TikTok Rejects Microsoft Offer, Oracle Sole Remaining Bidder

This photo illustration taken on September 14, 2020 shows the logo of the social network application TikTok (L) and a US flag (R) shown on the screens of two laptops in Beijing. – US tech giant Microsoft said on September 13 its offer to buy TikTok was rejected, leaving Oracle as the sole remaining bidder ahead of the imminent deadline for the Chinese-owned video app to sell or shut down its US operations. (Photo by NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP)

 

American tech giant Microsoft said Sunday its offer to buy TikTok was rejected, leaving Oracle as the sole remaining bidder ahead of the imminent deadline for the Chinese-owned video app to sell or shut down its US operations.

TikTok is at the center of a diplomatic storm between Washington and Beijing, and President Donald Trump has set Americans a mid-September deadline to stop doing business with its Chinese parent company ByteDance — effectively compelling a sale of the app to a US company.

The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported that Oracle had won the bidding war, citing people familiar with the deal, although the company did not immediately confirm that to AFP.

But two Chinese state media outlets — CGTN and China News Service — said Monday that ByteDance will not sell TikTok to Oracle either, citing unnamed sources.

The Oracle bid would need approval from the White House and Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, a source told the Journal, with both parties under the belief it would meet US data security concerns.

Microsoft had indicated at the beginning of August that it was interested in acquiring TikTok’s US operations, but announced Sunday that bid had been rejected.

“ByteDance let us know today they would not be selling TikTok’s US operations to Microsoft,” it said in a statement.

“We are confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok’s users, while protecting national security interests.”

In early August, Trump issued an executive order stating that if a purchase agreement was not reached by September 20, the platform would have to close in the United States.

Trump claims TikTok could be used by China to track the locations of federal employees, build dossiers on people for blackmail, and conduct corporate espionage.

– Disputed dangers –

In late August, China’s commerce ministry published new rules potentially making it more difficult for ByteDance to sell TikTok to a US entity by adding “civilian use” to a list of technologies that are restricted for export.

ByteDance had vowed to “strictly abide” by the new export rules.

“We believe Microsoft would only buy TikTok WITH its core algorithm which the Chinese government and ByteDance was not willing to budge,” Wedbush analyst Daniel Ives said in a note.

“Given the need now to get a green light from Beijing after its export rules were changed a few weeks ago, TikTok’s days in the US likely are numbered with a shutdown now the next step,” the analyst said.

Downloaded 175 million times in the United States, TikTok is used by as many as a billion people worldwide to make quirky, short videos on their cellphones. It has repeatedly denied sharing data with Beijing.

Microsoft said it would have “made significant changes to ensure the service met the highest standards for security, privacy, online safety, and combatting disinformation.”

A deal with Microsoft could also have included Walmart, which joined forces with the tech giant during negotiations.

Ives said that even with Microsoft out of the picture, “while Oracle is technically the remaining bidder, without willing to sell its core algorithm we see no TikTok sale on the horizon.”

“Oracle could be a technology partner, but a sale/divestiture of the US operations for TikTok remains the focus.”

TikTok meanwhile has filed a lawsuit challenging the US crackdown, contending that Trump’s order was a misuse of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act because the platform is not “an unusual and extraordinary threat.”

Controversially, Trump has demanded that the US government get a cut of any deal, which critics contend appears unconstitutional and akin to extortion.

The bidding for TikTok comes during a broader deterioration of relations between the world’s top two economies in recent months, with both exchanging fierce recriminations over trade, human rights, and the origins of the coronavirus pandemic.

AFP

UN Urges ‘Moratorium’ On Facial Recognition Tech Use In Protests

(FILES) In this file photo, The United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall on September 23, 2019, in New York City. Ludovic MARIN / AFP.

 

The UN human rights chief called Thursday for a “moratorium” on the use of facial recognition technology during peaceful protests, stressing that it could increase discrimination against people of African descent and other minorities.

Michelle Bachelet’s appeal came as her office published a report about the impact of new technologies on the promotion and protection of human rights in the context of assemblies, including peaceful protests.

“There should be a moratorium on the use of facial recognition technology in the context of peaceful protests, until states meet certain conditions including human rights due diligence before deploying it,” Bachelet said in a statement.

The report was requested by the United Nations Human Rights Council two years ago, but it comes as demonstrations have erupted in a number of countries.

READ ALSO: EU Body Recommends Use Of Remdesivir To Treat COVID-19

“New technologies can be used to mobilise and organise peaceful protests, form networks and coalitions, and help people to be better informed about demonstrations and the reasons they are happening, thus driving social change,” Bachelet said.

But, she stressed, “as we have seen, they can be — and are being — used to restrict and infringe on protesters’ rights, to surveil and track them, and invade their privacy.”

The UN report pointed out that technology-enabled surveillance had been a major factor in shrinking civic space in a range of countries, with some states using intrusive online surveillance and the hacking of social media accounts used by protest organisers and demonstrators themselves.

It voiced particular concern over facial recognition technology, “which allows for the automated identification, surveillance and tracking of protesters.”

Facial recognition has numerous uses that could simplify people’s lives, as seen with Apple using it to unlock smartphones.

But the technology has a dark side, with facial recognition integrated into China’s massive public surveillance system and its social credit experiment, where even minor infractions of public norms can result in sanctions.

As protests about police violence and racism spread across the United States, pressure mounted on the tech firms behind the technology.

Microsoft and Amazon announced they would suspend sales of facial recognition software to police forces, while IBM said it would quit the business.

– ‘Amplify discrimination’ –

Thursday’s report warned that the use of facial recognition technology had left many people feeling wary of demonstrating in public places or publicly expressing their views for fear they could be identified, with negative consequences.

“Moreover, facial recognition technology may also perpetuate and amplify discrimination, including against Afro-descendants and other minorities,” the rights office warned.

Protesters have marched in a number of countries in 2019 and this year on issues including racial discrimination, as with the recent global protests over the killing of George Floyd by a US police officer who has since been charged with murder.

“As people gather worldwide to protest against racism, including by law enforcement officials, the right to peaceful assembly has never been more important,” Bachelet said.

“Facial recognition should not be deployed in the context of peaceful protests without essential safeguards regarding transparency, data protection, and oversight in place.”

AFP

Pandemic Gives Dubai Chance To Put Tech To Test

Police officers monitor the streets and receive calls from citizens at the Command and Control Center of Dubai Police in the Gulf emirate, on February 24, 2020. – The novel coronavirus has given the Gulf emirate of Dubai an opportunity to showcase its technological and scientific clout as it seeks to shape its own model for approaching the pandemic. KARIM SAHIB / AFP.

 

From smart police helmets to research labs, the novel coronavirus has given Dubai an opportunity to test its technological and scientific clout as it shapes its approach to the pandemic.

A key part of the glitzy Gulf emirate’s fight is its COVID-19 Command and Control Centre, set up to coordinate the efforts of Dubai’s doctors, epidemiologists and other professionals.

It is hosted within the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) in Dubai’s Healthcare City, also home to state-of-the-art hospitals, labs and research centres.

“For several years, Dubai has endeavoured to put in place solid digital infrastructure, and this has contributed to the fight against the coronavirus”, said Amer Sharif, who heads the multidisciplinary centre.

It was established at the start of the health crisis by Dubai Crown Prince and social media star Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

In one room, young mask-wearing men and women sit at carefully separated desks crunching data on laptops and coordinating with workers on the ground.

The initiative includes a scientific team whose role is “to stay abreast of the latest advances in research and scientific evidence, both in the country and elsewhere in the world”, team head Alawi Alsheikh-Ali told AFP.

– ‘Data and science’ –

The United Arab Emirates has carried out more than 1.6 million coronavirus tests, and has officially declared over 28,700 infections, including 244 deaths.

This high-tech approach, Sharif said, including “the complete digitisation of the health system”, has prevented a greater spread of the virus and made the lockdown easier.

Tom Loney, associate professor of public health and epidemiology at MBRU, said the coronavirus was an opportunity for Dubai to put its capabilities to the test.

“It’s the ability to react, to make quick decisions based on data and science” that sets Dubai apart, said Loney, who is also an adviser to authorities in the city-state.

According to him decisions were made by order of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, whose portrait is featured on the MBRU building.

Dubai is one of seven emirates in the UAE, a key Gulf state with big technological and scientific ambitions.

The emirate lacks the oil wealth of its neighbours, but has the most diversified economy in the Gulf, building a reputation as a financial, commercial and tourism hub.

The UAE sent an astronaut into space last year, and in July is set to launch the first Arab probe towards Mars, a project sponsored by the emir of Dubai.

– ‘Own model’ –

Many tech options were already at Dubai’s fingertips when the pandemic struck, and the emirate was quick at putting its technology to a variety of uses during the virus crisis.

Police wear smart helmets that take the temperature of passers-by while laboratories make protective masks using 3D printers.

When a night-time curfew begins, Dubai residents — 90 percent of whom are expats — receive a reminder message on their mobile phone in Arabic, English or other languages.

The UAE has regularly announced research advances into the COVID-19 illness, developing several apps to help manage the pandemic.

One of them, Alhosn, which the government has encouraged residents to download, helps track people who are infected with the virus or who may have come in close contact with confirmed cases.

But the use of technology to fight the pandemic has raised concern across the world over government surveillance and privacy risks.

Tech experts and the media have highlighted this issue in the UAE, where some foreign websites and applications are already blocked.

But Sharif pushed back against scepticism.

“Dubai and the Emirates respect privacy, whether it is a question of patient records or smart applications”, he said.

The emirate was creating its “own model” of responding to the health crisis, Sharif added, though authorities were also looking at countries such as South Korea, seen as a positive policy response to the crisis.

“We must follow the developments… but also add to them,” he said.

AFP

‘We Can Get It Done Here’: Africa’s Tech Scene Tackles COVID-19

Fidel Mukatia (R), an electrical engineering student from Kenyatta University, stands with a group of students who made a ventilator, at the university’s facility (Chandaria Business Innovation Incubation Centre) in Nairobi on May 8, 2020, to mitigate the shortage experienced in the country and fight against COVID-19 coronavirus. SIMON MAINA / AFP.

 

Watching from afar as much of the world was brought to its knees by the coronavirus, African scientists, engineers and innovators have turned to homegrown solutions to prepare for the worst-case scenario.

By the time the virus hit Africa, where cases have risen relatively slowly, images of overwhelmed hospitals and stories of health workers strapped for protective gear had been streaming in for weeks.

Mehul Shah from Ultra Red Technologies, a 3D printing company in Nairobi, said he and his partner Neeval Shah quickly realised they could be “first responders” in producing locally-made equipment.

In only three days they put together a working design for 3D-printed face shields made up of a visor that clips onto a plastic sheet. They currently produce around 500 a day.

“It’s very important that we can show Kenyans that we can do this here and we don’t need to rely on importation. We have got the innovative know-how and the means to get this done here,” he told AFP.

The team is also helping produce components that would allow ventilators to be used on more than one patient, as well as printing parts for locally-made ventilators.

While Kenya only has 912 cases and 50 deaths after a little over two months, “we are preparing for the worst-case scenario,” Mehul said.

READ ALSO: Scientists In China Believe New Drug Can Stop Pandemic ‘Without Vaccine’

He said it was “a first” to see manufacturers in Kenya and even worldwide collaborating so much.

“All the companies are looking at how they can use their resources to help out. All the competitors who would be fighting against each other are all coming together.”

In Benin, the start-up Blolab — a digital fabrication laboratory – has also been printing 3D face shields.

– Contact-tracing apps –

Developers in Kenya’s thriving tech scene are among several on the continent working on contact tracing apps.

FabLab, an innovation hub in western Kisumu has developed an application called Msafari (Safari means journey in Swahili) which can track passengers on public transport.

With it, passengers entering a minibus taxi — known as a matatu — can input a simple code on their phone along with the vehicle registration number.

“If one of those passengers tested positive we are now able to trace all the contacts who checked in on that particular vehicle, ” said Tairus Ooyi, the lead app developer and data scientist at FabLab.

– Low-cost ventilators –

Another busy area of innovation has been the production of ventilators, which have been in short supply even in rich countries as COVID-19 patients needing oxygen have swamped hospitals.

Most African countries have only a handful of the machines and 10 have none at all, according to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

In Kenya, engineering students in collaboration with the medical department at the Kenyatta University, produced a low-cost ventilator at a tenth of the price of an imported machine — estimated at $10,000.

Doctor Gordon Ogweno, a medical professor at the university said Kenya had about 50 working ventilators for a population of more than 50 million.

“We are making machines with locally available material … pandemics can come and go but other conditions also require critical care,” he said.

The ventilator is undergoing clinical trials.

In Ghana, the Academic City College in Accra and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Kumasi managed to produce a ventilator costing between $500 and $1,000 which takes only an hour to assemble.

A group of Rwandan biomedical scientists at the Integrated Polytechnic Regional College in Kigali have also been testing a locally made prototype ventilator.

Meanwhile in Somalia, which has limited capacity to respond to its growing caseload, 21-year-old Mohamed Adawe has invented an automated resuscitator.

While doctors normally need to pump oxygen via an Ambu bag valve mask by hand on patients struggling to breathe, Adawe’s contraption — made up of a wooden box, pipes and an electric system — pushes oxygen from an air tank into a mask placed over the patient’s mouth.

“I saw people having difficulties in breathing and many have died because they could not get a machine to help them provide vital oxygen,” said Adawe, who is studying public health.

– Drones and robots –

Aside from locally-made items — African countries are also employing other technology to tackle the virus.

Rwanda last week began using four humanoid robots in coronavirus treatment centres to minimise human to human contact. They can screen temperatures and monitor the status of patients.

In Ghana, the US-based company Zipline which uses drones to ferry medicines, blood and vaccines to avoid poor roads, has begun to transport coronavirus tests.

“The government told us that their biggest challenge is that the virus has spread out of the cities, they have suspected cases popping up in the rural areas and the logistics from the rural areas to the cities are very difficult,” said Zipline CEO in Ghana, Daniel Marfo.

AFP

Big Tech Acquisitions Over Past Decade To Face Fresh US Scrutiny

(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 4, 2019 Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Joe Simon speaks during a press conference at the FTC headquarters in Washington, DC. AFP

 

A US regulatory agency said Tuesday it would look into acquisitions made by five Big Tech firms over the past decade — opening the door for potential antitrust reviews.

The bombshell announcement by the US Federal Trade Commission opens the door to possible investigations of deals made by Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft and Google parent Alphabet since 2010.

The FTC said in a statement it ordered the five firms “to provide information about prior acquisitions not reported to the antitrust agencies” between January 1, 2010, and December 31, 2019.

The move comes amid growing scrutiny of tech platforms which have dominated key economic sectors, and calls by some activists and politicians to break up the Silicon Valley giants.

Antitrust experts have debated the legal and practical issues of attempting to “unwind” past acquisitions.

The FTC, one of the regulatory agencies that conduct antitrust reviews, said it would examine whether some of the deals “might have raised competitive concerns.”

“This initiative will enable the Commission to take a closer look at acquisitions in this important sector, and also to evaluate whether the federal agencies are getting adequate notice of transactions that might harm competition,” said FTC Chairman Joe Simons.

The US Justice Department has already said it is reviewing potential anticompetitive actions by major tech platforms, and attorneys general from the majority of US states have launched antitrust investigations of Google and Facebook.

The actions come against a growing “techlash” reflecting declining public trust in big online firms, and fines levied against Facebook and Google over privacy violations.

AFP

London Heads European Investment In Tech Sector

UK To Boost African Partnership With £30m

 

Investment in tech across Europe reached a record level in 2019, according to a study published on Wednesday, with London maintaining the number one spot despite Brexit uncertainties.

About a quarter of the $39.8 billion (£31 billion, 36 billion euros) that was pumped into fledgling firms was in the British capital.

The $9.7 billion London attracted in 2019 was more than twice the amount in Berlin ($4.5 billion) and nearly three times more than Paris ($3.3 billion).

The study, for London & Partners which promotes the city, said the top three cities were now competing for investment with places such as New York, Beijing and the San Francisco region.

Financial sector start-ups were seen as driving the growth in investment as well as those in artificial energy and clean energy.

British financial firms that have raised funds include online banks Monzo and Starling, as well as money transfer specialist WorldRemit.

London has now been in the top spot for venture capital investment in European tech firms for the last four years.

It was also the European city that has seen the biggest number of “high growth unicorn tech businesses” — new firms valued at more than $1 billion.

A total of 46 have been created in London since 1990, according to the study.

“Tech cities such as London, Paris and Berlin have helped to put Europe’s tech sector on the map because they are home to world-class talent and are increasingly creating game-changing companies,” said London & Partners chief executive Laura Citron.

The figures indicate that Britain is still an attractive destination for investors and entrepreneurs, despite the uncertainties of Brexit, which will finally take place this month.

France last year wanted to leapfrog Britain to become the European number one.

President Emmanuel Macron has promised more investment in financial institutions and to help grow tech sector businesses.

AFP

50 Years After Internet Conception, Dark Side Stirs Fear

 

On October 29, 1969, professor Leonard Kleinrock and a team at the University of California at Los Angeles got a computer to “talk” to a machine in what is now known as Silicon Valley.

The event gave birth to a network that later became known as the internet — hailed at first as a boon to equality and enlightenment, but with a dark side that has emerged as well.

As UCLA marks the anniversary, Kleinrock is opening a new lab devoted to all things related to the internet — particularly mitigating some of its unintended consequences on the internet which is now used by some four billion people worldwide.

“To some point it democratizes everyone,” Kleinrock told AFP.

“But it is also a perfect formula for the dark side, as we have learned.”

So much is shouted online that moderate voices are drowned out and extreme viewpoints are amplified, spewing hate, misinformation and abuse, he contended.

“As engineers, we were not thinking in terms of nasty behavior,” said Kleinrock, 85.

“I totally missed the social networking side. I was thinking about people talking to computers or computers talking to computers, not people talking to people.”

The new Connection Lab will welcome research on topics including machine learning, social networking, blockchain and the internet of things, with an eye toward thwarting online evils.

Kleinrock expressed particular interest in using blockchain technology to attach reputations to people or things online to provide a gauge of who or what to trust.

For example, someone reading an online restaurant review would be able to see how reliable that author’s posts have been.

“It is a network of reputation that is constantly up to date,” Kleinrock said.

“The challenge is how to do that in an ethical and responsible fashion; anonymity is a two-edged sword, of course.”

Businesses Being Bad

He blamed many of the internet’s ills on businesses hawking things that are outdated or unneeded, violating privacy to increase profit.

Instead of clever lone hackers that vexed the internet in its early days, bad actors now include nation states, organized crime and powerful corporations “doing big, bad things,” Kleinrock lamented.

“We were not the social scientists that we should have been,” Kleinrock said of the internet’s early days.

He regretted a lack of foresight to build into the very foundation of the internet tools for better authenticating users and data files.

“It wouldn’t have avoided the dark side, but it would have ameliorated it,” he said.

He remained optimistic about the internet’s woes being solved with encryption, blockchain or other innovations.

“I do still worry. I think everyone is feeling the impact of this very dark side of the internet that has bubbled up,” Kleinrock said.

“I still feel that the benefits are far more significant; I wouldn’t turn off the internet if I could.”

What Kind of Beast?

In the early days, US telecom colossus AT&T ran the lines connecting the computers for ARPANET, a project backed with money from a research arm of the US military.

A key to getting computers to exchange data was breaking digitized information into packets fired between machines with no wasting of time, according to Kleinrock.

A grad student began typing “LOG” to log into the distant computer, which crashed after getting the “O.”

“So, the first message was ‘Lo’ as in ‘Lo and behold,'” Kleinrock recounted. “We couldn’t have a better, more succinct first message.”

Kleinrock’s team logged in on the second try, sending digital data packets between computers on the ARPANET, so named because funding came from the US Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) established in 1958.

Credit for creating the internet is a topic of debate, since there are a series of key moments in its evolution including arrival of protocols for how data is routed, and creation of the World Wide Web system of online pages.

The name “internet” is a shortening of the “internetworking” allowed when one computer network could collaborate with another, according to Marc Weber, curatorial director at the Computer History Museum in Silicon Valley.

“The billion dollar question is, what kind of beast has the internet become?” Weber asked.

“It has become the default main way for humans to communicate, and that is not small.”

While marking its 50th anniversary, the internet as we know it is a “rowdy teenager” in the eyes of Internet Society chief technology officer Olaf Kolkman.

“The internet has done more good than harm,” Kolkman said.

“The biggest challenge we have in front of us is that while we cope with big problems enabled by global connectivity that we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

Google Streaming Game Service, Stadia To Be Launched November 19

Photo: LOIC VENANCE / AFP

 

Google on Tuesday said it will launch its Stadia streaming game service on November 19, hoping to launch console-quality play into the cloud.

The announcement came at a Google event in New York where the tech giant was unveiling an array of new hardware products.

Stadia allows video gameplay on any internet-connected device, eliminating the need for games consoles.

It will be priced at $9.99 per month and compete against Apple Arcade, which is being offered at half that price.

Streaming real-time gameplay from the cloud promised to shake up a mushrooming market worth an estimated $135 billion globally last year, according to analysts — with mobile platforms accounting for about half.

Facebook Suspends ‘Tens Of Thousands’ Of Apps In Privacy Review

Breaking Up Facebook Isn't The Answer, Says Zuckerberg
Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP

 

Facebook said Friday it suspended “tens of thousands” of apps on its platform as a result of its review on privacy practices launched following the scandal involving Cambridge Analytica.

The review was launched in 2018 after revelations that the political consultancy hijacked personal data on millions of Facebook users and included attorneys, external investigators, data scientists, engineers, policy specialists and others, according to a Facebook statement.

The suspensions are “not necessarily an indication that these apps were posing a threat to people,” said a statement from vice president of partnerships Ime Archibong, adding that some “did not respond to our request for information.”

Facebook Teams Up With London Police To Track Terror Live Streams

 

Facebook on Tuesday teamed up with the London police to help its artificial intelligence tools track live streams of terror attacks such as the New Zealand mosque massacre.

A self-professed white supremacist used a head-mounted camera in March to broadcast live footage on Facebook of him attacking two mosques in the city of Christchurch.

Facebook and platforms such as YouTube came under intense criticism for initially failing to detect the broadcast and then struggling to take down its uploads that proliferated online.

New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern and other world leaders in May launched a “Christchurch Call to Action” against online extremism — a campaign major platforms joined later that month.

The California-based social media behemoth said Tuesday it was in the process of updating and refining its policies for dealing with extremism and online hate.

“Some of these changes predate the tragic terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand, but that attack, and the global response to it in the form of the Christchurch Call to Action, has strongly influenced the recent updates to our policies and their enforcement.”

Machine Learning

London’s Metropolitan Police said the initiative will see it provide Facebook footage of training by its forearms command unit.

The videos will be captured on body cameras provided by Facebook that London’s Firearms Command officers wear during exercises.

This will help Facebook “capture the volume of images needed to train our machine learning tools,” the company said.

“This will mean our AI tools will be able to more accurately and rapidly identify real-life first-person shooter incidents and remove them from our platform.”

The London police said its footage will be combined with video Facebook is already using from law enforcement agencies in the United States.

The new technology will “also significantly help prevent the glorification of such acts and the promotion of the toxic ideologies that drive them,” Britain’s Special Operations assistant commissioner Neil Basu said.

The Metropolitan Police said Facebook decided to ask London for help because it has created the world’s first counter-terror internet response team focused on online hate.

The machine learning tools will also be applied to Facebook’s hugely successful Instagram platform as it captures more and more younger users worldwide.

The London police said it will further share its training footage with the UK interior ministry so that it can then offer it to other interested social media networks as the initiative grows.

“Firearms Command regularly train in how to respond to a wide variety of scenarios, from terrorist incidents to hostage situations, on land, public transport and water,” the London police said.

“The footage they provide will show a ‘shooter’ perspective in a broad range of situations.”

‘Crisis Intervention’

The speed with which the videos spread and Facebook’s initial inability to track them all down redoubled public and government scrutiny of the world’s biggest social media company.

The Christchurch images were broadcast live for 17 minutes — and remained online for a further 12 minutes — before Facebook was alerted by a user and took it down.

Yet millions of upload and shares continued to spread for days.

Facebook on Tuesday defended its track record but conceded that “bad actors will continue to try to get around our systems”.

It reported banning 200 white supremacist organisations and removing 26 million “pieces of content” or terrorist organisation such as the Islamic State.

Facebook said Tuesday that it was also expanding to Australia and Indonesia a US programme in which users who search for extremist content on the platform are directed to a special support group.

The US group was “founded by former violent extremists that provides crisis intervention, education, support groups and outreach,” Facebook said.

Facebook To Cut Off Huawei In Compliance With US Sanctions

 

Facebook said Friday it would stop allowing pre-installation of its social networking apps on Huawei devices to comply with US sanctions against the Chinese technology giant.

The social media giant said it took the step after US President Donald Trump’s order barring Huawei from US technology exports over concerns that it works with Chinese intelligence.

“We are reviewing the Commerce Department’s final rule and the more recently issued temporary general license and taking steps to ensure compliance,” a Facebook spokesperson told AFP.

The California company said people with existing Huawei smartphones with Facebook apps will continue to be able to use and download app updates provided by Facebook.

The move by Facebook is the latest to isolate Huawei, which had become the world’s second largest smartphone vendor despite security concerns voiced in Washington.

Google last month said it would cut ties to Huawei, making it harder to obtain major apps from the US giant.

The Google decision would leave Huawei without the Play Store, the marketplace for most Android apps, and other elements of the mobile operating system.

Facebook – which is banned in China but has more than two billion users worldwide – said its decision would affect its core social network as well as applications such as Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp, which each have at least one billion users.

Tech Giants Vow ‘Transparent’ Measures To Prevent Online Extremism

(File Photo) A file photo taken on November 20, 2017 shows logos of US multinational technology company Google displayed on computers’ screens.
LOIC VENANCE / AFP

 

Major technology firms pledged Wednesday to cooperate on “transparent, specific measures” to prevent the posting of violent extremist content online, part of a “Christchurch Call” launched in the wake of the massacre at two New Zealand mosques in March in which 51 people died.

“The dissemination of such content online has adverse impacts on the human rights of the victims, on our collective security and on people all over the world,” said the companies, including Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Facebook, at a meeting with world leaders in Paris.

The call was initiated by New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French leader Emmanuel Macron to avoid a repeat of the Christchurch killings, which were broadcast live by the gunman on Facebook for 17 minutes.

The horrific footage remained online for a further 12 minutes before Facebook was alerted by a user and took it down, but millions of uploads and shares of the video continued in the following days.

The statement was issued as Ardern and Macron hosted tech chiefs and some other world leaders at the Elysee Palace to crack down on extremism online.

Backers of the Christchurch Call, a voluntary series of commitments by firms and governments, have pledged new steps to prevent uploads of hateful and violent content, and quickly remove any that gets through their defences.

“Cooperative measures to achieve these outcomes may include technology development, the expansion and use of shared databases… and effective notice and takedown procedures,” they said.

In particular they promised “immediate, effective measures to mitigate the specific risk that terrorist and violent extremist contest is disseminated through livestreaming.”

The firms also agreed to invest in the development of artificial intelligence and other technical solutions for identifying and purging violent and extremist posts.

Algorithms used to determine what social media users see in their feeds may also be tweaked to direct people away from extremist or hateful content, “or the promotion of credible, positive alternatives.”

But the text did not outline any concrete steps that would be taken by individual firms, nor set any timeframe for putting any new measures in place.