China Vows To Open Markets Amid United States’ Trade Dispute

China’s President Xi Jinping and US President Donald Trump. Photo: Nicolas ASFOURI / POOL / AFP

 

China said Wednesday it would further open its financial markets in the latest apparent attempt to cool economic tensions with the United States, as IMF chief Christine Lagarde warned the world trade system was in danger of being “torn apart” by protectionism.

China’s securities regulator said foreign investors would be able to buy more Chinese stocks through existing programmes linking Hong Kong’s bourse with mainland exchanges, and that it will also “strive” to establish a similar link between Shanghai and London this year.

Central Bank Governor Yi Gang, speaking at the Boao Forum for Asia on the southern Chinese resort island of Hainan, also said Beijing would fast-track previously announced plans to remove limits on foreign shareholdings in Chinese financial institutions.

Foreign firms will be allowed to own as much as 51 percent of joint ventures in the securities, funds and futures industries, up from the current 49 percent.

All limits are to be removed in three years, the government had said previously.

Foreign ownership restrictions in Chinese banks and financial asset management firms will also be removed, it was announced at Boao.

The foreign-ownership reforms were first announced in November during a state visit by US President Donald Trump, but Wednesday’s announcements appeared to set a firmer timetable.

Yi was quoted as saying implementation would commence “in the coming months”.

The latest promises came a day after President Xi Jinping pledged at the same forum to lower car tariffs and take other steps to open China’s economy “wider and wider”.

Xi’s comments addressed major US complaints in their simmering trade row and triggered a rebound in world stock markets that had earlier quaked as the planet’s two largest economies traded threats of retaliatory import tariffs.

He doubled down on Wednesday, saying China would not swerve from reform and calling on trading partners “to board the express train of China’s economy”, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

Threats and counter-threats

Despite the positive signals, Lagarde warned during a speech in Hong Kong on Wednesday that the world’s rules-based trade system was under threat from rising protectionist sentiment.

“The multilateral trade system has transformed our world over the past generation… But that system of rules and shared responsibility is now in danger of being torn apart. This would be an inexcusable, collective policy failure,” she said.

“There are threats, there are counter-threats. There’s an attempt to open a dialogue, and I think that we should support that dialogue attempt as much as we can.”

Both Yi and the China Securities Regulatory Commission said the allowable daily two-way trading volume between Hong Kong and mainland China’s two exchanges would each be increased fourfold to 94 billion yuan ($15 billion), effective May 1.

A Hong Kong-Shanghai trading connection was established in 2014, and a similar one between Hong Kong and China’s second exchange in Shenzhen two years later, giving foreigners greater access to Chinese stocks via Hong Kong, and vice versa.

A proposed London-Shanghai link was first disclosed in 2015 but no firm timetable had been set.

The US and the European Union have long complained about market access in a host of industries, with foreign firms unable to take controlling stakes in Chinese firms.

In the tightly-controlled banking sector, for example, overseas companies currently cannot hold more than 25 percent of a lender’s capital, making it difficult for them to play a major role in the domestic market.

Analysts have previously downplayed such reform promises, saying they are being made now that Chinese enterprises have a firm hold on domestic markets.

Trump, however, on Tuesday praised Xi’s “kind words” on reform and pledged to cooperate with China toward “great progress” in resolving trade differences.

Yi also said China would not devalue its currency as a weapon in a trade war, state television said.

AFP

WHO Demands Access To Alleged Syria Chemical Attack Victims

77 Killed In Syria Bombardment Of Rebel Enclave
FILE COPY A Syrian woman and children run for cover amid the rubble of buildings following government bombing in the rebel-held town of Hamouria, in the besieged Eastern Ghouta region on the outskirts of the capital Damascus.  Photo Credit: ABDULMONAM EASSA / AFP

 

The World Health Organization on Wednesday demanded “immediate” access to the victims of an alleged chemical attack in Syria, voicing indignation at the strike that caused symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic substances. 

“We should all be outraged at these horrific reports and images from Douma” where Saturday’s attack took place, said Peter Salama, the UN agency’s chief of emergency response.

“WHO demands immediate unhindered access to the area to provide care to those affected, to assess the health impacts, and to deliver a comprehensive public health response,” he added.

Citing information previously released by local health organisations, WHO said that “an estimated 500 patients presented to health facilities exhibiting signs and symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals”.

“There were signs of severe irritation of mucous membranes, respiratory failure and disruption to central nervous systems of those exposed,” the statement added.

The United States, Britain and France have argued the incident bears all the hallmarks of a strike ordered by the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Assad has been blamed for previous attacks by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and UN-backed war crimes investigators.

WHO has delivered medicine capable of treating certain types of chemical agents to clinics through a series of humanitarian convoys deployed across the country in recent years.

UN officials have also accused Assad’s troops of at times removing those treatments from humanitarian vehicles.

AFP

Trump Lifts Travel Ban On Chad

United States’ President, Donald Trump attends a meeting with senior military leaders at the White House in Washington, DC.  Photo Credit: NICHOLAS KAMM / AFP

 

The United States announced Tuesday the lifting of its six-month ban on visitors and immigrants from Chad, saying the country had met key security requirements for vetting travelers.

“The president announced today that United States Lifts Travel Ban On Chad has raised its security standards to meet important baseline US national security requirements,” the Department of Homeland Security announced.

“Therefore, its nationals will again be able to receive visas for travel to the United States.”

The travel restrictions will be officially terminated on April 13.

The central African country’s government, which the US calls a “critical” partner in fighting terrorism, had expressed astonishment in September last year when the US unexpectedly added it to a list of five other mainly-Muslim countries under a travel ban.

Chad’s foreign minister Cherif Mahamat Zene welcomed the news.

“Chad is pleased to be removed from the list of countries whose nationals are banned from entering the United States, and hopes to further strengthen the strategic partnership and cooperation between the two countries,” he tweeted.

Critics say the ban — first declared in January 2017 without Chad on the list — targeted Muslim travelers, pointing to President Donald Trump’s campaign promises to ban Muslims from coming to the United States.

After a series of court challenges, the Trump administration revised the ban in September, putting all the countries listed under a 180-day review.

The Department of Homeland Security has maintained that the ban focused on getting countries to improve information on their citizens and cooperation on travel databases, to meet US security standards.

US officials said Chad has addressed the deficiencies in vetting outward-bound travelers and cooperating with US security bodies.

They said it sets an example for other countries on the list, which include Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, and North Korea.

The ban was applied in a limited way to officials from certain Venezuelan government agencies as well.

“We welcome the improved practices by the Chadian authorities, which demonstrate a clear off-ramp for countries placed on the travel restriction list. These improvements will improve security for the people of Chad and the United States,” the State Department said.

AFP

Guardiola Blasts Referee After Liverpool Clash

Manchester City’s Spanish manager Pep Guardiola reacts ahead of the UEFA Champions League second leg quarter-final football match between Manchester City and Liverpool, at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester, north west England on April 10, 2018. Photo Credit: Anthony Devlin / AFP

 

Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola blasted Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz and lamented decisions that cost his side dear after a 2-1 home defeat by Liverpool on Tuesday sealed a 5-1 aggregate Champions League quarter-final win for the five-time European champions.

Guardiola was forced to watch the second half from the stands after being sent off for his protestations at the break as free-spending City’s dreams of conquering the Champions League for the first time were dashed for another season.

City led 1-0 on the night at that stage after Gabriel Jesus’s second-minute opener, but the hosts felt aggrieved after Leroy Sane had a second goal wrongly disallowed for offside just before half-time.

“It’s different to go in 1-0 at half-time to 2-0,” said Guardiola, who also believed Liverpool’s opener in a 3-0 first-leg win at Anfield last week should have been ruled out for offside.

“When the teams are so equal the impact of these decisions is so big.”

Mohamed Salah booked Liverpool’s place in the last four for the first time in a decade when he coolly chipped home his 39th goal of the season 11 minutes into the second half before Roberto Firmino inflicted a third consecutive defeat on City for the first time in Guardiola’s near two-year reign.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp hailed the maturity of his side to see out a first-half onslaught.

“The boys found a solution. We had these two or three moments already at end of the first half so it was easy for me and the boys to see the development of the game and that we are already through the whirlwind,” said Klopp.

Liverpool trail City by 17 points in the Premier League, but have now beaten Guardiola’s men in three of their four meetings this season.

“I really think they are the best team in the world at the moment but I knew we could beat them,” added Klopp.

“We should enjoy the moment. It was a while ago Liverpool was in the semis and I was in the semis and now we are there together.”

Perfect start 

Guardiola admitted beforehand that his side needed the “perfect” performance and the hosts got the perfect start as they opened the scoring after just 117 seconds.

Liverpool were unhappy at Mateu Lahoz in what was to be the start of a controversial night for the Spaniard when Virgil van Dijk claimed he had been pushed by Raheem Sterling in the lead-up to the goal.

The referee was unmoved, though, and with the Dutchman out of position, Fernandinho’s through ball found Sterling and his low cross was swept home by Jesus.

Salah had been an injury doubt after limping off in the first leg, but Liverpool were unable to spring the Egyptian free in the first 45 minutes as City peppered the visitors’ box with crosses without finding the final touch.

Bernardo Silva saw a deflected effort spin just wide and then rattled the post with a deflected long-range strike.

“The first half was so good,” added Guardiola. “(We) hit the post from Bernardo, but when you arrive you have to try to score the second goal.”

The turning point came seconds later when Sane turned into an empty net after Loris Karius’s punch came back off his own player James Milner.

Guardiola ran onto the field at half-time to pull his protesting players away from the official before embarking on his own rant at Mateu Lahoz that saw him watch the second half from the stands.

City understandably failed to maintain the intensity of their first-half display and Salah got the decisive goal when he followed up after Ederson had denied Sadio Mane with a wonderfully-judged chipped finish past the despairing Nicolas Otamendi in the 56th minute.

City’s terrible week after also blowing the chance to seal the Premier League title against local rivals Manchester United at the weekend was rounded off 13 minutes from time when Otamendi was caught in possession and Firmino slotted in off the far post.

AFP

Chinese Official, Art Troupe To Attend North Korea Festival

 

China will send a Communist Party official with an art troupe to North Korea for a festival celebrating the country’s founder, state media said Wednesday, as the neighbours seek to heal battered relations.

The delegation will leave on Friday to attend the April Spring Friendship Art Festival at the invitation of North Korea’s Workers’ Party, China’s official Xinhua news agency said in a brief report.

Song Tao, the head of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee’s international department, will lead the mission.

Song had visited Pyongyang late last year to brief officials about the party’s October congress.

The festival is held in Pyongyang as part of the commemorations for the anniversary of the birth of the North’s founder Kim Il Sung on April 15, 1912.

Both North Korean and foreign artists take part, and this year’s week-long event includes concerts, dance performances and acrobatics.

China has sent art troupes to every festival since 1986, except in 2016.

Beijing is North Korea’s sole major ally, an alliance dating back to the 1950-1953 Korean War, but relations deteriorated after China backed United Nations sanctions to punish Pyongyang over its nuclear weapons programme.

Both sides have since sought to improve ties, with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un meeting Chinese President Xi Jinping last month in Beijing — the young leader’s first known official trip abroad.

Kim’s visit was seen as an attempt by both leaders to shore up a key alliance ahead of the North Korean leader’s planned summits with South Korean President Moon Jae-in this month and US President Donald Trump in the following weeks.

Song’s trip “is an important cultural exchange activity to follow through on the consensus reached by the two heads of state,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told a regular press briefing.

“I think this will play a positive role in the deepening the cultural exchanges between China and the DPRK,” Geng said, using the North’s acronym.

Baik Tae-hyun, a spokesman for South Korea’s unification ministry, said Seoul believes the Chinese delegation’s trip is “part of the efforts to strengthen friendly cultural exchanges between North Korea and China following their summit”.

Seoul, Baik added, “will watch with interest whether it will lead to a performance in China by North Korean artists that was cancelled in December 2015”.

Zuckerberg Not Keen To Reveal Own Personal Info

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg arrives to testify during a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee joint hearing about Facebook on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, April 10, 2018. Photo Credit: Win McNamee / POOL / AFP

 

Of the hundreds of questions thrown at Mark Zuckerberg by US lawmakers Tuesday, none appeared to flummox the Facebook founder more than Senator Dick Durbin’s pointed query about where he slept the previous evening.

“Would you be comfortable sharing with us the name of the hotel you stayed in last night?” Durbin asked during an intense and closely-watched hearing about online digital privacy, and Facebook’s role in what happens to personal information once users join the platform.

Zuckerberg paused for a full eight seconds, chuckled, grimaced, and ultimately demurred.

“Um, uh, no,” he said.

And “if you’ve messaged anybody this week would you share with us the names of the people you’ve messaged?” the Illinois Democrat persisted.

Again, a similar unwillingness to answer.

Perhaps more than any other senator during five hours of questioning, Durbin’s every man tactic put a finger on the crux of the issue surrounding Facebook’s failure to maintain control of the private information of tens of millions of users, amid a scandal over the gathering of personal data used to target political advertising and messaging during the 2016 presidential race.

“I think that might be what this is all about,” said Durbin, 40 years Zuckerberg’s senior.

“Your right to privacy, the limits of your right to privacy, and how much you give away in modern America in the name of connecting people around the world.”

Zuckerberg, who at 33 runs a multi-billion-dollar company with some two billion users, accepted personal responsibility for the leak of users’ data and vowed that the company will do better in guarding such information.

He also conceded Durbin’s point was a fair one. “I think everyone should have control over how their information is used,” Zuckerberg said.

AFP

We Are In Arms Race With Russia, Says Zuckerberg

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a joint hearing of the US Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill, April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. Zuckerberg.  Photo Credit: JIM WATSON / AFP

 

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg accepted personal responsibility Tuesday for the leak of data on tens of millions of its users, while warning of an “arms race” against Russian disinformation during a high-stakes hearing with US lawmakers.

In his first formal congressional appearance, the Facebook founder and chief executive answered questions for nearly five hours as he sought to quell the storm over privacy and security lapses at the social media giant that have angered lawmakers and the network’s two billion users.

Under mounting pressure over the hijacking of its user data by a British political consultant, Zuckerberg reiterated his apology for the historic breach, before being grilled over how Facebook collects and protects people’s personal information.

“It was my mistake, and I’m sorry,” Zuckerberg said about the improper sharing of 87 million people’s information by Cambridge Analytica, a firm working for Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign.

“I started Facebook, I run it and I’m responsible for what happens here.”

He added that Facebook fell short in protecting the platform, noting: “That goes for fake news, foreign interference in elections and hate speech, as well as developers and data privacy.”

The 33-year-old CEO spoke of a constant struggle to guard against Russian manipulation of the Facebook platform to influence elections in the US and elsewhere.

“There are people in Russia whose job it is to try to exploit our systems and other internet systems and other systems as well,” he said.

“So this is an arms race. They’re going to keep getting better and we need to invest in getting better at this too.”

Zuckerberg has previously acknowledged the social network failed to do enough to prevent the spread of disinformation during the last US presidential race.

The Senate hearing, ahead of another appearance in the House on Wednesday, featured several tense and some friendly exchanges on Facebook’s security, hate speech and other topics.

Of the hundreds of questions he faced, none appeared to flummox him more than Senator Dick Durbin’s pointed query about where he slept the previous evening.

“Would you be comfortable sharing with us the name of the hotel you stayed in last night?” Durbin asked.

Zuckerberg paused for a full eight seconds, chuckled, grimaced and ultimately demurred.

“Um, uh, no,” he said.

And “if you’ve messaged anybody this week, would you share with us the names of the people you’ve messaged?” the Illinois Democrat persisted.

Again, a similar unwillingness to answer.

Perhaps more than any other senator during five hours of questioning, Durbin’s everyman tactic put a finger on the crux of the issue surrounding Facebook’s handling of its users’ private data.

Open to regulation

Zuckerberg said he was open to regulation, but cautioned against complex rules that might impact emerging social media firms.

“I think the internet is becoming increasingly important in people’s lives and I think we need to have a full conversation about what is the right regulation,” he told the hearing.

“You need to be careful (a new regulatory policy) doesn’t cement in the current companies that are winning.”

Zuckerberg also revealed that Facebook is cooperating with the US special prosecutor investigating Russian interference in the 2016 vote.

“Our work with the special counsel is confidential. I want to make sure in an open session I don’t reveal something that’s confidential,” he said.

Zuckerberg said he had personally not been contacted, and that he was not specifically aware of any subpoena of Facebook data.

“I believe there may be (a subpoena), but I know we’re working with them,” he said.

Swapping his customary T-shirt for a business suit and tie, the Facebook chief appeared somber as he fielded tough questions over Cambridge Analytica’s massive data breach.

“We’ve been working to understand exactly what happened with Cambridge Analytica and taking steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again,” he said in his prepared remarks.

But the show of contrition fell short for several lawmakers.

“We’ve seen the apology tours before,” Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut told Zuckerberg.

“And so, my reservation about your testimony today is that I don’t see how you can change your business model unless there are specific rules of the road.”

 Paid-for Facebook?

Dozens of protesters gathered outside Congress before the hearing wearing Zuckerberg masks and #DeleteFacebook T-shirts.

Inside the jammed hearing room, activists from the Code Pink group wore oversized glasses with the words “STOP SPYING” written on the lenses, and waved signs that read “Stop corporate lying.”

Testifying was a new step for Zuckerberg, who started Facebook as a Harvard dropout in 2004, and built it into the world’s largest social media company worth more than $450 billion.

During questioning, Zuckerberg rejected the suggestion that the social media giant, with over two billion users worldwide, has exclusive control over its market.

“The average American uses eight different apps to communicate with their friends and stay in touch with people, ranging from texting apps to e-mail,” he said.

Zuckerberg also said the company believed in an ad-supported business model, but appeared to leave open the possibility of a paid version.

“There will always be a version of Facebook that is free,” Zuckerberg told the hearing.

AFP

Israel Targets Gaza After Border Blast

Israel Strikes Gaza After Blast Wounds Four Soldiers
FILE COPY Israeli soldiers hold a position during clashes with Palestinian protestors.                 Photo Credit: HAZEM BADER / AFP

 

The Israeli army said it fired at unspecified Hamas “military targets” in Gaza on Wednesday after a Palestinian bomb attack on an army engineering unit working inside the Hamas-ruled territory.

No Israelis were reported injured in the explosion, which the army’s radio station said appeared to have targeted a mechanical digger.

The army said the bomb was planted under cover of mass protests along the Gaza-Israel border since March 30.

“During routine activity in northern Gaza, an explosive device that was placed under the guise of the riots was detonated against an (army) engineering vehicle on the western side of the security fence,” a military statement said.

“In response, the Israel Defence Forces struck a number of Hamas military targets,” it added.

The statement did not give the location of the targets or the type of military fire used. Israel has used both tank fire and air strikes against Hamas targets in the past.

It was also not clear what the engineering unit was working on, though Israel routinely carries out maintenance work on the border fence.

The mass rallies, under the name “the Great March of Return,” call for Palestinian refugees to be allowed back to their former homes now inside Israel.

They have led to clashes in which Israeli forces have killed 31 Palestinians. No Israelis have been hurt.

AFP

Former South Korean Presidential Hopeful Indicted For Rape

 

A former South Korean presidential contender was indicted Wednesday on charges of raping his aide multiple times in the highest-profile case of the country’s growing #MeToo movement.

Ahn Hee-jung — who was widely seen as a strong contender to replace President Moon Jae-in when his term ends in 2022 — was formally charged with rape and sexual harassment by abuse of power, a spokesman at the Seoul Western District Prosecutors’ Office said.

The spokesman said Ahn’s first hearing is expected next month.

Prosecutors opened an investigation into Ahn after his aide said in a television interview that he had raped her four times since she was hired last June.

Fighting back tears, Kim Ji-eun, who was Ahn’s personal assistant before becoming an aide in civil affairs, said last month that she had been unable to reject her boss in the rigid hierarchy of her office.

The 54-year-old politician has since stepped down from his post as the governor of South Chungcheong province and issued a formal apology but has claimed the sex was “consensual”.

But detailed accounts from the victim as well as testimonies from witnesses provided evidence of Ahn’s crimes, an official at the prosecutors’ office told Yonhap news agency.

A second woman had come forward shortly after Kim’s interview but prosecutors said her case will be excluded due to lack of evidence.

Ahn will not be physically detained as the court has denied the prosecutors’ demand for an arrest warrant.

It has been an astonishing fall from grace for Ahn, who enjoyed huge popularity among young, liberal voters thanks to his wholesome image and good looks.

Ahn came second to Moon in the contest for the ruling Democratic Party’s presidential nomination last year and was seen as a favourite for the next elections.

Ahn threw his support behind the #MeToo campaign against abuse of women in a public speech made just hours before Kim appeared on live TV to talk about the sex abuse she allegedly suffered at his hands.

Victims of sex abuse in patriarchal South Korea are reluctant to come forward due to fears of public shaming.

But Seo Ji-Hyeon, a prosecutor, in January made the rare move of appearing on live TV to talk about sex abuse by her superior.

Her interview opened a floodgate of similar revelations by women who accused figures including politicians, actors and film directors.

AFP

100 Soldiers, 157 Others Die In Algerian Plane Crash

FILE COPY A Russian Ilyushin 76 (IL-76) plane is seen at Moscow’s airport. Around 100 Algerian military personnel were on board an army plane that crashed on April 11, 2018 near an airbase outside the capital, a military source told AFP.  Photo Credit: STR / AFP

 

Around 100 Algerian military personnel were on board an army plane that crashed on Wednesday near an airbase outside the capital, a military source told AFP.

An AFP photographer at the scene saw the charred wreckage of the plane in a field near the Boufarik airbase from where the plane had taken off.

Hundreds of ambulances and dozens of fire trucks with their sirens wailing rushed to the scene of the crash about 25 kilometres (15 miles) southwest of Algiers.

The defence ministry said in a statement that 247 passengers and 10 crew were killed without mentioning any survivors.

Deputy Defence Minister General Ahmed Gaid Salah visited the site and ordered an investigation into the circumstances of the crash, the defence ministry said.

The Ilyushin II-76 transport plane was bound for Tindouf in southwest Algeria.

Algeria has suffered a string of military and civilian aviation disasters.

Two military planes collided mid-flight in December 2012 during a training exercise in Tlemcen, in the far west of the country, killing the pilots of both planes.

In February 2014, 77 people died when a military plane carrying army personnel and family members crashed between Tamanrasset in southern Algeria and the eastern city of Constantine.

Only one person survived after the C-130 Hercules transport aircraft came down in the mountainous Oum El Bouaghi region.

The defence ministry blamed that crash on bad weather.

An Air Algerie passenger plane flying from Burkina Faso to Algiers crashed in northern Mali in July 2014, killing all 116 people on board including 54 French nationals.

In October the same year, a military plane crashed in the south of the country during a training exercise, killing the two men on board.

That came more than a decade after all but one of the 103 people on an Air Algerie Boeing 737-200 died in March 2003 when it crashed on takeoff in the country’s south after an engine caught fire.

 

AFP

Key Zuckerberg Quotes In Senate Facebook Grilling

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testifies before a joint hearing of the US Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill, April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC. Zuckerberg. Photo Credit: JIM WATSON / AFP

 

Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg appeared before US lawmakers Tuesday to apologize for how his company has handled the growing furor over online privacy, to promise change, and explain the social media giant’s policies.

The wide-ranging questions — including about Cambridge Analytica, which used data scraped from 87 million Facebook users to target political ads ahead of the 2016 US election — put the 33-year-old billionaire under a microscope for several hours at a joint Senate committee hearing.

Here are top quotes from Zuckerberg, and some of the dozens of senators who grilled him.

Setting things straight 

“We didn’t take a broad enough view of our responsibility, and that was a big mistake. And it was my mistake, and I’m sorry. I started Facebook, I run it, and I’m responsible for what happens here.”

“When we heard back from Cambridge Analytica that they had told us that they weren’t using the data and deleted it, we considered it a closed case. In retrospect, that was clearly a mistake. We shouldn’t have taken their word for it. We’ve updated our policy to make sure we don’t make that mistake again.”

“It will take some time to work through all the changes we need to make across the company. I’m committed to getting this right. This includes the basic responsibility of protecting people’s information, which we failed to do with Cambridge Analytica.”

“We’re investigating every single app that had access to a large amount of information in the past. And if we find that someone improperly used data, we’re going to ban them from Facebook and tell everyone affected.

 Russian alarm 

“One of my greatest regrets in running the company is that we were slow in identifying the Russian information operations in 2016.”

“There are people in Russia whose job it is to try to exploit our systems and other internet systems…. So this is an arms race. They’re going to keep getting better and we need to invest in getting better at this too.”

Trump and special counsel 

Asked if Facebook executives have been interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian interference in the US election: “Our work with the special counsel is confidential…. I actually am not aware of a subpoena. I believe there may be, but I know we’re working with them.”

“I know we did help out the Trump campaign overall in sales support in the same way we do with other campaigns.”

Challenges ahead 

“There will always be a version of Facebook that is free.”

“We need to take a more active view in policing the ecosystem and watching and looking out and making sure that all the members in our community are using these tools in a way that’s going to be good and healthy.”

Asked if he believes the social media giant, with over two billion users worldwide, amounts to a monopoly: “It certainly doesn’t feel like that to me.”

Right to privacy 

Senator Dick Durbin: “Would you be comfortable sharing with us the name of the hotel you stayed in last night? If you messaged anybody this week, would you share with us the names of the people you’ve messaged?”

Zuckerberg: “Senator, no I would probably not choose to do that publicly here.”

Durbin: “I think that may be what this is all about: your right to privacy, the limits of your right to privacy, and how much you give away in modern America in the name of connecting people around the world.”

Pressure is on

Senator John Thune: “This should be a wake-up call for the tech community…. We’re listening, America is listening, and quite possibly the world is listening too.”

Senator Bill Nelson: “Let me just cut to the chase. If you and other social media companies do not get your act in order, none of us are going to have any privacy anymore.”

AFP

Facebook To Offer ‘Bounty’ For Reporting Data Abuse

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg walks in a hallway prior to a meeting with U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-SD), committee chairman of Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, April 9, 2018 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC.  Photo Credit: Alex Wong/Getty Images/AFP

 

Facebook said Tuesday it would begin offering rewards to people who report misuse of private information from the social network, as part of an effort to step up data protection in the wake of a firestorm.

The new program “will reward people with first-hand knowledge and proof of cases where a Facebook platform app collects and transfers people’s data to another party to be sold, stolen or used for scams or political influence,” product security chief Collin Greene said in a statement.

Greene said the new offer was inspired by the “bug bounty” offered by Facebook and other online services to reward people who find security flaws.

The reward will be “based on the impact of each report,” Greene said, with a minimum of $500 for verified cases of abuse affecting 10,000 people or more.

“While there is no maximum, high impact bug reports have garnered as much as $40,000 for people who bring them to our attention,” he added.

The announcement comes with Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg set to begin testimony at congressional hearings Tuesday and Wednesday on abuse of private data collected by the social network.

Facebook is under fire in the United States and around the world following disclosures of private data hijacked by the consultancy Cambridge Analytica, which was working for Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

“We’ll review all legitimate reports and respond as quickly as possible when we identify a credible threat to people’s information,” Greene said of the new program.

“If we confirm data abuse, we will shut down the offending app and take legal action against the company selling or buying the data, if necessary. We’ll pay the person who reported the issue, and we’ll also alert those we believe to be affected.”

AFP