Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

Chinese have no need for websites blocked by Great Firewall — “Beijing will tell you everything you need to know”

March 26, 2015

Reuters

If Beijing is successful in its bid for the 2022 Winter Olympics then foreigners who attend will get uncensored internet access, but this isn’t an issue for Chinese who “don’t like” sites like Facebook and Twitter, an official said on Wednesday.

China keeps a tight rein on its internet. The government has warned that social media, particularly foreign services, could be a destabilising force for Chinese society or even affect the country’s security.

Popular foreign social media sites like Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Facebook as well as Google’s main search engine and Gmail service are all inaccessible in China without specialised software to vault what is known as the “Great Firewall”.

China had committed to providing media with the same freedom to report on the 2008 Beijing summer Olympics as they enjoyed at previous Games.

But when the main press centre opened, journalists complained of finding access to sites deemed sensitive to China’s communist leadership blocked. A senior International Olympic Committee (IOC) official later admitted that some IOC officials cut a deal to let China block sensitive websites.

Wang Hui, spokeswoman for the Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games Bid Committee, told a news briefing that China was an open country committed to having an open internet.

“Everyone always brings up Facebook and Twitter, but people around me don’t like to use it,” Wang said, when asked whether foreign visitors would access uncensored Internet access if the city won the 2022 Games.

“With our Weibo and WeChat, China’s 650 million [web users] can freely use these tools to exchange and receive information,” she said, referring to wildly popular Chinese social media tools which are subject to often quite strict government censorship.

“If you gave these [Facebook and Twitter] to me, I would not use them. I like using Weibo and WeChat.”

Foreign visitors, including the press, spectators or athletes, would get open internet access in 2022, Wang added, without explaining how exactly this would work.

“Without a doubt, 2022 will be even more open than 2008.”

Despite being blocked in China, Beijing 2022 organisers have set up official Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, aimed at a foreign audience, though to little apparent effect.

The Beijing 2022 Twitter account, which sent its first tweet in early November, is only followed by some 550 people. Its official Facebook page has attracted just over 400 likes since it was sent up at about the same time.

An IOC evaluation team is in China this week, and the final decision on who gets the Games will be made in July. The only other city bidding is Kazakhstan’s Almaty.

China’s Great Firewall — And Poisoning Internet Attacks From China

March 1, 2015

By Adam Pasick

Software designer Craig Hockenberry noticed something very strange was happening to his small corporate website The Iconfactory one morning last month: traffic had suddenly spiked to extremely high levels—equivalent to more than double the amount of data transmitted when Kim Kardashian’s naked photos were published last year.

The reason, he quickly discovered, was that China’s Great Firewall—the elaborate machinery that China’s government uses to censor the internet—was redirecting enormous amounts of bogus traffic to his site, which designs online icons, quickly swamping his servers.

“When I looked at the server traffic, there was only one thing I could say,” he wrote on his blog. “Holy shit.”

Hockenberry was only the latest unfortunate site administrator to experience an ugly side effect of the Great Firewall, known as DNS poisoning. A brief explainer: When you type a URL into your web browser, it is converted into a numeric IP address by a domain name server (DNS). Often these are run by internet service providers or companies like Google, but in China they are run by the government—specifically the Ministry of State Security, which is responsible for operating the Great Firewall (often referred to as the GFW).

When a Chinese internet user attempts to visit a banned site such as Facebook, Google, or Twitter, the GFW reroutes the request. For a long time it sent users to non-existent IP addresses, but lately, for reasons unknown, it has been sending them to seemingly random sites like Iconfactory, which are quickly debilitated by the massive inflow of data.

The surge to Hockenberry’s site on Jan. 20 preceded a major internet disruption in China on Jan. 21 that was conclusively caused by GWF DNS poisoning, according to Greatfire.org, a group that fights Chinese internet censorship. Much of the internet was inaccessible to Chinese users for several hours as most of the country’s web requests—equivalent to hundreds of thousands per second—were redirected to a single IP address, used by Dynamic Internet Technology, a small US company that helps users circumvent the GFW. The company’s president speculated that DNS rerouting was not an intentional attack on his company, but rather the result of human error.

Other website administrators have reported similar incidents in the past. According to Greatfire, Chinese users attempting to access banned sites have been redirected to foreign porn sites, random sites in Russia, and to a site owned by the South Korean government. “In essence, GFW is sending Chinese users to DDOS the Korea government’s website,” the group wrote. DDOS stands for distributed denial of service, and is a common type of attack by hackers trying to take down a website by flooding it with traffic from virus-infested computers under their control.

Hockenberry concluded: “Every machine in China has the potential be a part of a massive DDOS attack on innocent sites. As my colleague Sean quipped, ‘They have weaponized their entire population.’”

http://qz.com/351281/chinas-great-firewall-is-demolishing-foreign-websites-and-nobody-knows-why/

Art by Nemu Asakura

Indonesians’ angry backlash at Australia’s PM Tony Abbott

February 21, 2015

By Tom Allard in Bali

Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Indonesia President Joko Widodo: Indonesians have taken to Twitter to express outrage at Mr Abbott. Photo: William West

Prime Minister Tony Abbott is facing an Indonesian social media backlash over his linking of $1 billion in tsunami aid to the mercy campaign for Bali Nine death-row inmates Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, with a campaign urging people to collect coins to return to Australia.

On the streets of Indonesian cities people were asking motorists and passersby for spare change. Meanwhile, social media users were posting pictures of the money they had gathered and hurling insults at Mr Abbott and Australia.

Many also expressed their support for death by firing squad for Chan and Sukumaran.

The twitter campaign, using the hashtags #KoinuntukAustralia, #coinforAustralia and #coinforAbbott and growing rapidly in popularity, highlights how Mr Abbott’s remarks have backfired badly in the country.

 

Social media is huge in Indonesia, with its citizens among the biggest adopters of the technology in the world

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Abbott said: “Let’s not forget that a few years ago when Indonesia was struck by the Indian Ocean tsunami, Australia sent a billion dollars worth of assistance.

“I would say to the Indonesian people and the Indonesian government: we in Australia are always there to help you and we hope that you might reciprocate in this way at this time.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop was forced to call Indonesia’s vice president Jusuf Kalla the next day to clarify the comments.

Her diplomacy seemed to soothe the concerns of Indonesia’s leaders. Its president Joko Widodo said he was satisfied by the explanation on Friday, while also revealing that his government had been preparing a formal rebuke to Mr Abbott.

But many ordinary Indonesians remain enraged.

The campaign originated in Aceh, the Indonesian province that was hit hardest  by the Boxing Day tsunami of 2004 that killed more than 100,000 people there.

Among those behind the campaign are victims of the tsunami.

Muhammad Riza, a victim of the tsunami, said Mr Abbott’s comments were “childish”

“It’s not making any sense. How can aid be mentioned again?,” he said. “If they weren’t sincere, the community will give it back” he told Tempo, an Indonesian media outlet.

On Twitter, Mr Riza said the Australian prime minister was “seungke”, referring to an Acehnese saying that those who take back a gift will suffer a skin condition on their elbow.

Meanwhile, supporters of Chan and Sukumaran brought more than 100 bunches of flowers to Kerobokan prison to thank the governor and guards – as well as the Australians – for their efforts to introduce rehabilitation programs in the penitentiary.

The flowers were organised by the Mothers for Mercy organisation, a Bali-based group.

While there is sympathy for the duo in Bali, especially among expatriates, it does not extend much beyond the confines of the holiday island.

Unlike the rest of Indonesia, many Balinese are aware of the extraordinary reforms at Kerobokan instigated by the Chan, Sukumaran and the prison staff.

with Amilia Rosa

http://www.smh.com.au/world/coin-for-abbott-indonesians-angry-backlash-at-pms-bali-nine-diplomacy-20150221-13l5n2.html

Islamic extremism: How Europe is pushing back — “We are against terrorism and radicalism”

February 18, 2015

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By Peter Ford and Sara Miller Llana

From mosques to TV studios to family kitchens, Muslims and non-Muslims alike are trying to stem the tide of young Europeans signing up to fight for the self-declared Islamic State.

 

Protesters in Madrid, organized by the Arab Culture Foundation with the support of more than 50 mosques, rallied last month against the terrorist attacks in Paris under the slogan ‘against terrorism and radicalism.’
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Amsterdam, Paris, and London — On the ground floor of a redbrick walk-up overlooking Amsterdam’s Amstel River, in his inconspicuous mosque, Muslim cleric Said Akhrif delivers a sermon on tolerance. It is the third in a series of talks that the youthful imam has given to the group of faithful, sitting on a red carpet in front of him, since Islamic extremists slaughtered 12 people at the offices of the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.Mr. Akhrif’s message on this Friday afternoon – delivered in Arabic and then translated into Dutch – is that the prophet Muhammad was a man with a cool head. His purpose, the Moroccan-born cleric explains, is to encourage Muslims “to remain calm” in the face of adversity “and not get frustrated.”That message lies at the heart of a swelling effort across Europe, in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo attack, to stop more young Muslims from waging jihad, or holy war. Through sermons and online advertising, from TV studios to family kitchens to psychiatrists’ couches, Muslims and non-Muslims alike are scrambling to stem the tide of young Europeans volunteering to fight with Islamic State (known as both IS and ISIS) in Syria and Iraq, or to wreak havoc at home.

Recommended: Sunni and Shiite Islam: Do you know the difference? Take our quiz.

“Our task is to make Islamic extremism as unappealing to young Muslims today as communism is now to Western teens,” says Maajid Nawaz, who runs the Quilliam Foundation, a London-based group seeking to counter radicalization.

That is a hydra-headed job. Young European Muslims can be tempted by or trapped into violent extremism in many ways, say those trying to steer them in a different direction. Some are teen rebels. Some feel motivated by what they believe to be a just cause. Some are excited by the promised thrills of “gangster Islam.” Others get carried away by fanatical utopianism.

Most European governments have decided that “prevention is better than cure,” but only after disasters. The Dutch government launched a slew of counterradicalization programs after an Islamist militant shot and stabbed Theo van Gogh to death as the filmmaker rode his bicycle to work in 2004.

The British authorities set up their own preventive scheme in the wake of suicide bombings in July 2005 that killed 52 people. The French government launched an anti-jihad website at the end of January.

Though Europe’s security services clearly have a key role to play in preventing Islamic-inspired terrorism, they are often overwhelmed by the challenge: French Prime Minister Manuel Valls says nearly 3,000 potential French jihadis need constant surveillance but the General Directorate for Internal Security has only 3,800 agents. The government has promised to bolster the security services, adding 1,100 positions over the next three years.

Even that may not be enough. The housing projects where extremist recruiters work “are almost hermetically sealed ghettos for the secret service,” worries Louis Caprioli, a former head of antiterrorism at the French equivalent of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation. “We cannot do discreet surveillance there.”

Across the Channel, Britain’s MI5 is also realistic about the limits to the security services’ reach. “We face a very serious level of threat that is complex to combat and unlikely to abate significantly for some time,” MI5 chief Andrew Parker said in January. “We know we cannot hope to stop everything.”

In the end, security experts acknowledge, identifying potential terrorists, tracking them, waiting until they do something for which they can be convicted, and locking them up is not enough.

“There is a pool of thousands” of potential jihadis in Europe, says Mr. Caprioli.

The key is to reach them before they become radicalized.

•     •     •

Stemming that spread is Akhrif’s top priority, in and out of his pulpit, at Al Kabir mosque. The mosque’s leaders are seeking municipal funding for Internet outreach, planning a Web forum where moderate imams would weigh in and visitors could post their thoughts whenever an explosive event – such as a US drone strike killing civilians – stirs local emotions.

“Let’s teach the Islam of peace, against the so-called Islamic State,” says Al Kabir chairman Mohamed Echarrouti, who speaks in a soft, raspy voice and seems to wear an almost constant smile.

This is not the first time he has done this kind of work. After Mr. Van Gogh’s murder in 2004, Al Kabir worked with 18 mosques, teaching leaders how to spot radicalization and urging them to welcome young men and women at risk into their houses of worship. That was daring: Many mosques shun such people for fear of their influence and the risk they pose to the mosque’s reputation.

“Let’s get them into the mosque instead of on the streets, on the Internet, or with hate imams,” Mr. Echarrouti says.

Such clear engagement is uncommon in Europe, where moderate Muslim leaders are often uncomfortable dealing with the terrorist fringe acting in the name of their religion. They complain that they are unfairly blamed for the outrages committed by people over whom they have no control.

British Muslim leaders, for example, reacted with prickly defensiveness when Eric Pickles, the minister for Communities and Local Government, suggested recently that they had “a precious opportunity, and an important responsibility, in explaining and demonstrating how faith in Islam can be part of British identity.”

“We can’t put an imam behind every believer,” says Lhaj Thami Breze, former president of the Union of Islamic Organizations in France, which promotes moderate “French Islam.” “And, anyway, these young radicals don’t listen to us. They say we have sold out” to the authorities.

Nonetheless, argues Rashad Ali, a former Islamic radical who now mentors potential jihadis under a British government counterradicalization program, community leaders “should be making the arguments. Extremists might not listen to them but they might engage with people who are not so hardcore.”

Not that mosques appear to be where it’s at anymore when it comes to radicalization. Today a new generation of disaffected Muslims across Europe are finding their religion on the Web, at the feet of “Sheikh Google,” as some Muslims put it.

“They are not being radicalized by real people, but on the Internet,” says Margaret Gilmore, a specialist in security at the Royal United Services Institute, a British think tank.

It is not hard, if you know where to look, to follow jihadis in Syria and Iraq on Twitter or Facebook and read of their exploits. YouTube is a ready source of fiery sermons by pro-jihadi self-appointed imams. Social media offer like-minded young people a chance to join groups and forums that reinforce any tendency toward violent extremism.

The Internet provides “a virtual substitute community … and the primary means of communication” for radical Islamists, says a report issued recently by the Center for the Prevention of Islamic Sectarianism, which works with parents in France worried that their children might be slipping into jihadism.

Governments have had limited success in persuading Google, Facebook, and Twitter to take down pro-jihadi posts and videos, and as quickly as the authorities block a site it comes back up. So counterradicalization activists are taking the fight to the enemy.

“We need to be better Web marketers than ISIS,” says Ross Frenett, who runs the London-based Against Violent Extremism (AVE) network of former Islamic extremists now trying to deter young people from following in their footsteps.

Mr. Frenett’s group uses Web analytics to identify people at risk by the search terms they have used and their browsing history, and then buys ad space to ensure that they receive a message and a link to a website designed to make them think about their religion and their intentions. On Twitter, Frenett pays to target such ads at all the followers of well-known jihadis.

In an even more direct effort to engage people at risk, AVE is organizing former extremists to contact them personally online.

“If you ‘like’ ISIS on Facebook, two people are watching at the moment,” says Frenett. “Someone from the security services and an ISIS recruiter. We want to reach out to them, too.”

Thousands of people are at risk, Frenett says. His pilot program has so far dealt only with a few dozen, and only about one-third of them have engaged in online discussion. “More needs to be done like this,” he suggests.

•     •     •

If cyberspace is one front line in the battle against jihadism, it’s in real-life communities like Slotervaart, in Amsterdam, where people face the daily challenge of bridging Muslim and non-Muslim communities.

Slotervaart, where bearded men and veiled women are as much a part of the well-planned cityscape as traditional Dutch men and women riding their bikes, is one of the most diverse places in Amsterdam. It sits in the New West district, which counts both the largest Muslim and largest youth populations in the city, according to its district chairman, Achmed Baadoud, who was born in Morocco. There are 17 mosques, serving 48,000 people of Turkish and Moroccan descent – a third of the local population.

Those demographics could have proved a potent brew amid the passions stirred by the terrorist attack in Paris. Instead, Mr. Baadoud says, he witnessed a more “emancipated” response from his community compared with the mood a decade ago when Slotervaart was at the center of the maelstrom: The Muslim extremist who nearly decapitated Van Gogh in broad daylight hailed from here.

That calm is no accident. “It has to do with knowledge, with investments in contact and networks,” Baadoud says.

Read the rest:

http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Europe/2015/0218/Islamic-extremism-How-Europe-is-pushing-back

ISIS Publishes Propaganda Piece ‘Explaining’ Recent Antigay Atrocities’ — U.S. Moves to Blunt the ISIS Message

February 17, 2015

The The self-proclaimed Islamic State militant group has published a grisly series of photos depicting the executions of allegedly gay men who died after being thrown from rooftops and stoned by waiting mobs on the ground.

By Thom Senzee
February 16 2015

The brutal murders of allegedly gay men by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, which claims the killings were lawful executions for the “crime” of homosexuality under its unprecedented interpretation of Sharia Law, have been documented in what amounts to a perverse “explainer” article published by ISIS in its propaganda magazine last Thursday, reports NBC News.

The ISIS article and photos were published in its magazine, Dabiq. In addition to displaying images of the men’s horrific slayings, the propaganda piece also spelled out the militants’ rationale for committing the atrocities.

By “clamping down on sexual deviance,” ISIS says it will save the Muslim world from the “downward spiral” of morality that the West has allegedly suffered since the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

Some LGBT and human rights activists and journalists have complained that mainstream have given the militant occupiers along the Iraq-Syria border only meager coverage in terms of the growing number of antigay atrocities, such as the tragic death of a middle-aged man last month.

That victim may have survived being pushed while seated in a plastic chair from a seven-story building, as was reported by numerous news outlets. News reports, video, and photos from that execution seemed to indicate that the man may not only have been alive after hitting the ground, but may have been conscious before he was finally put to death by a stone-hurling crowd.

NBC News’ coverage Sunday of the recent executions of allegedly gay young men in ISIS-controlled regions of the Iraq-Syria border area put heavy emphasis on apparently newfound veracity of reports about the executions, based on the confirmation of the facts by a private security firm.

However, London’s Daily Mail newspaper, several LGBT news organizations, as well as human rights groups (not least among them, London-headquartered Syrian Observatory for Human Rights) had previously reported many of the same details of the executions now being reported by mainstream news outlets.

Flashpoint Partners is the security firm that “verified” news of the executions for NBC News. As it disclosed in its report Sunday about the ISIS propaganda piece, NBC News retains Flashpoint as a consultant.

Reports of the atrocities ISIS has committed against people because they were perceived to be gay have now been published and broadcast by news organizations worldwide, ranging from interest-focused media outlets and now by major American network news organizations. Although it’s not likely that will dissuade ISIS militants to change their ways, greater coverage of atrocities committed against LGBT people may send a message that much of society values human lives equally–regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and expression.

NBC News cited an expert in the history of Shariah Law, who noted that the practice of throwing men accused of homosexuality to their deaths from the tallest building available is a “very obscure” reading of hardline Islam.

“What ISIS is doing in displaying this kind of thing is twofold,” researcher, Charlie Winterof the London-based anti-extremism think tank, Quilliam told NBC News. “It’s trying to shock and horrify the rest of the world but it’s also trying to give the impression that the Shariah that it practices is the purest form of Shariah.”

http://www.advocate.com/world/2015/02/16/isis-publishes-propaganda-piece-explaining-recent-antigay-atrocities

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U.S. Intensifies Effort to Blunt ISIS’ Message

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is revamping its effort to counter the Islamic State’s propaganda machine, acknowledging that the terrorist group has been far more effective in attracting new recruits, financing and global notoriety than the United States and its allies have been in thwarting it.

At the heart of the plan is expanding a tiny State Department agency, the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, to harness all the existing attempts at countermessaging by much larger federal departments, including the Pentagon, Homeland Security and intelligence agencies.

The center would also coordinate and amplify similar messaging by foreign allies and nongovernment agencies, as well as by prominent Muslim academics, community leaders and religious scholars who oppose the Islamic State, also called ISIS or ISIL, and who may have more credibility with ISIS’ target audience of young men and women than the American government.

With the Islamic State and its supporters producing as many as 90,000 tweets and other social media responses every day, American officials acknowledge they have a tough job ahead to blunt the group’s digital momentum in the same way a United States-led air campaign has slowed ISIS’ advances on the battlefield in Iraq and, to a lesser extent, in Syria.

Read the rest:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/17/world/middleeast/us-intensifies-effort-to-blunt-isis-message.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0

Malaysia arrests cartoonist for criticizing judges

February 11, 2015

KUALA LUMPUR Wed Feb 11, 2015 7:17am EST

Malaysia’s opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim speaks to the media ahead of the verdict in his final appeal against a conviction for sodomy in Kuala Lumpur February 4, 2015.  Credit: Reuters/Olivia Harris

(Reuters) – Malaysia has arrested a cartoonist for sedition over a Twitter post that criticized the judiciary for upholding a five-year jail term for opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who accused the courts of “bowing to the dictates of the political masters”.

The country’s highest court on Tuesday rejected Anwar’s appeal against a conviction for sodomy, illegal in Muslim-majority Malaysia, so sending back to prison the politician who poses the greatest threat to the long-ruling coalition.

Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque, better known as Zunar, was arrested on Tuesday night after Malaysia’s police chief ordered an investigation into his Malay-language tweet that suggested the judges had been paid off by politicians.

“Profits from the lords of politics must be lucrative,” read the tweet, in part.

Prime Minister Najib Razak’s government has rejected any suggestion of interference in the case, saying that Malaysia had an independent judiciary, and there had been many rulings against senior government figures.

Zunar, 52, is to be detained until Friday to allow the police to investigate, official news agency Bernama said on Wednesday.

Khalid Abu Bakar, Malaysia’s inspector-general of police, himself made use of Twitter to order the investigation of Zunar’s tweet, as well as messages by two opposition politicians, also on sedition grounds.

Malaysian authorities seem to be turning peaceful criticism into a criminal act that threatens the state, Phil Robertson, of rights group Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

“All these authorities are accomplishing is to further erode freedom of expression in Malaysia and inspire fear in those who wish to speak up for their rights,” he added.

In a cartoon on Zunar’s Twitter feed, a black-robed figure labeled “PM Najib” brings down an outsize gavel on a bespectacled, and startled-looking, Anwar. Nearby a wastepaper basket holds a large book prominently inscribed “Law”.

(Reporting by Trinna Leong; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Twitter transparency report: US among biggest offenders requesting user data

February 10, 2015

According to latest report from July to December 2014, government requests for specific users’ information rose 40% on the previous six months to about 2,871

By Dominic Rushe
The Guardian

Twitter feed

 Twitter said it was getting more requests from countries around the world but three countries stood out: Russia, Turkey and the US. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Twitter has reported a massive spike in government requests for users’ information and requests to remove tweets from its service.

According to the microblogging company’s latest transparency report, from July to December 2014 government requests for specific users’ data rose by 40% on the previous six months to about 2,871.

The requests came from more than 50 countries. Twitter said it was getting more requests from countries around the world but three countries stood out: Russia, Turkey and the US.

In the same period Twitter received an 84% increase in government and government-sanctioned demands to remove content from its service. Turkey asked for the most removals, making 477 requests. Twitter has repeatedly clashed with the Turkish government and was briefly banned in the country last year, after people used the service to implicate the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and others in corruption allegations ahead of local elections.

The US made 1,622 requests for users’ information – Twitter gave some information in 80% of cases. The company is suing the US government to loosen restrictions over what it can say publicly about national security-related requests for user data.

Twitter received 356 requests for information in Turkey and complied with none of them. In Russia there were 108 requests – up from zero in the last report. Again, Twitter did not comply.

“Providing this level of transparency is not without its complications and sometimes means we get tough questions and criticism about our decisions,” wrote Jeremy Kessel, Twitter’s senior manager for global legal policy, in a blogpost.

“However, this candid feedback helps us to be evermore thoughtful about our policies and decisions regarding content and compliance as we navigate complex, diverse legal regimes around the world.”

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/feb/09/twitter-transparency-report-user-information

 

Mounting concerns over press freedom in Hong Kong

January 31, 2015

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By Christoph Ricking

Unlike mainland China, the city of Hong Kong enjoys a free press. But journalists in the financial hub are feeling increasingly pressurized by Beijing, especially when it comes to their coverage of the “Occupy” movement.

While journalists in Beijing, Shanghai, or Guangzhou fear the reaction of the government for critical reporting, their colleagues in Hong Kong can conduct their work with a relatively high degree of press freedom. But these freedoms now seem to be under attack, according to new reports from Chinese journalists and international organizations alike.

A ‘watershed year’

The state of press freedom in Hong Kong is in real danger, according to the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ). Three journalists, who wished to remain anonymous in the report due to fears of reprisals, said 2014 was a “watershed year” for press freedom in the city. The report states that a lack of editorial independence prevails in the firmer British colony, adding that the influence from Beijing “renders one speechless, as it is simply raw and undisguised.”

“Some Hong Kong journalists have received direct and indirect threats from mainland Chinese,” said Seranade Woo, a program director at IFJ. Especially since the pro-democracy “Occupy” movement gained momentum last fall, the situation of the media in the city has become “deeply concerning.”

‘Tea’ with state security

Journalists have received threatening phone calls, says Woo. Some reporters were even invited to have tea and snacks with mainland Chinese security authorities. Woo also said that during these “tea” meetings,” journalists were either asked to write very little or nothing at all about the “Occupy” movement or were questioned about how they were planning to cover the issue. Many were also asked to report more often and in-depth about the rival movement, widely regarded to be pro-Beijing.

In addition, the IJF observed that media companies were placed under extreme economic pressure from Beijing during this time. Small newspapers and media companies were particularly affected. According to Woo, “important advertisers suddenly jumped ship. This could be linked to the fact that these independent media outlets did not want to follow the ‘directive’ from Beijing.”

Acts of intimidation

Hong Kong journalist Annie Cheung was also invited to ‘tea.’ Security officials from the mainland made a special trip to Hong Kong just to meet with her, says Cheung. “As a rule, they threaten you with everything that is important to you as a journalist, such as not receiving entry permits, or telling media enterprises that they should no longer expect to receive business partners from the mainland.”

These intimidation practices seem to pay off for Chinese authorities. “Last year’s coverage of the ‘Occupy’ movement is the best example for how un-critical and un-free the Hong Kong Press has become,” says Cheung. “This one-sided reporting, specifically of the rival movement, is clearly linked to Beijing’s influence.” Only a few media sources remain who dare to support the “Occupy” movement, Cheung added.

Attacked with meat cleaver

On the Reporter’s Without Border’s Press Freedom Index, the former British colony was still in 18th place in 2002 – only one position behind the United States. In 2014, Hong Kong ranked 61 in the index – this time, next to Mauritania and Senegal. Even before the start of the Occupy protests, journalists were already being attacked.

Reporter Kevin Lau was seriously injured after being attacked with a meat cleaver in February of last year, sparking an outcry and demonstrations throughout Hong Kong. As the former chief editor of the liberal newspaper, “Ming Pao,” the assault on Lau is seen by many as an attack on the freedom of the press as well. “Among the journalists of Hong Kong, he is someone who doesn’t mince words and doesn’t bend to the pressure of media censorship,” says Woo. “This (attack) could not have been a coincidence.”

A ‘deplorable’ status

In mainland China, the press has also fallen under more pressure in recent years. “Since Xi Jinping became the President of China in 2013, the situation has consistently deteriorated,” writes the IJF in its report, adding that freedom of speech and of the press were in “deplorable” conditions as of 2014.

Moreover, Chinese authorities also tried to influence local editorial bases of international media outlets. German journalist, Angela Köckritz, witnessed this first hand. After reporting on the Hong Kong protests as a China correspondent for the German weekly newspaper “Die Zeit,” Köckritz’s Chinese assistant, Zhang Miao, was arrested. Then Köckritz herself was threatened so severely that she left China as quickly as she could. Her assistant Zhang Miao is behind bars.

China’s censors recently launched a new campaign which led to a massive disruption of Virtual Private Network connections (VPN). Many people in China use these services to bypass the so-called “Great Firewall” to access blocked websites. Due to these VPN disruptions, it is nearly impossible for Internet users in the country to access Facebook, Twitter, and other blocked websites.

http://www.dw.de/mounting-concerns-over-press-freedom-in-hong-kong/a-18226147

Facebook and Instagram back up after suspected hacking

January 27, 2015

The world’s most popular social networking website and the photo-sharing website had been down for 40 minutes – Facebook’s longest outage in more than four years

Facebook and Instagram saw their websites and apps go down for 40 minutes on Tuesday morning

Facebook and Instagram saw their websites and apps go down for 40 minutes on Tuesday morning
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By , andJosieEnsor in San Francisco

 Yhe Daily Telegraph

Facebook and Instagram, the social networking websites popular with users across the world, are now working again after experiencing technical difficulties.

Facebook said on its website it was working to resolve the issues which left many forced to use Twitter to share opinions, selfies and more. Users found they could not use the social networking websites or apps.

Hacking group Lizard Squad claimed responsibility for what looked to be an attack on Facebook’s server on Tuesday. It also warned that they would soon release a tranche of emails from the offices of Malaysia Airlines.

When attempting to access Facebook, users were told: “Sorry, something went wrong. We’re working on it and we’ll get it fixed as soon as we can.”

AP reported earlier in the morning that Facebook, which owns the Instagram service, was “aware of outage and is working on a fix”.

According to the news agency, the outage lasted for 40 minutes and users in United States, Asia and Australia were affected. This is the longest period the company’s website has been down since September 2010.

At that time, the outage lasted more than two hours and Facebook described it on their website as “the worst outage we’ve had in over four years”.

Experts suggest Tinder may not been hacked, but was taken out as side effect of a potential attack on Facebook as the dating site connects to Facebook profiles to operate.

Facebook had 1.25 billion monthly active users at the end of September and 864 million daily active users on average. Based on their average activity data from 2013, the outage could have meant 98 million posts weren’t made.

Even the prime minister of Finland found himself using Twitter after discovering Instagram and Facebook were down among other users – within a short period, #facebookdown was trending on Twitter worldwide.

Some companies used the outage to promote their own products including Red Bull in India.

Turkish Court Orders Facebook Pages Blocked

January 26, 2015

The Associated Press

ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s state-run news agency says a court has ordered authorities to block access in the country to Facebook pages that “insult” the Prophet Muhammad, in the latest move to censor the Internet.

The Anadolu Agency says a court in Ankara issued the order late Sunday. The court also threatened to block access to Facebook as a whole, if its order isn’t implemented.

The decision comes days after another court ruling to ban access in Turkey to web pages featuring the controversial cover of French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo depicting the prophet.

Last year, Turkey closed down access to YouTube and Twitter after a series of leaked recordings suggested corruption by people close to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Turkey’s highest court later overturned the ban.


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