Indian police have arrested dozens of people for social media comments that allegedly threatened “communal harmony” after the Supreme Court awarded a holy site once used for a mosque to Hindus, officials said Monday.
The site in the northern city of Ayodhya has in the past caused religious riots that have left thousands dead.
Security forces have been on alert since the verdict was announced on Saturday and remained on the city’s streets as hundreds of thousands of Hindu pilgrims began arriving on Monday ahead of a religious festival. Hindu and Muslim leaders have called for calm.
Police said the social media posts on platforms including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube had threatened “communal harmony”.
At least 77 people were arrested in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh — where Ayodhya is located — after the Supreme Court decision, a police statement said.
Authorities acted against more than 8,270 posts, with steps including “reporting the posts to the social media platform” and “directly messaging the user to delete the message,” the statement said.
In two cases police ordered users to take down their social media profiles, an Uttar Pradesh police spokesman said.
More than 2,800 posts were targeted on Twitter. There were 1,355 allegedly inflammatory comments on Facebook, and 98 YouTube videos, authorities said.
Police cybercrime units said they were using “sentiment analysis” programmes to identify suspect social media posts.
A top Uttar Pradesh official said that several WhatsApp groups were asked to restrict their activities, according to media reports.
Eight other arrests were reported in the central state of Madhya Pradesh for social media comments.
A jail warden in the city of Gwalior was also arrested for celebrating with fireworks after the Hindu court victory.
A mosque had stood on the Ayodhya site for almost five centuries, but Hindus claim it was built on the birthplace of the warrior god Rama and a mob tore it down in 1992, setting off riots in which 2,000 people were killed.
Muslims are to be given a separate plot of land in the city to build a new mosque under the Supreme Court ruling. Several Hindu nationalist leaders still face trial over the 1992 demolition.
More than one million Hindu pilgrims are expected in Ayodhya on Tuesday for an annual full moon religious festival.
“Since we launched our reform of the broadcast industry, many Nigerians have reached out to us, demanding that we also look into how to sanitise the Social Media space. I can assure you that we are also working on how to inject sanity into the Social Media space which, today, is totally out of control,” he said.
Mohammed added that no responsible government would sit back and allow activities such as fake news and hate speech, which is capable of setting the country on fire, to continue unchecked.
“No responsible government will sit by and allow fake news and hate speech to dominate its media space, because of the capacity of this menace to exploit our national fault lines to set us against each other and trigger a national conflagration.
“That is why we will continue to evolve ways to tackle fake news and hate speech until we banish both,” he said.
Mohammed had earlier disclosed that a committee has been set up to implement the recommendations approved by President Buhari on tackling hate speech and fake news.
He said hate speech and fake news are the ‘Siamese twins of evil’, and no responsible government will sit by and allow such to rule the airwaves.
Find below the full speech of the Minister’s address:
TEXT OF PRESS BRIEFING BY THE HONOURABLE MINISTER OF INFORMATION AND CULTURE, ALHAJI LAI MOHAMMED, IN ABUJA ON TUESDAY, 29 OCT. 2019
As usual, let me start by thanking you, gentlemen, for always responding to our invitation and for your usually-reliable reports after our briefings
– Today’s briefing, as you would imagine, is on the National Campaign Against Fakes News and Hate Speech, which we launched last July. Within the context of that campaign, I recently launched an effort to rid our airwaves of fake news and hate speech. Specifically, I set up a committee on the implementation of the recommendations that were approved by Mr. President to inject sanity into the nation’s broadcast industry, following the unprofessional and unethical conduct of some broadcast stations, especially before and during the last general elections.
The highlights of the recommendations are as follows: i) Independence of the NBC from political interference in the exercise of its regulatory powers, particularly with respect to the issuance and withdrawal of broadcasting license. ii) A review of the National Broadcasting Code and extant broadcasting laws to reflect the following amendments; Upward review of fines from N500,000 to N5,000,000 for breaches relating to hate speeches, inciting comments and indecency. Wilful repeat of infractions on three occasions after levying fine on a station to attract suspension of license. Upgrade of breach of political comments relating to hate speeches and divisive comments to ”Class A” offence in the Broadcasting Code. Amendment of the NBC Act to enable NBC license WebTv and radio stations. iii) Recruitment of more monitoring staff for the NBC. At the moment, there are only about 200 Staff monitoring about 1,000 radio and television stations. iv) Deployment of adequate monitoring equipment and technologies for the NBC and, finally… v) Enhancement of welfare packages of NBC staff to avoid their compromise in the line of duty
Gentlemen, the committee is also saddled with ending all forms of monopoly detrimental to the actualization of the immense potential of the broadcast industry. A situation where a few people corner a chunk of the industry to the detriment of others, especially our teeming and talented youths is totally unacceptable and untenable.
Once the committee submits its report, we will immediately kick-start the implementation of the approved measures to inject sanity into our broadcast industry.
Gentlemen, since I launched the committee on the implementation of the approved measures, there have been reactions. Many have hailed our efforts at seeking to bring sanity to the airwaves, while some have attacked us and accused us of trying to stifle press freedom or gag journalists.
In the first instance, let me say this. No amount of attacks, sponsored or otherwise, will stop the implementation of the approved recommendations. And only non-patriots and anarchists will kick against measures aimed at putting an end to fake news and hate speech, especially in our broadcast industry.
But, as I have been saying, we have no intention of stifling free speech or gagging journalists or anyone. Again, this Administration has no intention of muzzling the media or stifling free speech. Our campaign is against fake news and hate speech. However, if you engage in disseminating fake news or hate speech, you need to be worried, because we will not spare you. We cannot allow fake news and hate speech to become free speech, because these Siamese Twins of Evil are capable of inflicting untold damage on our democracy and threatening our national unity. They represent a clear and imminent danger to our survival as a nation.
As for monopolies, they stunt growth, kill talents and discourage creativity. The clearest example of the creative energy that can be unleashed when monopoly is totally broken can be seen in the telecommunications industry. Of course, the broadcast industry has also been liberalised. But any vestige of monopoly is antithetical to the liberalisation of the broadcast industry and must be dismantled. In the case of Nigeria, it’s the monopoly of content that breeds anti-competition practices.
Gentlemen, since we launched our reform of the broadcast industry, many Nigerians have reached out to us, demanding that we also look into how to sanitize the Social Media space. I can assure you that we are also working on how to inject sanity into the Social Media space which, today, is totally out of control
No responsible government will sit by and allow fake news and hate speech to dominate its media space, because of the capacity of this menace to exploit our national fault lines to set us against each other and trigger a national conflagration. That is why we will continue to evolve ways to tackle fake news and hate speech until we banish both.
Therefore, Gentlemen, we once again seek your support for our efforts to banish fake news and hate speech from our media space.
Chad President Idriss Deby said on Saturday he was lifting social media restrictions which were imposed more than a year ago for “security reasons.”
“For some months, security requirements led the government to toughen access conditions and control measures for electronic communications,” Deby said in a closing address to a digital forum in the capital N’Djamena.
“These measures were imposed in a context of terrorist threats (but)” the current situation ” leads me … to instruct the firms concerned to lift immediately the restriction on electronic communications,” said Deby.
On Saturday afternoon, it was possible to access social media applications including Whatsapp and Twitter, an AFP journalist reported.
Access was cut to social media in March last year as public opposition mounted over Deby’s plans to push through changes to the constitution shoring up his power after almost three decades in office.
Access remained possible using VPN networks but the use of those is costly in one of the world’s poorest nations.
Barely five percent of the population enjoy internet access.
Chad is a Western ally in the fight against jihadist groups in Africa and notably faces threats from Boko Haram, which has made several deadly incursions into its territory in recent months.
The largely desert north, bordering Sudan, Libya and Niger, is highly volatile while several rebel groups have set up base just over the border with Libya.
In late January, Chad rebels seeking to destabilise Deby entered the northeast of the country from Libya but were pushed back after French air strikes.
In the east, farmers and nomadic groups have also clashed while the south on the border with the Central African Republic is still tense after the 2013 overthrow of former CAR president sparked unrest which spilled over the border.
Legislative elections in Chad are scheduled to take place by the end of the year having been postponed several times since 2015 as Deby, who grabbed power in 1990, looks to maintain his grip on the country.
US regulators have approved a $5 billion penalty to be levied on Facebook to settle a probe into the social network’s privacy and data protection lapses, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.
The newspaper said the Federal Trade Commission approved the settlement in a 3-2 vote, with the two Democratic members of the consumer protection agency dissenting.
According to the report, the deal, which would be the largest penalty imposed over privacy violations, still needs approval from the Justice Department before it is finalized.
Facebook did not immediately respond to an AFP query on the agreement.
The settlement would be in line with Facebook’s estimate earlier this year when it said it expected to pay $3 billion to $5 billion for legal settlements on “user data practices.”
The FTC announced last year it reopened its investigation into a 2011 privacy settlement with Facebook after revelations that personal data on tens of millions of users was hijacked by the political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, working on the Donald Trump campaign in 2016.
Facebook has also faced questions about whether it improperly shared user data with business partners in violation of the earlier settlement.
The leading social network with more than two billion users worldwide has also been facing inquiries on privacy from authorities in US states and regulators around the world.
Some Facebook critics have argued the company should face tougher sanctions including monitoring of its data practices, or that chief executive Mark Zuckerberg should be personally liable for penalties.
Charlotte Slaiman of the consumer group Public Knowledge said it was not immediately clear if the settlement would require changes to Facebook’s business practices, but suggested that the partisan split on the vote was a bad omen.
“I’m hopeful that additional conditions placed on Facebook’s business practices will be forthcoming,” Slaiman said in a statement.
“Those conditions should protect not just user privacy, but also the users’
Facebook acknowledged Wednesday an outage affecting users in various parts of the world and said it was working on a fix.
Online monitoring service DownDetector reported earlier the outage began around 1200 GMT and affected Facebook as well as its Instagram and WhatsApp services.
#Facebookdown and #instagramdown were trending on Twitter as users around the world reported these apps were not functioning.
Facebook said in a tweet: “We’re aware that some people are having trouble uploading or sending images, videos and other files on our apps. We’re sorry for the trouble and are working to get things back to normal as quickly as possible.”
According to DownDetector, thousands of users around the world were reporting outages with Europe and North America most impacted.
Earlier this year, an outage lasting as long as 24 hours that hit Facebook services was blamed on a “server configuration change.”
The March 13 outage was believed to be the worst ever for the internet giant, which reaches an estimated 2.7 billion people with its core social network, Instagram and messaging applications.
The company did not immediately respond to an AFP query on Wednesday’s outage.
The selfie craze speaks volumes about the era in which we live: how images race around the globe and can dominate public discourse, eliciting strong emotions and even blurring the lines of reality.
Sometimes, that can be a very toxic mix, experts say.
“We are truly in the age of the picture, of the fleeting image,” said psychoanalyst, essayist and philosophy professor Elsa Godart.
“The selfie marks the arrival of a new sort of language that plays on the way we see ourselves, on our emotions.”
Selfies are everywhere you look on social media.
Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter are flooded with the knowing poses: a teenager with her kitten, a Chinese man in front of the Eiffel Tower, newlyweds at Disneyland, a fan with a movie star.
Selfies “put us in touch with a lot more people,” said Brazilian psychoanalyst Christian Dunker.
For Pauline Escande-Gauquie, an expert in the study of signs or symbols, “the goal is above all to create or strengthen one’s links with a particular community — with your fans if you’re a celebrity, or with everyday citizens if you are a politician.”
The selfie is designed to create a heightened memory of an experience: usually snapped from above, at flattering angles, with an interesting background, selfies allow the total control of one’s image.
Selfie-takers often put themselves at the center of all things.
“It is not a narcissistic problem, because narcissism is very positive, but a problem of ego, and overvaluation of the self,” said Godart, author of “I take selfies, therefore I am.”
That overvaluation craves as many “likes” as possible — and can betray a self-centered me-me-me mentality.
From urban climbing to ‘chinning’
Spectacular selfies allow a person to show off their best side because they are often staged in phenomenal settings.
Russia’s Angela Nicolau — the queen of urbam climbing — is known for her risky selfies at dizzying heights — atop the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona or the vertigo-inducing Shanghai Tower.
For Godart, “this is high-risk behavior and gives the feeling of flirting with death.”
At the other end of the spectrum is the selfie that actually devalues the person taking it — a trend seducing more and more people, most of them young and scornful of societal ideals about beauty.
Some of these people have started “chinning” — taking unflattering shots of themselves from below, creating double chins.
Even deeply depressed people are part of the selfie phenomenon, “which allows them to exist too,” said Godart.
There is also a growing trend of photobombing other people’s selfies — sabotaging their message without them knowing.
Selfies are also a tool for activists — environmentalists posting ‘before’ and ‘after’ pictures of beaches for clean-up campaigns or supporters of breastfeeding posing with a suckling infant.
“It’s very intimate but there is a real message behind it,” said Escande-Gauquie.
Chinese artist Ai Weiwei has used selfies as a political tool, to challenge the communist rulers in Beijing or show support for migrants risking death to cross the Mediterranean.
Celebrities deploy the selfie to promote their business interests — every time Kim Kardashian poses nude for her 141 million Instagram followers, it makes headlines.
More edgy are the “beautifulagony” selfies on flickr, which show the faces of people masturbating.
“It is by being seen by another that they will finish masturbating. One makes love by a look, with the screen in between,” said Godart.
Selfies snapped near the remains of relatives can challenge the concept of death — it’s “a way of making a person who is no longer with us live again,” said Godart.
“In the virtual world, there is no death.”
In the end, selfies can become a powerful — and dangerous — addiction.
“Just like with any other phenomenon, there are excesses,” said Escande-Gauquie, author of “Everyone selfie!”
“For some people, it can become compulsive, developing into dependence on being seen by others.”
Some apps allow selfie-takers striving towards some ideal of beauty to use filters that will eliminate wrinkles and refine features.
“It’s a travesty,” said Escande-Gauquie.
“If not dealt with in a playful manner, it can become something of a disease … an identity dissonance that can be dangerous, especially for teenagers.”
A legal practitioner, Jiti Ogunye says the recent warning by the Department of State Services (DSS) on the usage of social media has serious implications on the freedom of expression as provided by Nigeria’s constitution.
Ogunye said this on Thursday during an interview on Channels Television breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily.
In reaction to the question, if the warning by DSS infringes on the free speech of social media users, he said the warning has serious implications.
“It has serious implications. Article 19 Provision and Section 39 of the constitution guarantees the right to freedom of speech without hindrance and intimidation.
“So, when you see the government coming out to insist that certain speeches that are guaranteed by the freedom of expression are capable of stocking ethnic sentiments, ultimately this will have a restriction for the free exercise of those rights that are guaranteed by the law,” Ogunye said.
He added that he believes that although security agencies have the powers to effect arrests when inciting comments that may affect national security are made, security agencies should refrain from playing the role of a judge.
“They are not the ones to try. We have three arms of government. The judiciary is there. The duty they owe the constitution is that if they have grants to proceed, they can effect arrest within the ambits of the law and quickly charge to court.”
He advised that arbitrary arrests and detention should not be a guise to clampdown on dissenting views and opinions.
The DSS had on Wednesday in a statement signed by its spokesperson, Peter Afunaya warned against the use of social media to incite violence
The security agency says it will not condone any act that is capable of destabilising the country through the use of social media platforms.
US pop singer-turned-actress Selena Gomez warned Wednesday that social media had been “terrible” for her generation but said she tried to set a good example for her 150 million followers on Instagram.
Speaking after her politically-charged zombie flick, Jim Jarmusch’s “The Dead Don’t Die”, opened the Cannes film festival, Gomez said the platforms that helped make her famous were destructive in the wrong hands.
“I think that our world is going through a lot obviously. What Jim (Jarmusch) gestured to in the film is that social media has really been terrible for my generation,” Gomez, 26, told a news conference.
Her comments came as a Malaysian teenager took her own life after posting an Instagram poll asking if she should live or die.
The 16-year-old from Kuching in eastern Sarawak state died after posting the poll Monday on the Facebook-owned platform.
Gomez, who has been mobbed by autograph hunters in Cannes and dominated photo spreads from opening night on Tuesday, also warned about the fake news rampant on social media.
“I understand that it’s amazing to use your platform but it does scare me when you see how exposed these young girls and young boys are,” she said.
“They are not aware of the news. I think it’s dangerous for sure if people aren’t getting the right information sometimes.”
‘It scares me’
Gomez said pervasive internet bullying “scares” her and left many young people “devastated”.
In light of her own massive social media presence, Gomez was asked what celebrities and tech industry giants could do to make the online world less toxic.
She set out a bleak picture.
“I think it’s pretty impossible to make it safe at this point. There’s no blocking anything, they’re exposed to it immediately,” she said at the news conference with her co-stars Bill Murray, Chloe Sevigny and Tilda Swinton.
Gomez said she was “grateful” to “have a platform” and tried to use it to “share things that I’m really passionate about”.
“I also don’t do a lot of pointless pictures. I like to be intentional with it,” she said.
On her own internet use, Gomez said less was more.
“It can be great in moments but I would just be careful and allow yourself some time limits when you use it and when you shouldn’t.”
Jarmusch’s film, a tribute to the George Romero monster movies of the 1960s and 70s, depicts a small town in Trump-era America facing an infestation of flesh-eating zombies, including one played by Jarmusch’s friend Iggy Pop.
The siege is triggered by polar fracking which scientists say has “knocked the Earth off its axis”, even as the government’s energy secretary and large gas corporations insist it’s safe.
Gomez plays a “big city hipster” visiting the town who falls victim to an ambush of zombies, who moan for the creature comforts they craved in life like wifi, Xanax and chardonnay wine.
Jarmusch, 66, is a Cannes favourite who has premiered hits such as “Broken Flowers”, “Only Lovers Left Alive” and “Paterson” at the festival.
He said he was using the zombie metaphor in his new movie to take aim at “the whole culture of commodity fetishism” as well as climate change denial.
“Watching nature decline at unprecedented rates in history is for me terrifying and concerning,” Jarmusch said.
He said despite the film’s grim message, the fervour of young climate activists gave him grounds for hope.
“We do have people that are concerned with it and are making it their focus, mostly younger people — there is optimism for sure but it’s just the timeframe is speeding up very quickly,” he said.
Murray, 68, waxed philosophical about movie acting as the seas rise and the planet overheats.
“When I’m not working, I’m lazy…. I’m a better person when I’m working on a film,” he said.
“This is my little ice floe that I stand on and I hope it doesn’t melt.”
Sri Lanka blocked Facebook, WhatsApp and other social media platforms on Monday after anti-Muslim riots hit several towns in the latest fallout from the Easter Sunday suicide attacks.
Christian groups attacked Muslim-owned shops in a sign of the continued religious tension in Sri Lanka since the April 21 attacks by jihadist suicide bombers on three hotels and three churches which left 258 dead.
A state of emergency has been in place since the bombings — which the Islamic State group claims to have helped — and security forces have been given sweeping powers to arrest and detain suspects for long periods.
Police said a mob targetted shops in the north-west town of Chilaw on Sunday in anger at a Facebook post by a shopkeeper. Security forces fired into the air to disperse the crowd, but the violence spread to nearby towns where Muslim businesses were also attacked.
A motorcycle gang attacked shops in nearby Kuliyapitiya and four members were arrested, officials said. However, dozens of people laid siege to the police station and forced their release.
Despite a night curfew, a mosque was vandalised, local residents said.
Police said the curfew in Chilaw and nearby areas was relaxed Monday, but the social media ban was brought in to head off new violence.
“Don’t laugh more, 1 day u will cry,” was posted on Facebook by a Muslim shopkeeper, and local Christians took it to be a warning of an impending attack.
Mobs smashed the man’s shop and vandalised a nearby mosque prompting security forces to fire in the air to disperse the crowd. A curfew was imposed from Sunday afternoon until dawn Monday.
There have already been clashes between Christians and Muslims in Negombo, the town north of Colombo that was one of the targets for the suicide attackers.
The main body of Islamic clerics, the All Ceylon Jamiyyathul Ulama (ACJU), said there was increased suspicion of Muslims after the Easter attacks carried out by local jihadists.
“We call upon the members of the Muslim communities to be more patient and guard your actions and avoid unnecessary postings or hosting on social media,” the ACJU said.
Internet service providers said they have been instructed by the telecommunications regulator to block access to Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and other platforms.
The latest unrest came as Catholic churches resumed Sunday masses for the first time since the bombings.
Worshippers were searched before being allowed into churches that were guarded by armed police and troops. There were no reports of disruption to services, however.
Dozens of people have been detained since the Easter Sunday attacks, and amid the heightened security, police have banned parking near schools and students are allowed in after checking for explosives.
Public schools completed their reopening from extended Easter holidays after the attacks, but attendance was low, according to education authorities.
Upper classes resumed last week while primary school pupils were asked to start Monday.
Private Catholic schools were to open on Tuesday, but many were planning to postpone the reopening until next week, parent groups said.
Muslims make up around 10 per cent of Buddhist-majority Sri Lanka’s 21 million population and Christians about 7.6 per cent.
Premier League stars will be among the footballers taking part in a 24-hour social media boycott on Friday as part of a protest against racist abuse online.
The campaign, which is being co-ordinated by England’s Professional Footballers’ Association, urges players to stay off all social media from 9:00am local time (0800 GMT) Friday after posting the hashtag #Enough.
There have been growing concerns over how football should tackle racism following a number of incidents of abuse both at grounds and on social media
England’s black players faced repeated racist chants during their Euro 2020 qualifier in Montenegro last month.
Danny Rose said afterward he had “had enough” and “can’t wait” to quit the game, with the Tottenham defender adding attempts by football authorities to punish racist incidents were “a farce”.
Rose, giving his support to the PFA boycott, said: “When I said that I can’t wait to see the back of football, it is because of the racism that I, and many other players, have been subjected to our entire careers.
“Football has a problem with racism. I don’t want any future players to go through what I’ve been through in my career.
“Collectively, we are simply not willing to stand by while too little is done by football authorities and social media companies to protect players from this disgusting abuse.”
The PFA said they wanted to show solidarity with affected players as well as demanding that football chiefs take stronger action to rid the game of racism.
“Over the last few months we have seen a rise in appalling instances of racist abuse at grounds around the world, and on social media,” said Simone Pound, head of equalities at the PFA.
“We cannot stand by while too little is done to address this unacceptable behaviour.”
Pound added: “The PFA has always been at the forefront of tackling racism and we are reaffirming our commitment to all of our members. We will do all we can to put an end to the abuse players face on the pitch and online.”
“It seems to be if they are conservative, if they are Republicans, in a certain group, there is discrimination. I see it on Twitter and Facebook,” Trump said at a joint press briefing with his Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro.
Earlier in the day, Trump expressed similar complaints on Twitter where, despite his allegations of bias, he himself has 59 million followers.
Facebook gathers intelligence from its platform to identify people who threaten the firm or its workers, the social network said Thursday in response to media reports of the security tactic.
CNBC reported that it interviewed more than a dozen former Facebook security employees, some of whom questioned the ethics of what was portrayed as an unclearly defined practice at the leading social network.
Facebook spokesman Anthony Harrison told AFP that the company’s physical security team exists to keep workers safe and that strict processes are in place to protect people’s privacy.
“Any suggestion our on-site physical security team has overstepped is absolutely false,” Harrison said.
“They use industry-standard measures to assess and address credible threats of violence against our employees and our company, and refer these threats to law enforcement when necessary.”
Facebook keeps a routinely updated list of people that members of its security team should “be on lookout” for due to threatening statements, according to CNBC.
The so-called “BOLO” list purportedly includes former employees whose actions at the social network came under scrutiny.
Facebook mines the social network for threats against the company or its workers, and its watch list can even feature photos of people, CNBC reported.
For cases in which threats against Facebook or its workers seem credible, the security team was said to be capable of tracking those behind them using location data from the social network’s apps or websites.
Facebook is adamant that its security processes are designed to protect people’s privacy and adhere to data privacy laws, as well as the social network’s terms of service.
In cases of credible threats of violence against an employee, Facebook uses publicly available data and industry practices to determine how close someone behind a threat is to the worker or company offices, according to the social network.