it’s not yet widely available, the service could possibly increase consumer expectations, says Summer, about ubiquitous wireless broadband connectivity, as well as cheaper pricing “which would continue to drive increases in mobile data usage where Google and large ad-supported Internet players could benefit.”

Google’s Class A stock (GOOGL) is currently trading at $563 a share, down from its 52-week high of $608.91. Google’s Class C stock (GOOG) created after the company’s two-for-one stock split in April 2014, is at $551 a share, down from its year’s high of $599.65.

The opportunity for investors: The stock is once more in the bears’ focus, as many of the challenges Google faces are again regurgitating: Europe’s myopic obsession with restricting, if not bringing down Google; the dollar’s adverse impact on revenue and earnings growth; rising competition; and increasing capital spending.

With regard to the EC’s antitrust allegations and probe into Android, many analysts note that Google has addressed those issues in the past and they are confident the company will respond to them in multiple ways.

As to EC’s charge that Google abuses its “dominant position” in the markets for general Internet search services, it’s centered on “comparison shopping,” which is “very competitive and not exceedingly critical to GOOGL,” says Scott Kessler, analyst at S&P Capital IQ, who recommends the stock as a “strong buy.” He notes that Google has $63 billion in cash and equivalents as of December, and sees the stock as a “compelling value” despite the EC-related uncertainties.”

Kessler’s 12-month price target for GOOGL is $650 a share, based in part on his projection that revenues will rise 13% in 2015 and 16% in 2016, driven by “pricing improvements in mobile and increasing traction across display offerings, most notably YouTube.”

Mark S. Mahaney, who rates Google as “outperform,” points out that the tech giant, which remains “secularly driven” and “extremely consistent revenue-growth company,” is in an “excellent position to capitalize on many of the biggest trends in the Internet – the mobile/multi-screen shift, migration of TV ad budgets online, and the growing importance of local Internet, and wearable devices.”

Mahaney says in a report to clients that Google is pursuing the right strategy, investing aggressively in its core businesses (such as search &amp display/video advertising) and in new businesses (Google Play, YouTube, enterprise, and devices). “The moats around Google remain deep” says Mahaney, and “the growth runways ahead of it remain long.”

Kerry Rice, Internet and digital media analyst at investment firm Needham, who continues to rate the stock as a buy, says looking beyond the foreign exchange problem “reveals a strong core Google Websites business, which is increasingly being driven by mobile search, display, and Play Store.” Noting the rapidly increasing advertising money flowing through YouTube, “we believe it (YouTube) is at or near profitability,” says Rice.

“We expect Google to continue capturing wallet share among brand advertisers by rolling out new measurement tools that enable advertisers to better understand their online to offline conversions,” says Rice, who has a price target for GOOG of $675 a share.

While the analyst expects foreign exchange headwinds to remain and EU antitrust actions to be an overhang, “we believe the mobile and display advertising growth opportunities exceed the downside risk,” says Rice.

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Model, entertainer Peng Hsin-yi kills self, cites bullying

April 25, 2015

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Entertainer Cindy Yang, daughter of former minister of agriculture Peng Tso-kuei, attends an event in Taipei on April 2. She committed suicide at her residence in Taichung on Tuesday.Apr 23, 2015

INTERNET ‘HATERS’: Fans of ‘Cindy Yang,’ of TV show ‘University,’ pointed to a Facebook page after her suicide note said bullying had led her to take her life
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By Jake Chung  /  Staff writer, with CNA
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TV personality and model Peng Hsin-yi (彭馨逸), more commonly known by her stage name Cindy Yang (楊又穎), on Tuesday committed suicide in her Taichung residence by reportedly inhaling helium, leaving behind a suicide note blaming her decision on coworkers and bullying on the Internet, according to a preliminary investigation by the police yesterday.

The 24-year-old was known for her regular appearances on the TV show University (大學生了沒), a show targeting the college student demographic.

News of Peng’s suicide was avidly discussed by netizens, with some saying that a fan page on Facebook called “Kao Bei Bloggers” (靠北部落客) regularly posted messages attacking Peng.

Police said that Peng’s suicide note mentioned Internet “haters” and colleagues as being the reasons for her suicide, but declined to discuss the incident.

Peng’s fans yesterday were shocked to hear the news of her suicide, especially since she posted a message on Facebook on Monday expressing her hope that her fans and friends would be safe and well.

Many left messages on her Facebook page to mourn her passing, some expressing pity and others condemning netizens for leaving anonymous posts on the “Kao Bei Bloggers” Facebook fan page attacking other people.

Peng’s father, former Council of Agriculture minister Peng Tso-kwei (彭作奎), yesterday posted a picture of himself with his daughter, saying he wished his daughter never had to grow up and would be by his side all the time, everywhere.

Additional reporting by Lin Liang-sheng

http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2015/04/23/2003616602

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‘#WhyI’mnotvotingforHillary’ hashtag tops Twitter

April 13, 2015

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign announcement was not met with the positive response her team would have been hoping for

By , US Correspondent

The Telegraph

A social media backlash began against Hillary Clinton on Sunday night after the former secretary of state announced her run for the White House.

“#Why Im not voting for Hillary” quickly became the most talked about subject on Twitter in the US in the hours after Mrs Clinton released a video asking for the public’s backing for her 2016 bid to become the America’s first-ever female president.

While many declared their support for the wife of former US president Bill Clinton, a wave of users began using the hashtag giving their reasons for why they would not be voting for the Democratic candidate.

Many criticised her response to the deadly 2012 attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya, which left four Americans dead, including the ambassador, Christopher Stevens.

Includes video
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/hillary-clinton/11531729/Why-Im-not-voting-for-Hillary-hashtag-tops-Twitter.html

Hillary Clinton during a hearing on the September attacks on US diplomatic sites in Benghazi (Photo: Jason Reed/Reuters)

Sara Teague wrote: #WhyImNotVotingForHillary #Benghazi proved her incompetence and disregard for American lives. Email scandal shows she’s “above the law”

Others cited her apparent lack of transparency, particularly over her use of a private email server during her time in office. It emerged last month Mrs Clinton deleted 30,000 of the emails, which she described as private correspondence.

No true American should need anymore reasons than this one.

Four solid reasons

The hashtag was started by 19-year-old Markeece Young from North Carolina, who describes himself on his Twitter account as a former Democrat-turned-Conservative.

“Well when I heard Hillary was announcing her campaign on Twitter I came up with the Idea to create ‪#‎WhyImNotVotingForHillary‬ it’s simple but very powerful,” he wrote. “It was the #1 trending hashtag in America for about 3 hours.”

Anti-Hillary graffiti also popped up in the New York borough of Brooklyn, where Mrs Clinton’s campaign headquarters will be based.


A poster placed in front of Hillary Clinton’s HQ in Brooklyn, New York (AP)

The street art features portraits of the presidential hopeful alongside phrases including “Don’t Say Secretive”,”Don’t Say Entitled”.

Mrs Clinton made waves before she had even taken up residence.

A group of Haitian protesters – who have accused the Clinton Foundation of stealing money intended for rebuilding their country after the 2010 earthquake – last week gathered outside her building, chanting: “Do we want Clinton for president? Hell no.”

Because of her global profile and the lack of other prominent Democrats in the field, Mrs Clinton enters the race in a position that is perhaps unmatched in modern US presidential politics.

Her tweet announcing her candidacy notched almost 90,000 retweets by the end of the day on Sunday, her campaign video more than 1 million views on YouTube, and her Facebook campaign page almost 500,000 likes.

Impressive, marketing strategists say, although she did create one or two chinks for Republicans to chisel at.

Her 138-second campaign video featured everyday Americans discussing milestones such as starting a business or having a baby, with Mrs Clinton first appearing a full 90 seconds in. It broke a million views on Facebook by Sunday evening.

“It’s less ‘me’ and more ‘us’, which I think is very smart,” said Marissa Gluck, a director at marketing firm Huge.

That’s a really “big difference in tone, ego and professionalism compared to rollout videos from Rand Paul and (Ted) Cruz,” said Josh Cook, a former Obama digital director and vice president of digital engagement for the political consulting firm, BerlinRosen, referring to Republican presidential hopefuls.

But Republicans pushed back hard and fast.

Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz of Texas responded to the “ready for Hillary” message in a crudely cut video asking if Americans wanted “a third Obama term.”

A Google search for “Hillary Clinton for President” resulted in an ad for Hillary’s campaign page, but just below it was an ad for “Pledge to Stop Hillary,” a Republican-created petition.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/hillary-clinton/11531729/Why-Im-not-voting-for-Hillary-hashtag-tops-Twitter.html

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FILE PHOTO NYC PAPERS OUT; Social media use restricted to low res file, max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpi

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Pictured: Hillary Clinton, then U.S. Secretary of State, discusses with then China’s Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi at a news conference in Beijing Sept. 5, 2012. Hillary Clinton never made any strong statements of U.S. concern over China’s moves in the South China Sea. Today, China controls several islands in the South China Sea that were uninhabited before the Obama Administration. Today some of the best U.S. allies in Asia like the Philippines and Japan are greatly concerned by China’s rapid rise during the Clinton-Obama years. Photo: AP/Feng Li, Pool

Hillary Clinton and Vladimir Putin. After this photo was taken, Mr. Putin annexed Crimea and “invaded” eastern Ukraine.

Those were fun times, weren’t they?  U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov press a red button symbolizing the intention to “reset” U.S.-Russian relations during their meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, March 6, 2009. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton left her post as U.S. Secretary of State with a Russia in military resurgence. The butten meant “reset to the Cold war” wor Putin’s Moscow government. (AP Photo)

‘Huge gaps’ in Clinton emails: Chairman of House Benghazi Committee

Thailand: Human Rights Groups Criticize Thai Junta After 25 Years Jail Sentence For Royal Family “Insult” on Facebook

April 7, 2015

Rights groups Wednesday lambasted a Thai military court for jailing a businessman for 25 years for making allegedly defamatory Facebook posts about the monarchy, one of the toughest known sentences for lese majeste.

The sentencing of 58-year-old Theinsutham Suthijittaseranee comes as concerns mount over a bid by the nation’s junta leader to replace martial law that has blanketed the kingdom for months with new security measures retaining sweeping powers for the military.

Theinsutham was sentenced on Tuesday to 10 years for each of five counts of posting messages on the social networking website deemed to be defamatory to the Thai royal family, his lawyer told AFP.

The sentence was halved as the defendant pleaded guilty, but it is still among the toughest sentences yet for insulting the monarchy.

“The 25-year sentence is one of the harshest we are aware of. It is particularly problematic given that it was issued by a military tribunal,” Sam Zarifi, regional director for legal rights group the International Commission of Jurists, told AFP.

“Given the defendant’s age, it comes close to being a life sentence.”

Amnesty International condemned the conviction as “preposterous” and called for an end to lese majeste prosecutions, which have surged since royalist generals toppled the remnants of the elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra in May last year.

Domestic and international media routinely self-censor reporting of the Thai monarchy, including royal defamation trials, lest they too fall foul of the draconian law, which carries up to 15 years in jail for every count of insulting, defaming or threatening the monarchy.

Critics of the law say it is used as a weapon against the political enemies of the royalist elite.

‘Descent into dictatorship’ –

Freedom of expression and dissent have been smothered by martial law imposed by the Thai junta since last May’s coup.

Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha seen while he was Army chief

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha said he had asked Thailand’s revered but elderly king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, for permission to lift martial law.

But rights groups have expressed alarm at Prayut’s move to replace it with sweeping security powers under Section 44 of an interim constitution governing the kingdom.

Under the section, Prayut can unilaterally issue orders to suppress “any act that undermines public peace and order or national security, the monarchy, national economics or the administration of state affairs”.

Brad Adams, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said the section effectively grants the junta leader unfettered power and “will mark Thailand’s deepening descent into dictatorship”.

Thailand has been mired in political turmoil since populist politician Thaksin Shinawatra was toppled by a coup in 2006.

The Bangkok elite — flanked by the military and swathes of the kingdom’s judiciary — has spent the intervening years trying to unpick the electoral success of parties linked to Thaksin, culminating in last year’s coup.

The army says it had to intervene to end bloody protests against the Shinawatra clan, accusing the family of poisoning Thailand with corruption and cronyism and duping their rural poor heartlands with populist policies.

(AFP)

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Islamic State militants pose threat to all Southeast Asian Nations

April 7, 2015

Radical group is enticing Muslim youngsters to join, and a Thai student may be among them.

By CHANANTHORN KAMJAN AND PRANGTHONG JITCHAROENKUL

The threats posed by the group are not just limited to brutal killings, but also the recruitment of new members, specifically through social media.

“It is not too much to say a radical movement operating in the Middle East is one of the products of the US invasion and it is unpredictable how the crisis will end,” the expert on Islam, Jaran Maluleem, said, referring to the IS.

Citizens from many countries, including nations in Southeast Asia, have travelled to Syria via Turkey to join the IS.

Some were stopped by authorities as they made their way to Syria but many have succeeded in joining the militant group.

Mr Jaran said a key tool the IS uses to recruit youngsters is the idea of a caliphate, which is a form of Islamic government.

The group’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, has declared himself to be the spiritual successor to Mohammed, also known as a caliph.

The caliph is empowered to run the territory’s administrative and religious affairs.

The idea of a caliphate was abolished after the fall of the Ottoman Empire.

According to Mr Jaran, the influence of the militant group among young people also poses a threat to the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (Asean).

The regional grouping’s members need to address the recruitment of youngsters, he said.

Indonesia’s Vice President Jusuf Kalla speaks at the opening of a conference on terrorism and Islamic State in Jakarta, March 23. (Reuters photo)
Mr Jaran said there are unconfirmed reports that a Thai student who studied in the Middle East recently joined the IS.

Even though the student is from southern Thailand, the possibility of the IS getting involved in the fighting in the deep South or other countries in Asean is still low, Mr Jaran said.
However, due to the large Muslim population in the region, authorities should look out for IS propaganda used to attract young Muslims to the group.

“We cannot rule out the prospect that the IS has its eyes on Southeast Asia, especially in Indonesia which has the highest number of Muslims in the world,” he said.

“But the overall situation in the Asean area is a long way off from descending into violence,” Mr Jaran said.

He admitted the number of people joining the radical group is on the rise, particularly youngsters.

He said militant groups in Asean, such as Jemaah Islamiah (JI), have offered moral support to IS in their fight against the US, but there is no proof to suggest any JI members have joined the IS.

“Most of the people who join IS are likely to be anxious, depressed and lonely.
“They are more likely to be socially isolated and many are fond of the IS ideology but hesitate to express their feelings in public,” Mr Jaran said.

A senior Asean diplomat told the Bangkok Post that dozens of people from her country were stopped from joining the IS in the Middle East last year but she could not estimate how many had successfully joined…

The IS threatens security in the region and Asean members should discuss ways to stop the possibility of conflict, she said, adding the actions of the group are unacceptable under Islamic practice.

“Talking about IS, it is about terrorism, it is about people who claim they are Muslims but they are not.

“They might be Muslims, we don’t know, but we do not recognise them,” the diplomat said.

“What religion do they belong to? They cannot do such cruel things. The word Islam means peace and what they do is against the fundamentals of Islam,” she said.

The group’s propaganda machine involves releasing videos of hostages being brutally murdered which forces the international community to react with outrage.

Taking into account the group’s oil trading and other money-making schemes means IS could be the wealthiest and most powerful militant group in the Middle East.

After splitting from al-Qaeda, the IS has been active mainly in parts of Iraq and Syria, with an estimated 30,000 members.

The IS militants recruit new members by using social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to show the successes they have enjoyed as they took over large parts of Iraq and Syria.

The ideology of the group attracts Muslims from across the world.

The group also uses social media to strike fear into the hearts of its enemies by uploading gruesome murders of its hostages.

The IS claims the brutal killings of its hostages were acts of revenge against the US and its allies.

After the IS executed two foreign hostages earlier this year, the US-led coalition launched a series of air strikes against the group’s strongholds in Iraq and Syria.

However, Mr Jaran said coalition air strikes are not the way to defeat the militant group.

“Defeating IS will not end the militant movement because many Muslim groups are still loyal to the group and share the same ideology.

“Even if the IS disappears, another group will lead the movement in its place,” he said.

The IS and other militant groups are the consequence of the US-led invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq after the Sept 11, 2001, attacks in the US.

Asean members should not get involved in the conflict.

They should continue to promote regional peace, Mr Jaran said.

http://www.bangkokpost.com/news/security/519399/islamic-state-militants-pose-threat-to-asean

 

 

Turkey’s latest social media ban smacks of electoral censorship, critics say

April 6, 2015

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Turkish authorities have blocked social media websites over images of a prosecutor who was killed during a hostage standoff last week. Critics say it’s yet another censorship move in the run-up to elections in June.
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Turkey blocked access to social media services such as Twitter and YouTube on Monday.
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Presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said a prosecutor had sought to block the sites because media organizations had acted “as if they were spreading terrorist propaganda” in sharing images of prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz, who was held at gunpoint and later killed by militants on March 31.Users had shared these images on social media platforms like Twitter.
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In addition to blocking these networks, Turkey has also blocked 166 URLs – specific websites – most of which link to news articles.It’s not the first time Turkish authorities have cracked down social media sites – Erdogan blocked Twitter before holding local elections in March 2014.

“The demand from the prosecutor’s office is that this image not be used anywhere in electronic platforms,” spokesperson Kalin said at a news conference in Ankara.

“A request has been made to both Twitter and YouTube for the removal of the images and posts but they have not accepted it and no response has been given. That’s why this decision has been taken through a court in Istanbul,” the spokesperson added.

An Egyptian-British blogger, however, had already complained on Saturday that Twitter blocked her tweet about Kiraz – Nervana Mahmoud had shared the picture of the prosecutor held hostage, but made a point condemning any form of violence.

Militants took Istanbul prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz hostage at the end of March

Latest move to tighten controls

The social media ban is the latest move to tighten controls in Turkey – right after the prosecutor was taken hostage, the prime minister’s office had issued a gag order on media organizations.

Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) had criticized “the quickly-imposed ban on media coverage” on Thursday.

“This is nothing less than censorship and the fact it has become commonplace is especially disturbing when it is the government that increasingly assumes the responsibility for imposing it. By so doing, it is trampling on the public’s right to be informed about a subject of general interest,” Johann Bihr, head of RSF’s Eastern Europe and Central Asia desk, said in a statement.

“In Turkey, every sensitive affair is now the subject of a publishing ban,” he added.

“There’s too much power given to the prosecutors and courts at the moment to censor any content,” said Efe Kerem Sozeri, a Turkish researcher and opposition activist based in Amsterdam.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has consistently pushed the “image of the very powerful, ruthless man,” Sozeri said. The ban on distributing photos of the prosecutor held hostage was a move to uphold this tough stance, according to Sozeri.

Turkey speeds up the process

Sozeri told DW he has collected more than 300 court orders that ban multiple tweets or Twitter accounts in Turkey. “Turkish courts have even increased the speed to ban more Twitter accounts and statuses,” he said. According to his notes, in 2014, more than 70 Twitter accounts and more than 2000 tweets were blocked.

Laptop with YouTube screen (photo: BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s not the first time Turkish authorities have blocked Internet sites

Turkey’s controversial Internet law makes it possible to block entire social media sites, Sozeri said. “If a court says that blocking one URL address is not enough, if that doesn’t prevent the crime itself, then a court can give reasoning – seeing that blocking one URL is not enough, we need to block the whole domain – then the court can block the whole domain.”

It’s just the latest censorship move by Turkish authorities – over the weekend, Cumhuriyet daily reported 58 well-known figures in Turkey were probed for criticizing government-run press Anadolu Agency on Twitter. And according to Hurriyet Daily News, a journalist from a local daily in southeastern Turkey received a suspended prison sentence for liking a Facebook post criticizing Erdogan.

“What these remarks are about Anadolu agency is that (it) is basically turning into a government mouthpiece instead of being an independent news agency,” Sozeri said.

“This is where the freedom of speech in Turkey is. Any critical remark, even if it’s based on real facts, you are not able to say that, because the interpretation of the law is given to those courts who are under the strong influence of the justice ministry.”

New bill to fast-track crackdowns

Erdogan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have put measures in place to fast-track Internet crackdowns. Turkey’s parliament approved a security bill that also includes greater powers to police the Internet “which will allow any minister to block any website,” Sozeri said. “And the homeland security bill is also already ratified, which basically criminalizes any demonstration in the public space. So these are the pressures that we will face in the next two months.”

This view is echoed by the International Press Institute that states in its recently published report: “As Turkey approaches June 2015 parliamentary elections, it does so amid an overall erosion in respect for human rights, including free expression and media freedom. Unfortunately, absent a fundamental change in attitude and behavior by those in power, the corresponding weakening of democracy, a cycle which appears to both sustain and increase itself daily, has no immediate end in sight.”

“I am rather pessimistic about this,” Sozeri said. “But if we leave this to Erdogan – what we can say and what we cannot say – then we can’t really say anything other than ‘Erdogan is the best’ or ‘Erdogan is doing the best thing for Turkey’ which is not exactly true. But this is what Erdogan and the party wants us to do, by trying to silence us. This is what they aim for, the public opinion.”

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Turkish Court Restricts Access to Internet Sites Over Hostage-Crisis Content

April 6, 2015

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Blackout comes after Twitter and Google among others failed to takedown material

 A man attempts to access YouTube after an Istanbul court's ban decision in Istanbul, Turkey Monday.   
A man attempts to access YouTube after an Istanbul court’s ban decision in Istanbul, Turkey Monday. Photo: European Pressphoto Agency
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By Emre Peker and Sam Schechner
The Wall Street Journal
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ISTANBUL—A Turkish court banned access to Twitter Inc. and Google Inc.’s YouTube for failing to remove content related to a deadly hostage crisis last week, marking the second time in a year that the social-media platforms have been blocked after getting mired in Turkey’s political turmoil.

The blackout comes after an Istanbul court ordered the two U.S. companies, as well as Facebook Inc. and dozens of other local and foreign websites, to take down images, voice and videos recordings linked to the hostage crisis, threatening a blanket ban for noncompliance.

The Ankara-based Internet Service Providers’ Association, which represents all operators in Turkey, distributed the court order to its members Monday, said a company representative, who declined to be identified because the person wasn’t authorized to speak about legal matters.

Turkish Internet users were reporting blackouts and skirting the ban by using virtual-private networks, or VPNs, that obscure the country of access to allow the use of the social-media platforms. A blanket ban on Facebook has been lifted, Turkey’s top regulator told Hurriyet newspaper.

“We are aware of reports of interruption of our service in Turkey, and we are working to restore access for our users as soon as possible,” Twitter’s global public policy team said in a tweet Monday.

A Facebook spokesman said Monday that the company had received a “valid court order” in Turkey to “restrict access to certain content or our service would be blocked.” The spokesman said Facebook has complied with the order, but is appealing it.

“We are seeing reports that YouTube is blocked in Turkey and we’re working to restore the service for users as soon as possible,” a spokesman for Google said.

Aside from social-media platforms, the decision also covers websites of leading Turkish outlets Hurriyet and NTV news channel, local opposition newspapers Cumhuriyet and Sozcu, as well as U.K. newspaper the Independent and Australia’s top-ranking news website news.com.au, the person familiar with the court order said.

The Istanbul court’s decision comes after the Revolutionary People’s Liberation Party-Front, or DHKP-C, killed a prosecutor overseeing a high-profile, politically charged case last Tuesday.

During the half-day standoff between two members of the terrorist-listed organization and security forces, the DHKP-C published photos on social-media of Prosecutor Mehmet Selim Kiraz with a gun to his head and the Marxist-Leninist outfit’s yellow-starred red flags in the background. The pictures were widely distributed and some newspapers printed them on their cover, prompting a strong backlash from the government and prosecutors.

“It is not acceptable for certain media organizations that must act with the responsibilities of being the press to publish these photos, as if they were engaged in terrorism propaganda,” Turkish presidency Spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Monday, shortly after the bans came into effect. He said “any blocking of access is out of the question” despite the start of blackouts on Twitter and YouTube, adding that he had heard of the developments shortly before his news conference.

The court ordered the removal of Mr. Kiraz’s photos and videos, and blocking of related links where content removal wasn’t possible. Barring both options, the websites should be banned entirely, the court said.

“These broadcasts have been shared as propaganda for the armed terrorist organization DHKP-C,” the decision said, adding that their publication also endangered public safety. Last year’s Twitter and YouTube bans were based on national security.

—Yeliz Candemir contributed to this article.

Write to Emre Peker at emre.peker@wsj.com


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