Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

Technology Can Redefine the Mass-Shooter Problem

February 17, 2018

We don’t have the votes to control guns, but we have the votes to control our public spaces.


One way to stop school shootings would be to restrict the ability of 249 million American adults to buy and own firearms, including by confiscating millions they already possess. That might work, but promoters have demonstrated with great reliability that they can’t raise the votes. They can’t get Democratic votes for such a policy, much less Republican votes.

Look closely at the lesser gun-control tweaks being proposed in the wake of Wednesday’s atrocity in Parkland, Fla. They all meet some checklist of gun-control desirables but are irrelevant to the specific problem of the carefully planned mass-casualty attack.

To some people, that doesn’t matter. The gun issue draws out us-vs.-them distinctions that are eminently exploitable for fundraising and political purposes. But what about the rest of us? When a problem seems insoluble, redefine it, enlarge it or shrink it in some way. That’s often good advice.

The American electorate may not tolerate draconian (by U.S. standards) restrictions on guns, but it will tolerate a fair amount of surveillance. License-plate readers track our travels. Cellphone towers can triangulate our location. Face recognition is increasingly deployed in conjunction with security and traffic cameras; in China, police officers have it built into their spectacles. Not to mention the stupendous amounts of personal data we willingly hand over to businesses.

Now take all the red flags raised by Nikolas Cruz : He posted on social media pictures of himself with weapons and small animals he had apparently tortured. His fascination and exhibitionism with guns was broadcast to one and all. Teachers were warned to take action if he was seen approaching the school with a backpack; he later was expelled.

Technology Can Redefine the Mass-Shooter Problem

He was widely regarded as a menace. His mother, neighbors and school officials had repeatedly sought police intervention. He posted a YouTube comment under his own name in which he declared a desire to become a “professional school shooter,” one of two warnings passed on to the FBI.

One thing we know: If, along with these red flags, he had professed jihadist sympathies or frequented al Qaeda websites, the American people would be fine with the FBI tracking him closely. They and their courts would be fine even with undercover agents being sent to lure him into a prosecutable offense so they could arrest him.

OK, jihadist sympathies are a winnowing factor. A lot more disaffected young males are gun nuts, make threats and act weirdly than become mass shooters.

But technology potentially changes the equation in important ways. Big data may not be better than psychologists at predicting who will commit a mass shooting a year or two from now, but it can help us know who might be planning one next week: Who got kicked out of school, failed to show up for a court-assigned counseling session, made a big purchase at a gun store, posted a deranged or threatening message on social media, prompted an uptick in alarmed social-media chatter by friends and acquaintances.

Especially since the young already conduct their social existence mostly online. Information technology is taking over our lives. It will not be uninvented. In another few years, unless you cut yourself off from the network (which will arouse its own suspicions), you will be findable in seconds. A police drone overhead will be able to focus its cameras on you or the vehicle or building in which you are to be found. Indeed, London cops caused a furor by innocently posting on Twitter the visage of a TV comedian snapped by an overhead camera looking down on the masses in Leicester Square. If it can’t already, soon this technology will be able to sound an alarm if a specific person on a list approaches a school or other sensitive site.

The question of how and whether to use these capabilities for public-safety purposes is already bubbling up in a thousand contexts, without much organized consideration or debate. Would such an approach produce an unmanageable number of false positives? Let’s find out. There inevitably would be a learning curve. Let’s start climbing it.

A fact now can usefully be faced: A lot more people enjoy guns than become mass killers, but an excessive fascination with guns is a hallmark of mass killers. Let’s make use of this information. Gun stores have security cameras. If not the police, then businesses themselves will soon enough track every time you visit a gun store and which counters you linger over. It shouldn’t be a reach, with the information we potentially have in hand, to define a new category of person who most Americans would agree should be prohibited from buying guns and ammunition.

The media, with their usual depth and nuance, are trying to set up a fight between gun controllers and proponents of mental-health reform, who are naturally accused of ducking the real issue. In fact, we will need some basis in law for acting on people who set off alarm bells but haven’t done anything illegal. A new approach to mental health has to be part of the strategy.

Appeared in the February 17, 2018, print edition.

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The Russian Indictments — Where were James Clapper and John Brennan and the American intelligence community when the Kremlin was meddling?

February 17, 2018


Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Jan. 29.
Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Jan. 29. PHOTO: ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Justice Department on Friday indicted three Russian companies and 13 individuals for interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and the man who should be most upset is Donald J. Trump. The 37-page indictment contains no evidence of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign, but it does show a systematic effort to discredit the result of the 2016 election. On the evidence so far, President Trump has been the biggest victim of that effort, and he ought to be furious at Vladimir Putin.

The indictment documents a broad social-media and propaganda campaign operating out of Russia and involving hundreds of people starting in 2014 that “had a strategic goal to sow discord in the U.S. political system.” It certainly succeeded on that score, as Democrats and the media have claimed that Mr. Trump’s election is illegitimate because he conspired with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton. The charge has roiled American politics and made governing more difficult.

The good news for Mr. Trump is that the indictment reveals no evidence of collusion. The Russians “posted derogatory information about a number of candidates,” the indictment says, and by 2016 “included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump” and “disparaging Hillary Clinton.” But it adds that the Russians “communicated with unwitting individuals associated with the Trump Campaign,” and it offers no claims of a conspiracy.

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Readers of the indictment will be amused at the comic opera details. In or around June 2016, for example, Russians posing online as Americans “communicated with a real U.S. person affiliated with a Texas-based grassroots organization.” This “real U.S. person” vouchsafed the deep political secret that the Russians “should focus their activities on ‘purple states like Colorado, Virginia & Florida.’” Sure enough, the Russians thereafter referred to targeting “purple states.” Someone actually paid Russians to collect this insight.

The indictment also contains no evidence that Russia’s meddling changed the electoral results. A U.S. presidential campaign is a maelstrom of information, charges and counter-charges, media reports and social-media chatter. The Russian Twitter bursts became part of this din and sought to reinforce existing biases more than they sought to change minds. Their Twitter hashtags included “#Hillary4Prison,” for example, which you could find at the souvenir desk at the GOP convention.

Yet none of this should let Twitter, Facebook or Google off the hook for being facilitators of this disinformation. The social-media sites and search engines clearly did far too little to police their content for malicious trolls and in the process misled millions of Americans. They need to do more to take responsibility for the content they midwife.

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James Clapper

The indictment also makes us wonder what the Obama Administration was doing amid all of this. Where were top Obama spooks James Clapper and John Brennan ? Their outrage became public only after their candidate lost the election. If they didn’t know what was going on, why not? And if they did, why didn’t they let Americans in on the secret? President Obama sanctioned Russia for its meddling only after the election.

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John Brennan. Photo by J. Scott Applewhite, The Associated Press.

The indictment’s details underscore Russia’s malicious anti-American purposes. An authoritarian regime spent tens of millions of dollars to erode public trust in American democracy. As Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) put it Friday, “Putin’s shadow war is aimed at undermining Americans’ trust in our institutions. We know Russia is coming back in 2018 and 2020—we have to take the threat seriously.”

All of which makes the White House reaction on Friday strangely muted. Its statement understandably focused on the lack of collusion evidence and made one reference to “the agendas of bad actors, like Russia.” But given how much Russia’s meddling has damaged his first year in office, Mr. Trump should publicly declare his outrage at Russia on behalf of the American people. The Kremlin has weakened his Presidency. He should make Russia pay a price that Mr. Obama never did.


FBI Director James Comey and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch attend a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington June 18, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas 

FBI Director James Comey and U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch attend a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington June 18, 2015. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas


Russians charged over US 2016 election tampering

February 16, 2018

BBC News

 Deputy U.S. Attorney General Rod Rosenstein
Russians used ‘information warfare’ against the US election process

Thirteen Russians have been charged with interfering in the US 2016 election, in a major development in the FBI investigation.

Three of those named have been accused of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and five have been accused of aggravated identity theft.

The announcement was made by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating alleged Russian meddling.

Three Russian companies are also named in the indictment.

One of them is the Internet Research Agency, based in St Petersburg, which the 37-page indictment said “had a strategic goal to sow discord in the US political system, including the 2016 US presidential election”.

Speaking at a news conference, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said there was no allegation that any American was “a knowing participant in this illegal activity” nor was it alleged that the meddling altered the election outcome.

What does the indictment say?

It says a group of Russians:

  • Posed as Americans, and opened financial accounts in their name
  • Spent thousands of dollars a month buying political advertising
  • Purchased US server space in an effort to hide their Russian affiliation
  • Organised and promoted political rallies within the United States
  • Posted political messages on social media accounts that impersonated real US citizens
  • Promoted information that disparaged Hillary Clinton
  • Received money from clients to post on US social media sites
  • Created themed groups on social media on hot-button issues, particularly on Facebook and Instagram
  • Operated with a monthly budget of as much as $1.25m (£890,000)

The indictment says those involved systematically measured how well their internet posts were doing and adjusted their strategies to maximise effectiveness.

It also says those named in the indictment began discussing how to affect the election as early as 2014.

“By 2016, defendants and their co-conspirators used their fictitious online persons to interfere with the 2016 US presidential election,” the indictment continues.

“They engaged in operations primarily to communicate derogatory information about Hillary Clinton, to denigrate other candidates such as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, and to support Bernie Sanders and then-candidate Donald Trump.”

President Trump was briefed on the indictment earlier on Friday, White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said.

How has Russia reacted?

“There were 13 of them, according to the US Department of Justice. Thirteen people interfered with the US elections?” said Maria Zakharova, a Russian foreign ministry spokesman said. “Thirteen against the billion-dollar budgets of the security services? Against espionage and counter-espionage, against new systems and technologies? Absurd? Yes.”

One of the men named in the indictment – Evgeny Prigozhin, who is known as “Putin’s chef” denied election tampering.

“The Americans are very impressionable people, they see what they want to see,” he was quoted as saying by Russian news agency Ria Novosti on Friday.

“I have great respect for them. I’m not at all upset that I’m on this list. If they want to see the devil, let them see him.”

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Heat of investigation is increasing

Analysis by Anthony Zurcher, BBC News, Washington

On Friday, Robert Mueller’s team released a slate of indictments that lays bare what it asserts is the full shape of the Russian meddling apparatus.

And what an apparatus it was. In the run-up to the US presidential election “Project Lakhta”, as it was called, had an operating budget of more than $1m a month.

Russians associated with the organisation travelled to the US, posed as Americans and gathered information on where best to target its attempts to “sow discord” in the US political process. Swing states were identified and efforts, according to the indictment, were made to boost the prospects of Republican Donald Trump and undermine Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Although the indictment does not suggest collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, it says the meddling effort may have been aided by “unwitting individuals” associated with the Republican nominee.

The White House may breathe a sigh of relief with that particular revelation. But the heat is increasing, and the investigation isn’t over yet. At the very least, if Mr Mueller’s allegations hold up in court, it will become increasingly difficult for the president to argue that Russian meddling on his behalf is an unsubstantiated hoax.

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What is the investigation about?

US intelligence agencies believe Russia tried to sway the 2016 presidential election in favour of Republican candidate Donald Trump.

In May last year, Mr Mueller was appointed special counsel to investigate whether anyone from his campaign colluded in the effort.

As part of the inquiry, former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has been charged with conspiring to defraud the US in his dealings with Ukraine, and conspiracy to launder money.

A business associate of his, Rick Gates, was also charged with conspiracy to launder money. A third adviser to the Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

This week President Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, was interviewed by Mr Mueller.

Mr Trump has been accused by opponents of trying to interfere with the investigation. The president denies this – as well as any allegation of collusion with Russia during the campaign.

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Facebook, Twitter not fully complying with EU consumer rules — Talk of sanctions…

February 16, 2018


© AFP/File | The European Commission says that US social media giants have made an effort to comply with EU consumer protection rules, but that Facebook and Twitter have not made all the required changes

BRUSSELS (AFP) – The European Commission said Thursday that US social media giants have made an effort to comply with EU consumer protection rules, but that Facebook and Twitter have not made all the required changes.”While Google’s latest proposals appear to be in line with the requests made by consumer authorities, Facebook and, more significantly, Twitter, have only partially addressed important issues about their liability and about how users are informed of possible content removal or contract termination,” the Commission, the EU’s executive arm, said in a statement.

The three major internet companies had published on Thursday the changes they are making to comply with the demands of European regulators, which must be implemented in all languages by spring.

Some of those changes include having the right to withdraw from an online purchase, being able to lodge complaints in Europe rather than in California where the companies are based, and the platforms being responsible towards EU consumers in the same way as offline services.

“I am pleased that the enforcement of EU rules to protect consumers by national authorities is bearing fruit, as some companies are now making their platforms safer for consumers; however, it is unacceptable that this is still not complete and it is taking so much time,” said Vera Jourova, European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality.

The European Union’s demands to the US internet giants were made in November 2016 following numerous complaints by consumers in Europe about being hit with fraud and scams when using their websites.

There were also concerns by consumer protection authorities about requesting the removal of illegal content.

The Commission said unlike Google, Facebook and Twitter have not set up deadlines to deal with the requests of national authorities.

“We have worked with the Consumer Protection Cooperation Network (CPC) and the European Commission to ensure our Terms and Conditions are more transparent,” a Facebook spokesperson said in reply to an AFP inquiry.

“We’re grateful to have had the opportunity to work with the CPC to put appropriate changes in place, and will make further updates to our terms later in the year.”

Facebook noted that it has long had tools in place to inform members of the social network about content removal and said that it intends to expand those tools later this year.

Monique Goyens, director general of the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), said the situation with the social media companies showed that the EU needs to update consumer law to strengthen sanction powers.

“What this shows is that there is a need for real sanction powers when a company does not respect EU law,” she said in a statement.

“The incentive for companies to comply with the law is rather low. These fines should not be symbolic but a real deterrent, going up to a percentage of the company?s annual worldwide turnover,” she added.

Sharyl Attkisson Explains the Origins of the 2016 ‘Fake News’ — Blames Google, Eric Schmidt, Hillary Supporters

February 15, 2018

In a Tedx Talk at the University of Nevada a couple of weeks ago, investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson revealed the origins of the “fake news” narrative that was aggressively pushed by the liberal media and Democrat politicians during the 2016 election, and how it was later flipped by President Donald Trump.

Attkisson pointed out that “fake news” in the form of tabloid journalism and false media narratives has always been around under different names.

But she noticed in 2016, there seemed to be a concerted effort by the MSM to focus America’s attention on the idea of “fake news” in conservative media. That looked like a propaganda effort to Attkisson, so she did a little digging and traced the new spin to a little non-profit called “First Draft,” which, she said, “appears to be the very first to use ‘fake news’ in its modern context.”

Image result for Sharyl Attkisson , photosSharyl Attkisson

“On September 13, 2016, First Draft announced a partnership to tackle malicious hoaxes and fake news reports,” Attkisson explained. “The goal was supposedly to separate wheat from chaff, to prevent unproven conspiracy talk from figuring prominently in internet searches. To relegate today’s version of the alien baby stories to a special internet oblivion.”

She noted that a month later, then-President Obama chimed in.

“He insisted in a speech that he too thought somebody needed to step in and curate information of this wild, wild West media environment,” she said, pointing out that “nobody in the public had been clamoring for any such thing.”

Yet suddenly the subject of fake news was dominating headlines all over America as if the media had “received its marching orders,” she recounted. “Fake news, they said, was an imminent threat to American democracy.”

Attkisson, who has studied the manipulative moneyed interests behind media industry, said, “few themes arise in our environment organically.” She noted that she always found it helpful to “follow the money.”

“What if the whole fake news campaign was an effort on somebody’s part to keep us from seeing or believing certain websites and stories by controversializing them or labeling them as fake news?” Attkisson posited.

Digging deeper, she discovered that Google was one of the big donors behind First Draft’s “fake news” messaging. Google’s parent company, she pointed out, is owned by Eric Schmidt, who happened to be a huge Hillary Clinton supporter.

Schmidt “offered himself up as a campaign adviser and became a top multi-million donor to it. His company funded First Draft at the start of the election cycle,” Attkisson said. “Not surprisingly, Hillary was soon to jump aboard the anti-fake news train and her surrogate David Brock of Media Matters privately told donors that he was the one who told Facebook to join the effort.”

Attkisson declared that “the whole thing smacked of the roll-out of a propaganda campaign,” she said. Attkisson added, “But something happened that nobody expected. The anti-fake news campaign backfired. Each time advocates cried fake news, Donald Trump called them ‘fake news’ until he’d co-opted the term so completely that even those who [were] originally promoting it started running from it — including the Washington Post,” which she noted later backed away from using the term.

Attkisson called Trump’s accomplishment a “hostile takeover” of the term and cautioned people to always be wary of “powerful interests trying to manipulate their opinions.”

She described two warning signs to look out for.

  1. When the media tries to shape or censor facts and opinions rather than report them.
  2.  When so many in the media are reporting the same stories, promulgating the same narratives, relying on the same sources — even using the same phrases.

Attkisson pointed out that there’s an infinite number of ways to report stories, so “when everyone is on the same page, it might be part of an organized campaign.”

he warned the audience about the latest effort to quell speech through something called “media literacy,” where liberal elites tell everyone else who they should trust. She said, “Media literacy advocates are busy trying to get state laws passed to require that their version of media literacy be taught public schools.”

What’s more, they’re “developing websites and partnering with universities.” She warned that these people have their own agendas and want to tell you what to believe.

“When interests are working this hard to shape your opinion, their true goal just might be to add another layer between you and the truth,” Attkisson concluded.

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Tech Luminary Peter Thiel Parts Ways With Silicon Valley

February 15, 2018

Billionaire investor frustrated with what he sees as intolerance of conservatism in tech industry; has discussed resigning from Facebook board

Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist who co-founded PayPal and was an early investor in Facebook, is planning to reduce his direct role in the Silicon Valley tech industry that he helped to shape.
Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist who co-founded PayPal and was an early investor in Facebook, is planning to reduce his direct role in the Silicon Valley tech industry that he helped to shape. PHOTO: VCG/GETTY IMAGES

Billionaire investor Peter Thiel is relocating his home and personal investment firms to Los Angeles from San Francisco and scaling back his involvement in the tech industry, people familiar with his thinking said, marking a rupture between Silicon Valley and its most prominent conservative.

Mr. Thiel has also discussed with people close to him the possibility of resigning from the board of Facebook Inc., FB 3.68% the people familiar with his thinking said. His relationship with the social-networking company—where he has been a director since 2005, the year after its founding—came under strain after a dispute with a fellow director over Mr. Thiel’s support for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, and a related confrontation over boardroom leaks with Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg last summer, the people said.​

However, Mr. Thiel feels he can still help the company and is likely to remain on the board at least for now, one of the people said.

Mr. Thiel’s plans are part of a broad move by the venture capitalist, who has ties to dozens of top startups, to reduce his direct role in the Silicon Valley tech industry that he helped to shape, the people said. Mr. Thiel has grown more disaffected by what he sees as the intolerant, left-leaning politics of the San Francisco Bay Area, and increasingly pessimistic about the prospects for tech businesses amid greater risk of regulation, they said.

As a result, after spending most of the past four decades in the Bay Area, the 50-year-old plans to permanently move into the 7,000-square foot home overlooking the Sunset Strip that he bought six years ago, a person familiar with the matter said. He also will move Thiel Capital and Thiel Foundation, two firms that oversee his investments, into new L.A. headquarters this year, the person said.

Mr. Thiel has long stood out in Silicon Valley for his vocal libertarianism, but he drew heavy criticism from many tech-industry peers—including fellow Facebook board member Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix Inc.—when he backed Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign and later served as an adviser on his White House transition team.

Mr. Thiel has recently said tech culture has become increasingly intolerant of conservative political views since Mr. Trump’s election, an attitude he has said is intellectually and politically fraught.

“Silicon Valley is a one-party state,” Mr. Thiel said last month at a debate about tech and politics at Stanford University. “That’s when you get in trouble politically in our society, when you’re all in one side.”

His concerns are echoed by other conservatives in tech who say they feel alienated by the industry’s broad embrace of liberal values. A majority of the tech workers who responded to a recent survey by Lincoln Network, an advocacy group for conservatives and libertarians in the tech sector, described the cultural norms of their workplace as liberal. More than one-third of workers who identified as conservative said the clash between their views and those of those of colleagues kept them from doing their best work.

Peter Thiel, seen at a company office in San Francisco in 2014, is relocating his personal investment firms to Los Angeles.
Peter Thiel, seen at a company office in San Francisco in 2014, is relocating his personal investment firms to Los Angeles. PHOTO: JOHN GREEN/TNS/ZUMA PRESS

Mr. Thiel has bucked Silicon Valley conventions since his days as a Stanford University student in the 1980s, when he helped start a student newspaper to promote conservative views. He co-founded PayPal in 1998 and placed an early bet on Elon Musk’s rocket startup, Space Exploration Technologies Inc., in 2008. He also has backed more unusual initiatives such as an institute that advocates creating ocean-based cities outside the reach of governments.

His involvement with Facebook has been among Mr. Thiel’s biggest triumphs. He made the first outside investment in the fledgling social network, paying $500,000 for a 10% stake in 2004. Today, Facebook is valued at over $500 billion and used by more than two billion people a month. Mr. Thiel has made more than $1 billion from the investment.

Mr. Thiel also has been an emissary for Facebook to its large population of right-leaning users. In May 2016, after media reports that curators of Facebook’s “trending topics” feature suppressed news about conservative events and from conservative sources, he helped Facebook convene a closed-door meeting to smooth things over with a group of prominent conservatives.

PayPal co-founders Peter Thiel, left, and Elon Musk in a 2000 photo
PayPal co-founders Peter Thiel, left, and Elon Musk in a 2000 photo PHOTO: PAUL SAKUMA/ASSOCIATED PRESS


  • Co-founded PayPal in 1998
  • Made first outside investment in Facebook in 2004
  • Launched software company Palantir Technologies in 2004
  • Started Founders Fund, a venture-capital firm, in 2005
  • Financed lawsuit against Gawker that forced website out of business
  • Prominent backer of President Donald Trump

Mr. Thiel’s support for Mr. Trump that year drew criticism within Facebook, from rank-and-file workers commenting on employee message boards to Mr. Hastings. In a 2016 email to Mr. Thiel, Mr. Hastings called his support of Mr. Trump “catastrophically bad judgment” and questioned his fitness to remain on the board, according to a copy of the message reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The contents of the email were reported last year by the New York Times.

Mr. Zuckerberg publicly deflected the criticism of Mr. Thiel, saying in March 2017 that demands for his removal were “crazy” and that “ideological diversity” had become a necessary component of diversity in the workplace and boardroom.

Late last summer, the Facebook CEO, concerned about board discussions becoming public, confronted Messrs. Thiel and Hastings over whether they had leaked Mr. Hastings’s email to the press, people familiar with the matter said.

In a phone conversation, Mr. Zuckerberg discussed with Mr. Thiel whether he should remain on the board, the people said. The Facebook CEO didn’t explicitly ask Mr. Thiel to resign, someone familiar with the situation said, and Mr. Thiel said he wouldn’t leave the Facebook board voluntarily.

Mr. Hastings offered to resign if his disagreement with Mr. Thiel was a distraction, and Mr. Zuckerberg said no, according to someone familiar with the matter.

Mr. Thiel has remained a director. In November, he sold 73%, or almost $30 million, of his remaining stake in Facebook, according to securities filings.

Mr. Thiel has courted controversy unrelated to his politics. He secretly financed wrestler Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against online publisher Gawker Media, which resulted in a $32 million judgment that ultimately forced the company out of business. He later said the move was motivated by a Gawker story in 2007 that identified Mr. Thiel as gay, which he said violated his privacy.

Last November, Mr. Thiel demanded that a U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York allow him to participate in a continuing sale process for Mr. Thiel’s lawyers have argued that he is the “the most able and logical purchaser” for Gawker but that, so far, his requests to participate in the sale process have been rebuffed.

The investor’s new projects in L.A. will include the creation of a new media endeavor, one of the people said. Mr. Thiel sees an opportunity to build a right-leaning media outlet to foster discussion and community around conservative topics, the person said.

Thiel Capital and Thiel Foundation plan to move their dedicated staff of about 50 employees to L.A., where they will continue to oversee Mr. Thiel’s personal holdings, one of the people familiar with his thinking said. Other investment firms associated with Mr. Thiel, including Founders Fund and Mithril Capital, will remain in San Francisco, the person said.

In the past two years, Mr. Thiel has exited the boards of Zenefits and Asana Inc., cut ties with startup incubator Y Combinator and sold off the majority of his stakes in Twilio Inc.He still serves on the boards of several companies, including Palo Alto, Calif.-based data-mining firm Palantir Technologies Inc.

Mr. Thiel paid $11.5 million for his Los Angeles home in 2012, according to real-estate data website Property Shark. He also has a home in New Zealand, where he was granted citizenship in 2011.

Write to Douglas MacMillan at, Keach Hagey at and Deepa Seetharaman at

China’s Former Internet Tsar and Friend of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg Accused of Corruption — Expelled from the Communist Party

February 13, 2018

Lu accused of a range of crimes from abusing power for personal gain to disloyalty

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 February, 2018, 7:52pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 February, 2018, 7:52pm
 South China Morning Post

China’s top anti-corruption watchdog has accused the country’s former internet tsar Lu Wei of being “tyrannical” and “shameless”, unleashing a barrage of claims against him late on Tuesday afternoon as it formally announced his expulsion from the Communist Party and handover to prosecutors.

In an exceptionally long list of alleged wrongdoings, the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said Lu, who headed the Cyberspace Administration of China until 2016, was “arbitrary and tyrannical”, abused his power for personal gain and pretended to follow the rules.

 Lu Wei was the public face of China’s internet policies before his downfall. Photo: Xinhua

Other alleged misconduct and failings included using all means to build personal fame, making false and anonymous accusations against others, deceiving the top Communist leadership, extreme disloyalty, duplicity, trading power for sex, improper discussion of the party and a lack of self control.

Image result for Tim Cook and Lu Wei, photos

Lu Wei and Apple’s Tim Cook

Lu was put under investigation in November and awaits formal charges.

Lu is likely to face court, where he is certain to be found guilty by the party-controlled judicial system.

It was not possible to reach Lu or a representative for comment.

At the height of his influence, Lu, a colourful and often brash official by Chinese standards, was seen as emblematic of China’s increasingly pervasive internet controls.

He was the public face of China’s internet policies and sought to promote China’s internet strategies abroad. He made headlines in the United States in 2014 when he visited the Californian headquarters of Facebook and sat in founder Mark Zuckerberg’s seat.

Regulator calls on Google to ban ads for binary options, cryptocurrencies

February 6, 2018

Canadian and US law enforcement have explained to Google how the advertising enables scammers to find victims, asked it to follow Facebook’s lead in barring the ads

February 6, 2018
This photo taken on December 28, 2016 in Vertou, western France, shows logos of US multinational technology company Google.  (AFP PHOTO / LOIC VENANCE)

This photo taken on December 28, 2016 in Vertou, western France, shows logos of US multinational technology company Google. (AFP PHOTO / LOIC VENANCE)

Following Facebook’s announcement last week that it was banning all advertising for binary options, cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings, a Canadian regulator has called on Google to do the same.

Jason Roy, a senior investigator at the Manitoba Securities Commission and chairman of Canada’s Binary Options Task Force, told The Times of Israel that “we’re very pleased with Facebook’s decision. My hope is that Google will enact a similar policy, where they specifically name products like binary options, ICOs and cryptocurrencies.”

On January 30, Facebook announced it was banning all advertising for binary options, cryptocurrencies and initial coin offerings, following many months of pressure from the FBI and Canadian securities regulators who have been investigating online investment fraud.

Binary options is a recently outlawed Israel-based fraud that was estimated to bring in $5-$10 billion a year at its peak.

“We’ve created a new policy that prohibits ads that promote financial products and services that are frequently associated with misleading or deceptive promotional practices, such as binary options, initial coin offerings and cryptocurrency,” Facebook product management director Rob Leathern wrote in a January 30 blog post announcing the advertising ban.

Jason Roy (Courtesy)

But Google, which according to industry insiders generates much of the paid traffic for fraudulent binary options, cryptocurrency and ICO companies, has yet to ban the ads.

Asked by The Times of Israel whether it was going to enact a similar ban, Google spokeswoman Roni Levin replied by email that “we already ban and enforce against misleading ads and misrepresentation (across all categories). Here are the policies — Misrepresentation and Misleading Ads.”

A quick search for “binary options” or “cryptocurrencies” in the Google search bar reveals that the company is still selling ads for these products.

Roy said that Canadian and other law enforcement agencies are waiting for Google to follow Facebook and enact a specific ban. “What happened is that Canada’s Binary Options Task Force as well as the FBI explained to Facebook what the concerns were and that these types of ads are leading to people becoming victims. We’ve been talking to Google and had similar discussions and are waiting for them to take similar action.”

Roy and the FBI have for months been discussing with Google and Facebook the prevalence of advertising for the widely fraudulent binary options industry. The industry, through which victims worldwide have been fleeced out of billions for the past decade, was finally outlawed by the Knesset in October, in the wake of investigative reporting by The Times of Israel since March 2016, with the ban talking effect on January 26.

According to a source familiar with the binary options industry, some Israeli binary options companies have simply changed the product they are selling to cryptocurrency and ICOs, and continued to defraud customers using similar scripts and techniques.

“They just took a sticker down from a door and put up a new sticker and said now we’re doing ICOs,” the source said of one company. “Nothing about the company changed. Maybe some of the legal filings.”

Are all cryptocurrencies fraudulent?

While binary options was a largely Israel-based fraud, the situation with cryptocurrencies and ICOs is murkier. Experts have told The Times of Israel that some cryptocurrency startups are legitimate, or at least not intentionally fraudulent, while others are outright scams. Fraudulent cryptocurrency companies appear on the surface to originate from all over the world, and not just Israel.

“I think everybody is trying to figure out what’s going on,” said Roy. “There’s just been an explosion of different ICOs and new tokens and crazy offerings. You’re seeing ICOs that are raising large amounts of money and there’s nothing behind them in certain cases, but members of the public are so hyped they’re throwing money at them.”

When Roy looks at the cryptocurrencies being advertised on the internet he sees several patterns.

A man is reflected on a screen showing exchange rates of cryptocurrencies at an exchange in Seoul on December 20, 2017.

“You have the former binary options firms that have made the switch to offering cryptocurrencies, and it’s basically the binary options scam 2.0. Then you have fraudulent and unregistered ICOs that are targeting people. And then you have cryptocurrency Ponzi schemes or multi-level-marketing schemes. We recently put out an investor alertabout a company called UTI-Tech. There is an Israel aspect to all this fraud with the former binary options firms, but that’s not the entirety of it. It appears to be all over the world.”

Asked how one can differentiate the legitimate cryptocurrency firms from the illegitimate ones, Roy replied, “We would look at what they were doing and determine if this is an activity that can be registered and if they had in fact registered. We would look to see if they were violating our rules, because any legitimate company that’s going to be offering a type of investment should be following the rules in whatever jurisdiction they’re offering those securities in. That’s our first test in terms of the legitimacy of a company.”

How Google AdWords helps fraudsters find customers

Several weeks ago, the Times of Israel was contacted by a former PPC (pay-per-click) expert for the online gambling industry who worked briefly in binary options. Joshua, who asked that we not reveal his real name, said that most of the paid traffic for binary options websites comes from Google AdWords.

“I think Facebook represented about 15 to 20% of the paid-click traffic, but these companies’ largest budget goes to Google AdWords.”

He said that lately he keeps seeing ads for initial coin offerings (ICOs) everywhere on the internet, and that he recently had a flash of insight that compelled him to contact The Times of Israel.

“When I worked in binary options, one of the things that made me realize it was fraudulent is that they would give investors bonuses. If someone invests $100, and then you give them $100 in equity, well then it’s obvious you’re not planning to return any of their money. A few weeks ago I was going through my Facebook and I see these ICOs. And I see they’re starting to offer ICOs with bonuses. I put two and two together and I said, these ICO people are binary options people!”

When The Times of Israel pointed out that the “team members” listed on the websites of many Google-advertised ICOs appear to be from all over the world and not just Israel, Joshua suggested that some of these people may be former binary options affiliates whom the Israeli owners are using to obscure their involvement.

“They have affiliates everywhere — in Canada, Cyprus, Belize — you name it.”

Joshua said he can’t know for sure that every ICO that advertises on Google is a scam, but that a legitimate cryptocurrency would be more likely to raise money “through public relations, through people actually being interested in it and through serving some need.”

According to Joshua, binary options companies used to bid more than $100 per click to occupy the advertising spot at the top of a page of Google search results. He believes that the going rate for cryptocurrencies may be similarly high.

In other words, if you click on a Google ad for binary options, the company may have to pay Google $100 or more, depending on what other companies are bidding.

“Usually a legitimate company that advertises on Google will pay 50 cents a click, or maybe a dollar or two, because they’re just trying to get normal people to come in. But you’re bidding against your competitors. If your competitor started bidding $20, they would show up above you. If you wanted to show up above them, you would have to bid $21.”

Joshua said that this explains why scammers are willing to bid $100 or more.

“These fraudulent companies, they want to take people’s money and they want to take it fast. They’ll bid at $100 to make sure they get that top position.”

This works out economically for binary options companies because they carefully track customer behavior and know exactly what percentage of people who click on a Google ad will deposit money. Joshua said that the lifetime customer value (the average amount of money earned per customer) in the gambling companies he worked for was $1,200 and in some binary options companies he believes it may have been between $1,500 and $2,000.

“That’s their strategy. If they have to pay $400 to Google to get five clicks and then one of them converts (makes an initial deposit), that’s a money-making venture.”

A Google executive lectures to binary options operatives at the IFXExpo conference in Hong Kong, January 2016 (YouTube Screenshot)

According to Joshua, reliance on Google AdWords is the Achilles heel of fraudulent forex, CFD, binary options and cryptocurrency companies. If a whole bunch of angry, defrauded investors were to start clicking on the ads without actually depositing money, their business model would fall apart, he said.

“Even a few thousand people doing this would be detrimental to them,” he said.

The Times of Israel contacted Google to ask what it thought of this suggestion. Google spokeswoman Roni Levin replied that such a scheme would not work.

“Our Ad Traffic Quality team is dedicated to stopping all types of invalid traffic,” she wrote in an email, “including clicks that don’t represent genuine user interest, so that advertisers don’t have to pay for it and the people who cause it don’t profit from it. Please see:

The origins of binary options

Joshua said that in an ideal scenario, Google would just ban ads for companies offering forex, CFDs, binary options and cryptocurrencies.

“Overall, the revenue from clicks for forex, CFDs, binary options and and online gambling could be hundreds of millions or a billion dollars,” he said, stressing that this was only an educated guess and that he did not have a specific figure. If so, he said, “that’s not a lot of money for Google. I doubt Google is in it for the money in some corrupt way. They just follow the law really strictly and until something is banned by law, they don’t censor it.”

Joshua said that that binary options was invented by gambling industry operatives after the United States banned online gambling in 2006 and Google placed restrictions on the advertising.

The top of the FBI website on March 15, 2017, dominated by a binary options fraud warning. (Screenshot: FBI)

“Between 2000 and 2006, Israel was a hub of the online gambling industry,” he said. “The casinos were allowed to operate in Israel as long as they didn’t take any players from Israel. And they were swimming in money. There was no reason to enter any other field because they were making so much money. They had the US market and all these other markets worldwide.”

But in 2006, the United States passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, making it illegal for a company to accept payments from online gamblers from the United States.

Online gambling companies still wanted to find a way to get money from US customers. Some accomplished this by using payment processors that falsified credit card transaction codes so that they did not reflect gambling activity.

But once advertising to the US market was restricted by Google, “most casino operations downsized, and operations then shifted to forex and binary options, which you could advertise freely on Google AdWords.”


Tech Giants Power to New Heights — Apple Inc., Alphabet Inc. and Inc.

February 2, 2018

Apple breaks record for biggest ever company profit despite iPhone sales fall 

Apple has posted the biggest quarterly profit of all time despite a fall in iPhone sales.

The world’s biggest company posted profits of $20.1bn (£14bn) in the crucial final three months of the year, breaking its own record set two years ago.

It came after the release of the £999 iPhone X in November, the biggest update of the handset to date, as well as the release of the iPhone 8 in September.

Although Apple sold 77m iPhones in the three month period, a 1pc fall from last year, the higher price of the new handsets meant revenues from selling iPhones increased.

iPhone X surpassed our expectations and has been our top selling iPhone every week since it shipped in November,” Cook said.

The company’s revenues grew 13pc to $88.3bn, also a record. The $20.1bn profits were up 12pc, from $17.9bn a year earlier.

Sales of the iPad increased marginally, while those of Apple’s Mac computers fell. Sales of “other products” – a group that includes the Apple Watch and Apple TV – were up 36pc.

Shares initially fell in after-hours trading as Apple disappointed investors with its guidance for the next quarter, but rebounded soon after. The company said it expected revenues of between $60bn and $62bn, below expectations.

“We’re thrilled to report the biggest quarter in Apple’s history, with broad-based growth that included the highest revenue ever from a new iPhone lineup,” Mr Cook said. He added that 1.3bn Apple devices are now in use, up from 1bn two years ago.

Cook said there had been a record year for the App Store, with augmented reality apps a particular area of growth. Sales of the new Apple Watch Series 3 were double those of the Series 2 last year.

Apple is the world’s biggest company and is often tipped to be the first to break the one-trillion-dollar value mark, but shares have wavered in recent weeks amid fears that it may be cutting back iPhone X production.

The new handset, which boasts a bigger screen, no home button, and facial recognition technology, was well received by reviewers but costs up to £1,249 for its most expensive version. Apple said the decline in iPhone sales was largely due to the quarter being a week shorter than last year.

Apple is tipped to be the world's first trillion dollar company

Apple is tipped to be the world’s first trillion dollar company CREDIT: GENE J. PUSKAR/AP

Three questions for Apple after results

By Margi Murphy

How much staying power does the iPhone X have?

The release of the £999 iPhone X in November saw Apple fans rush to buy the device, and Apple said it was the best-selling iPhone in every week it had gone on sale.

However, analysts have suggested demand for the flagship phone may have subsided, with some reports saying Apple has halved iPhone X production.

Thursday night’s results showed strong sales of the iPhone X, but once the hardcore fans have all bought one, how willing will average consumers be to shell out.

Read the rest:


Tech Giants Power to New Heights

Apple, Alphabet and report record results; Apple’s profits top $20 billion for first time

Three of the biggest tech companies reported record quarterly financial results on Thursday as they extended their dominance over swaths of the global economy.

Apple Inc., Alphabet Inc. and Inc.—with a combined market value of more than $2 trillion—all boosted growth by broadening their reach into new areas.

Apple’s revenue rose 13% to $88.29 billion, fueled by its move to increase smartphone prices behind its new flagship iPhone X, released in November at $1,000. The company, whose profits topped $20 billion for the first time, is also increasingly benefiting from its services business, including App Store sales and music and payments services.

Google parent Alphabet recorded its 32nd consecutive quarter of revenue growth of 20% or more, continuing a dominant run as it handles more than 90% of internet searches and owns the world’s most influential video site. Google is building in other areas, including cloud computing, a business that Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai said brings in $1 billion a quarter.

Meanwhile, Amazon—long known for prioritizing growth over earnings—delivered a profit exceeding $1 billion for the first time as its revenue jumped 38% to $60.5 billion.

More than the other two companies, Amazon has spread beyond its core market. The online-retail giant has built the largest cloud-computing business, created a major Hollywood studio and, more recently, become a big bricks-and-mortar retailer with the acquisition of Whole Foods, which accounted for roughly 7% of its sales.

Two of the other largest tech companies by market value— Microsoft Corp. and Facebook Inc. —reported record sales a day earlier. Revenue at Microsoft rose 12% to $28.92 billion as its cloud-computing division continued to grow, while Facebook’s revenue jumped 47% to $12.97 billion.

Those companies are the five most valuable in the U.S. by market capitalization, the first time a single industry has occupied that position in several decades, according to S&P Capital Inc.

As the tech giants expand their clout across a widening band of commerce, they have increasingly drawn scrutiny from lawmakers and consumers over a range of issues, from their dominance of certain markets, to how they use their vast troves of consumer data, to the impact their products have on society.

The extraordinary runup in their share prices has helped fuel popular awareness of the companies’ power, says Youssef Squali, an analyst with SunTrust Robinson Humphrey.


  • Apple Results Soar on Pricey iPhones
  • Amazon Earnings Surpass $1 Billion
  • Alphabet Posts Loss, but Revenue Climbs
  • Aramco in Talks for Tech Venture
  • Heard on the Street: Apple Dodges iPhone X Worries

“It’s a combination of the fact that these have become such huge behemoths that they bear responsibility to society, and on the other hand you have all this lack of control of personal data,” Mr. Squali said.

Facebook is contending with claims that its massive social network has had harmful effects on mental health and is used to disseminate hate speech, violent live videos and fabricated news articles. Lawmakers have scrutinized Facebook and other social-media firms, saying they failed to take more steps to keep Russian-backed actors from sowing division during the U.S. presidential election.

Facebook says it is addressing the issues in a number of ways, including employing more people who handle safety and security issues and ranking publisher posts based on user evaluations of trustworthiness.

Apple is facing criticism from prominent investors over the way smartphones affect children, as well as federal probes over its disclosure that it issued software updates that slowed performance on iPhones with older batteries. Apple apologized and said it would never do anything to harm its customers.

Google drew a $2.71 billion fine from European regulators, who said the search giant favored its comparison-shopping service over rivals. Google’s YouTube, meanwhile, is grappling with a backlash from marketers over the placement of their ads in front of undesirable videos, including YouTube’s curated lineup of “preferred” content.

Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai said on a call with analysts that new controls to review top videos on YouTube and set new limits on which content can run ads will make the site a safe place for advertisers. There have been concerns, he said, but “we’re working really hard to address them and respond strongly.”

A major shift for the tech industry came with the election of President Donald Trump, who had been critical of the industry in part due to what he said was a lack of U.S. job creation and investments overseas. Tech CEOs a little over a year ago met with the then-president elect. Shortly thereafter, plans for a tech council to advise the president dissolved.

Most recently, Mr. Trump called out Amazon, tweeting that the U.S. Postal Service should charge the online retail giant and other companies more to deliver packages.

The mood extends to Capitol Hill. Sen. Mark Warner (D., Va.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) are working on legislation that would make political advertising with companies like Facebook, Twitter and Google more transparent. Meanwhile, U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R., Kan.) and Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) this week wrote the Federal Trade Commission to ask it to investigate companies that sell fake social-media accounts, mentioning Twitter and YouTube specifically.

At the annual World Economic Forum last month, the world’s largest technology companies defended themselves against complaints about everything from perceived anticompetitive behavior to threats from artificial intelligence. Some critics questioned the companies’ potential elimination of jobs through advanced technology, while others pointed to their control of large amounts of personal data. Inc. CEO Marc Benioff, at the Davos, Switzerland, forum, called some tech companies’ behavior “nefarious,” comparing the companies to the cigarette industry and calling for more government regulation. Martin Sorrell, CEO of advertising giant WPP PLC, compared the firms to Standard Oil, a U.S. oil giant that was broken up after regulators determined it was a monopoly.

In response to a question about Amazon’s size, the company’s retail chief, Jeff Wilke, said in an interview late last year with The Wall Street Journal that its businesses are very diverse and horizontally large. “We have incredible competition,” he added.

Trip Miller, founder and managing partner at Gullane Capital LLC, which owns shares in Amazon, Apple and Alphabet, said management at the companies was strong, and they appear to have good opportunities for continued growth.

“While we do understand some of the concerns around data and them potentially having so much information on our lives, I think it’s just a byproduct of the world we live in,” he said.

Apple’s results offered hope that it can sustain its solid performance even amid stagnating global demand for smartphones. Analysts and investors have worried the company is too dependent on the iPhone, which accounts for about two-thirds of its revenue, as customers hold onto their phones longer and therefore buy fewer new ones.

Sales of the iPhone X in the quarter lifted the average selling price for iPhones by nearly 15%, Apple said. The 1.3 billion iPhones and other Apple devices now in active use helped its services business report an 18% jump in revenue. Results also were buoyed by strong growth in the division that includes its smartwatch and AirPods wireless earbuds.

Alphabet’s profit jumped 28% to $6.84 billion, excluding a giant $9.9 billion charge related to the new U.S. tax law which turned its bottom line into the red. While the ad business makes up nearly all of its profit, Alphabet is investing in a dozen businesses such as self-driving cars and cybersecurity in hopes they will drive future revenue.

Amazon’s core retail business was the main producer of its revenue growth in the quarter, as holiday shoppers went online. It also benefited from the company’s $13.5 billion acquisition of Whole Foods, which generated more than $4 billion in revenue.

Amazon is known for reinvesting heavily in its business, and has said in recent quarters it is in an investment phase focusing on international expansion and building out its video content, among other initiatives.

Contributing its profitability in the fourth quarter was a tax benefit of $789 million, part of the tax overhaul. Still, Amazon’s cloud-computing division put in a strong performance, as did its growing advertising business. And the company also worked on efficiency at its warehouses.

Write to Laura Stevens at, Tripp Mickle at and Jack Nicas at

Philippine Presidential office says any law penalizing fake news on social media would be unconstitutional — “Is there something that feels creepy at the top of the Philippine Government?”

February 1, 2018
 / 07:04 AM February 01, 2018

Malacañang on Wednesday said any law penalizing fake news on social media would be unconstitutional, as this would curtail freedom of speech.

Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said legislating against fake news was “content-based restriction” and tantamount to censorship.

Image may contain: 1 person, standing

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

“First of all, what will the Senate do? Will they pass a law to punish fake news? The problem there is who will determine what is true and what is fake,” Roque said in an interview with Radyo Inquirer.

“That is prior restraint. That is content-based restriction, which means that is presumed unconstitutional because freedom of speech is very important,” he said.

“We say that all laws that suppress or prohibit speech violate our Constitution,” he added.

Senate hearing

Roque made the remarks a day after the Senate committee on public information held another hearing on fake news in which the committee chair, Sen. Grace Poe, expressed concern over the taking down of certain Facebook posts about a proposed agreement between the Duterte administration and the family of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos on the disposition of their alleged ill-gotten wealth.

Poe said she wanted to know what guidelines had been set by the various social media platforms to ensure their users’ freedom of speech and expression were not violated or abused.

She gave assurance that the Senate would not pass any law to curtail freedom of speech and expression.

“While I am concerned about the pernicious effects of the proliferation of fake news that can destroy not just a person’s reputation but institutions as well, I am in no way in favor of any measure that aims to suppress our freedom of speech or expression,” she said.

‘Patriotic trolling’

At the same hearing, Maria Ressa, chief executive of  news website Rappler, said state-sponsored “patriotic trolling” had used cheap social media armies to spread fake news and hate campaigns to quell dissent, and to control and manipulate public opinion.

President Rodrigo Duterte called Rappler a “fake news outfit” for reporting on his chief aide Christopher “Bong” Go’s alleged involvement in the acquisition of a combat management system for new Navy frigates.

Rappler is seeking to nullify a Securities and Exchange Commission decision to shut it down for alleged violation of the constitutional ban on foreign control of mass media in the Philippines.

Better journalism

In the radio interview, Roque clarified that the government was not encouraging fake news.

“The solution is never censorship but better journalism,” he said.

“What I said earlier that without fake news we would not know what is true news should not be taken as governmental encouragement of fake news. Far from it,” he added.

Roque said even American journalism had “a sordid history in the so-called penny press of promoting quackery and all sorts of things that today would not be considered respectable journalism.”

“Yet US jurisprudence on free speech developed a conviction that the solution is never governmental censorship, but better journalism,” Roque said.

The US Supreme Court in 1964 ruled that mistakes in reportage on public figures were excusable, “otherwise the free and unimpeded discussion of public issues would be hindered,” he said.

US jurisprudence

“Free and open debate about the conduct of public officials, the court reasoned, was more important than occasional, honest factual errors that might hurt or damage officials’ reputations,” Roque said.

“Even a false statement may be deemed to make a valuable contribution to public debate, since it brings about ‘the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error,’” he said, quoting the US Supreme Court.

Roque said American jurisprudence rested on the belief that the fear of punishment would never be a stable basis for good government.

“Reasoned public deliberation is the better recourse, despite the attendant risks posed by falsehood and misinformation,” Roque said.

“For sure and to be clear, fake news as is known today should find no place as a matter of governmental policy.

Enlightened citizens should be able to pick out chaff from grain and appreciate what good journalism is about,” he added.

Roque also defended Presidential Communications Operations Office Assistant Secretary Mocha Uson, who has been accused of spreading fake news especially about opponents of the President, against calls to close down her blog.

“I don’t understand what’s the conflict of interest there. So, if you join government, you lose your right to free speech? What do you want to happen? For government people to shut up?” he said.

Uson has denied spreading fake news, adding that she posted only opinion pieces.

“And I am not [a member of the] media. My blog contains opinions. You may not agree with them but they are not news,” she said.

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