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German Pegida row over non-white photos on Kinder bars

Members of the anti-Islam protest group Pegida in Germany have complained about images of non-white children on Kinder chocolate bar packets.

24/5/2016- A Pegida Facebook page in Baden-Wuerttemberg asked: "Is this a joke?" But after being told the photos were childhood photos of Germany's footballers being used in Euro-2016-linked marketing, they admitted they had "dived into a wasps' nest". Kinder said it would not tolerate "xenophobia or discrimination". A photograph of two chocolate bars was circulated by the person behind the Bodensee Facebook group of Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West). For decades, Kinder packaging has featured a blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy. But in a marketing campaign ahead of the Euro 2016 football tournament, Kinder has started to use photographs of the German team's players when they were children.

'Is this a joke?'
The two that the Pegida group complained about were Ilkay Guendogan and Jerome Boateng, both German nationals who play in the Bundesliga as well as the national team. Seemingly without realising this, the group's admin wrote: "They'll stop at nothing. Can you really buy these? Or is it a joke?" One commenter responded: "Do the Turks and other countries use pictures of German children on their sweets or groceries? Surely not." Soon the comments filled with explanations of the marketing campaign, and a backlash against the Pegida group. One person wrote: "Close the borders and have no exports, no migration! Then you'll get unemployment and local league football." Another wrote: "If one of those men scores a goal he'll be celebrated." The negative reaction forced the original poster to write that it was "best not to respond" and that they had "really dived into a wasps' nest." After being alerted to the ongoing discussion on Facebook, Kinder's manufacturers Ferrero wrote: "We would like to explicitly distance ourselves from every kind of xenophobia and discrimination. We do not accept or tolerate these in our Facebook communities either."
© BBC News

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The 5 things you say when you're a racist

by Brianna Cox

24/5/2016- As someone who has been writing on the internet for a few years now, I know that trolls come with the experience. But perhaps the most mind-boggling part of this is when you explicitly spell out racist or otherwise overtly offensive things and explain why they are racist or otherwise overtly offensive, people stampede to the comment thread to literally prove the article's point. And the thing is... they always respond with the same old tired arguments. Always.

Many Americans just do not know that much about racism and its systemic nature. So when there's a discussion, they get defensive at the very least, and cruel at the very most. It's not surprising that the responses follow the same pattern when studies have shown that white Americans think "reverse racism" (which is not a thing) is a bigger problem than anti-black racism, despite virtually no peer reviewed evidence to support this. Or, perhaps worse even, many take their uninformed opinion and preach it forward to the next generation, so that their children also do not understand racism (or "see color"). But that doesn't mean it's OK to respond to someone who says "you're racist" or "this is racism" with an attack. So allow me to break down (once again) exactly why these arguments are full of it:

The First Amendment argument
Writing an article or calling out racism/homophobia/xenophobia/transantagonism, etc., is not oppressing free speech in any way, shape or form. Ironically enough, the First Amendment’s existence allows us to shout from the rooftops our displeasure at the awful shit that bigots have to say. Additionally, freedom of speech does not and has never equated to freedom from consequences; there are many instances in which free speech is already regulated in our society (in the public and private sectors). Try again.
The 'You’re the Real Racist' argument (alt: the Obamas have divided the country) (alt: stop making it about race)

When many of us speak about racism, we are speaking about the institutional and systemic way in which nonwhite people in America have openly and covertly been kept from the opportunities of their white counterparts. So in that framework, nonwhite people cannot oppress white people. Even if we could, talking about systemic inequality and the micro aggressions and words and actions that perpetuate it is not oppression in any way. Additionally, the Obamas barely talk about race (I wish they did more), so it seems that what divides the country regarding the Obamas is their very existence as being black in the White House.

The 'If You Stop Talking About Racism, It Will Go Away' argument
When is the last time covering literal feces up with a paper towel made it go away?

The 'Your Objectivity Is Clouded By Prejudice' argument
Because apparently only white men/people are capable of being objective, rather than being influenced by their place in society and experiences because of that place.

The 'You People Are So Easily Offended' argument
I see people angry at “social justice warriors” and people of color speaking out against racism, saying that those of us who do are just overly sensitive — and yet some of those very same folks will say that Star Wars’ casting is white genocide, and that Old Navy hates white babies because they have an ad with an interracial couple. See also: anger and refusal to understand anything about racism or the meme utterance of “white privilege."

The ad hominem attack
Calling a writer ugly, her interracial marriage “gross,” drawing Michelle Obama as a man and creeping on a stranger's Facebook profile to poke fun at their weight are personal attacks that do not at all engage with the actual arguments. That's being both defensive and cruel, and demonstrating you do not have an actual argument to fall back on.
© She Knows

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Too fat for Facebook: photo banned for depicting body in 'undesirable manner'

Facebook has apologized for wrongly banning a photo of plus-sized model Tess Holliday for violating its ‘health and fitness’ advertising policy

23/5/2016- Facebook has apologized for banning a photo of a plus-sized model and telling the feminist group that posted the image that it depicts “body parts in an undesirable manner”. Cherchez la Femme, an Australian group that hosts popular culture talkshows with “an unapologetically feminist angle”, said Facebook rejected an advert featuring Tess Holliday, a plus-sized model wearing a bikini, telling the group it violated the company’s “ad guidelines”. After the group appealed the rejection, Facebook’s ad team initially defended the decision, writing that the photo failed to comply with the social networking site’s “health and fitness policy”. “Ads may not depict a state of health or body weight as being perfect or extremely undesirable,” Facebook wrote. “Ads like these are not allowed since they make viewers feel bad about themselves. Instead, we recommend using an image of a relevant activity, such as running or riding a bike.”

In a statement Monday, Facebook apologized for its original stance and said it had determined that the photo does comply with its guidelines. “Our team processes millions of advertising images each week, and in some instances we incorrectly prohibit ads,” the statement said. “This image does not violate our ad policies. We apologize for the error and have let the advertiser know we are approving their ad.” The photo – for an event called Cherchez La Femme: Feminism and Fat – features a smiling Holliday wearing a standard bikini. Facebook had originally allowed the event page to remain, but refused to approve the group’s advert, which would have boosted the post.

The policy in question is aimed at blocking content that encourages unhealthy weight loss – the opposite intent of Cherchez la Femme, which was promoting body positivity. This is not the first time Facebook has come under fire for its censorship of photos. In March, the site faced backlash when it concluded that a photograph of topless Aboriginal women in ceremonial paint as part of a protest violated “community standards”. Critics said that ban was an obvious double standard, noting that Facebook allows celebrities such as Kim Kardashian to pose with body paint covering her nipples. Instagram and Facebook also have faced opposition for policies banning women from exposing their nipples, with critics arguing that the guidelines are prejudiced against women and transgender users.

Cherchez la Femme did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday, but has been venting its frustrations on its Facebook page. “Facebook has ignored the fact that our event is going to be discussing body positivity (which comes in all shapes and sizes, but in the particular case of our event, fat bodies), and has instead come to the conclusion that we’ve set out to make women feel bad about themselves by posting an image of a wonderful plus sized woman,” the group said. “We’re raging pretty hard over here.”
© The Guardian.

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American Neo-Nazis Are on Russia's Facebook

To escape Facebook’s crackdown and connect with white-power groups worldwide, U.S.-based extremists are joining VK.

20/5/2016- An online group called “United Aryan Front” recently warned readers that “the wolves are closing in...and we are the sheepdog” and followed with a call for recruits: “If you are not a part of an organization but would like to join us...you can!! White Lives Matter is the largest organization of whites in the world.” The post wrapped up with a smattering of hashtags like #WhiteLivesMatterAcrossAmerica. But the site where this rant was posted isn’t based in America. United Aryan Front, along with scores of other American extremist groups, is on VK, also known as VKontakte—otherwise known as Russia’s version of Facebook. The social network has become a home for white-power groups who were pushed off of Facebook for hate speech, or who want to connect with fellow racists in other countries. 

The move to VK is part of the growing tendency of white supremacists to interact in online forums, rather than through real-life groups like the KKK, according to Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s anti-terror Intelligence Project. Through the early 2000s, skinheads and other groups would host dozens of events per year with hundreds of attendees, she says, but now there are only a handful of those rallies each year. “People online are talking about the same kinds of things that used to happen at the rallies, but now they’re doing it completely through the web,” she said. Jessie Daniels, a sociologist who studies cyber racism, has also noticed that racist groups are now much more active online than in the streets. In this way, they reflect overall trends in society: The rest of us might be Bowling Alone, but white supremacists are rallying alone. For the supremacist groups, the benefits include anonymity, ease, and an opportunity to connect with extremists in other nations.

Take, for example, John Russell Houser. Before he killed two people at a showing of Trainwreck in Louisiana last July, he appears to have posted frequently about the Golden Dawn, a far-right Greek political party. “The internet has made it possible for white people around the globe to identify with trans-local whiteness,” Daniels said. The most striking evidence of the shift was Dylann Roof, who killed nine African-Americans in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, last April. According to Beirich, Roof had no ties to “real-world” extremists. Instead, he had simply Googled phrases like “black on White crime” and perused sites such as the Council of Conservative Citizens, which traffics in racist rhetoric.

Last year, the overall number of hate groups rose for the first time in five years, according to the SPLC’s annual count. Hits to Stormfront.org, a white nationalist hub with 300,000 registered users, have ticked up since Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president, Beirich said. According to an SPLC study, in the past five years members of Stormfront have murdered nearly 100 people. White nationalists have also taken to Twitter and other sites that host discussion forums. Facebook itself is not immune to white-power groups, who often use coded language like “new Europe.” Beirich and her group have found that newcomers are sometimes radicalized by these sites, much like some people who debate with ISIS online instead get sucked into its orbit. “It can be someone who posts a banal racist comment and people will swarm them,” she said.

White supremacists began migrating to VK over the past three years, Beirich said, when Facebook cracked down on hate speech. The platform offers a similar user experience as Facebook, complete with profiles and groups, but with seemingly less enforcement. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which also tracks extremist groups online, gave VK a D- grade for policing hate on its annual report card, but Facebook got a B-. VK did not return a request for comment by deadline. Although VK’s terms of service prohibit information “which propagandizes and/or contributes to racial, religious, ethnic hatred or hostility, propagandizes fascism or racial superiority,” Beirich said the site appears to turn a blind eye. “Certainly from our perspective the site seems like a free-for-all,” she said. “And that is what white supremacists think, too.”

A few quick searches on VK reveal groups dedicated to preserving the Aryan race and honoring the legacy of Hitler. The news site Vocativ has counted 300 or so pro-Hitler groups on the site. Of the 202 followers of the “NSM USA Public Action” Nazi group on VK, 38 list their location as the U.S. And 243 of the more than 14,000 fans of “Aryan Girls” on the site appear to be American. A post on Stormfront claims VK is “used by 70 million white racialists everyday!” [sic] Two years ago, an Adolf Hitler fan page on VK attempted to hold a “Miss Ostland” beauty pageant, but the page was shut down after Vocativ published a story about the event. Today, the “NSM [National Socialist Movement] USA” page on VK is alive and well. Its latest post was on May 17 —a video of a speech by American neo-Nazi commander Jeff Schoep.
© The Atlantic

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Racist video blogger Evalion booted off YouTube

A racist YouTuber with over 40,000 subscribers has had her channel suspended because of her vile videos.

20/5/2016- The young girl known only as Evalion has filmed herself singing Happy Birthday to Hitler and explaining how to recognise a Jew. Some of her most popular videos are titled ‘Why Hitler Wasn’t Evil’ and ‘How Feminists Supported Rape by Causing the Migrant Crisis’. The girl is thought to be an 18-year-old living in Canada and narrates her videos in a sweet, girlish tone. YouTube were alerted to the offensive nature of her videos when she was the subject of a video by fellow vlogger Leafyishere. The video was called ‘The Most Racist Girl On The Entire Internet’. The teenager has openly admitted to being a Holocaust denier and has called Hitler a “brilliant” and “compassionate man”. In her videos she has said: “Do you hate Jews as much as I do?” and “Do you want to know how to spot a Jew”. On Hitler’s birthday, she filmed herself singing Happy Birthday in front of a picture of the Nazi leader. She had baked four cupcakes, which she decorated with swastikas then added candles. Evalion openly idolises the leader who was responsible for the deaths of six million Jews during the Second World War. The YouTuber has also expressed racist opinions. On one of her videos she said: “Don’t you hate those lazy n***** who are never satisfied even after they are given reparations.”

Her YouTube channel is covered in swastikas, pictures of Hitler and racist pictures of Jews and Muslims. Her suspension from the video sharing site has sparked a massive debate on social media over whether she should be banned or not. One Twitter user called Spanky the Monkey said: “If you love free speech, then you have to allow ALL people to speak!” And @Polite_Critical said: “I don't support what Evalion says, but I defend her right to say it.” However other people agreed with the Google owned video platform’s decision. @HeroticTV said: ‘YouTube has every reason to ban Evalion from YouTube.” And Craig Ewen said: “I think Evalion deserved it. At the end of the day YouTube is a place kids 5+ can go to.” An official YouTube spokesperson said: “That channel was terminated by us because it violated policies against hate speech.”

© The Sun

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If you can’t beat them, ‘like’ them (opinion)

States should use the increasing power of social media networks and work with them to achieve foreign policy objectives.
By Arik Segal


19/5/2016- In the past few months, Israeli ministers have been engaged in an international effort to enforce legislation that will have Facebook and other social media networks take responsibility for content published by its users. Israeli officials see it as a necessary measure to fight mass online incitement that exacerbates attacks against Israelis in outbursts of violence. Several times in past years in Turkey, the government has blocked access to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to prevent the spread of what they deem “harmful content.”

Meanwhile, European governments are debating privacy laws that can allow them access to data about potential terrorists, in light of the Paris and Brussels terror attacks. It appears that in the aftermath of The War on Drugs and The War on Terror, governments have a found a new common enemy: The War on Social Media. There is little doubt that social media is used for spreading messages of hate, incitement and recruitment of terrorists – acts that eventually cost lives. However, there is much more room for states to cooperate with social media rather than seeing it as an enemy.

Instead, there are ample opportunities to use social media’s features, low costs and high effectiveness as tools to promote a state’s foreign policy objectives. The presence of billions of people on the same network offers unprecedented capability for countries to reach out, communicate and deliver messages to citizens of other states. Foreign ministries can (and do) use social media to promote relation building, trade, tourism, education and even disaster management. The most frequent use of social media by states is public diplomacy. Twiplomacy – a website dedicated to researching how governments and international organizations use social media – publishes a variety of reports about this engagement and its effectiveness.

These include the most followed heads of state on Twitter, peer-peer connections between foreign ministries, virtual diplomatic network of European embassies and even a report of world leaders who take selfies and those who use Snapchat. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be glad to know that he is ranked as the second most “likable” world leader, with an average of 127,432 likes for each of his Facebook posts, despite his critical approach to social media in Turkey.

Worth noting is how some states use social media to support foreign policy strategies as state branding. Last year, the Finnish government created a set of 30 unique Finnish emojis that can be downloaded by anyone in an effort to create awareness of Finnish culture worldwide. The official Israeli Twitter channel exposes Israeli innovations and culture to more than 300,000 followers (more followers than official US and Russian Twitter channels) in an effort to rebrand Israel as more than the “conflict.” Beyond presenting foreign policy, social media can also be used for creating foreign policy, especially between states that do not have diplomatic relations. Groups on Facebook or WhatsApp can serve as platforms for dialogue processes between governments and high-profile individuals from other states as part of conflict management processes.

Another use could be direct state-tostate public dialogue negotiations via Twitter. In this context, publicity could serve as an advantage for states that want to present their own willingness to promote peace, especially if the other state chooses not to respond. All of the above can develop into a whole new level of influence, that of when future technologies – such as virtual and augmented reality and artificial intelligence – become more common and embedded in Facebook, Twitter and others. The giant tech companies that operate social media networks share the same interests with states and do not want their platforms to be used for exercising virtual or physical violence. Just as other multinational corporations, they seek legitimate goals as profit and influence. States and international organizations should work with them in cooperation to fight those who use social networks for harmful purposes – as the US government is currently doing as well – to use social media’s power to achieve foreign policy objectives and promote national interests.
The writer is the CEO of Segal Conflict Management; he specializes in using technology as a tool in conflict management processes.
© The Jerusalem Post

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Czech Rep: Number of displays of antisemitism high

17/5/2016- The number of displays of hatred for Jews remained as high in the Czech Republic in 2015 as in the preceding year, and reached 221, the Czech Federation of Jewish Communities (FZO) says in a report released to CTK on Tuesday. In 2014, the number reached 234. Hatred was mainly spread via the Internet, the annual report says. The rising number of issued books is dangerous, since the revenues from their sale may help finance extremist groups' activities, the report says. "Although the Jewish community in the Czech Republic was not a target of terrorist attacks...we view this threat as very serious in the world context and we have adjusted our security measures accordingly," FZO Secretary Tomas Kraus said.

Nevertheless, the report says the Czech Republic still ranks among the countries where anti-Semitism is present only marginally. It says anti-Semitic books have mainly been issued by the ABB publisher linked to Adam B. Bartos, chairman of the ultra-right extra-parliamentary National Democracy (ND), and also the Guidemedia etc publishing house that issues translations of Nazi texts. Last year, re-editions of older anti-Semitic books appeared as well as new texts focusing on conspiracy theories and the Holocaust denial, the report says. Conspiracy theories are a new phenomenon that has emerged in connection with the migrant crisis. Their main motif is the Jewish-organised refugee flow to Europe, the consequent destruction of Europe and its values, and the gradual taking of control of Europe, the FZO writes in the report.

In 2015, the FZO also registered attempts at the economic and cultural boycotting of Israel, which is a new form of anti-Semitism, the report says. The forms of displays of hatred to Jews in 2015 were similar to those in previous years, including letters, e-mails, verbal attacks, harassment in the vicinity of Jewish sites, desecration and vandalism. No physical attack on people was registered last year, compared to one in 2014. Five attacks on property were registered, the same number as in 2014. The number of threat cases dropped to three and of harassment rose to 31.

Displays of hatred on the Internet were the most frequent like in the previous years. They made up 182 (82 percent) of the total of 221 incidents, the report says. The articles and comments tend to be more and more often spread on social networks and blogs instead of traditional websites. For example, a community "We Don's Want Jews in the Czech Republic" appeared on Facebook, which Facebook eventually removed at the critics' request, the FZO writes. The FZO's data may differ from those released by other institutions, which limit displays of anti-Semitism to acts that can be qualified as crimes. According to the Interior Ministry's report, the police registered 47 crimes with anti-Semitic subtext, two more than in 2014. Most of them were displays of support for movements aimed to suppress human rights and freedoms.
© The Prague Daily Monitor

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Now When You Browse BuzzFeed All Your Traffic Will Be Encrypted

16/5/2016- ou may associate BuzzFeed with cats and ’90s listicles, but on Monday the company announced something a bit more serious. The site has transitioned to using HTTPS encryption by default on all its pages, meaning your browser’s server requests and the data BuzzFeed sends back are all protected. As cybersecurity has become a bigger priority to companies and organizations around the world, more of the sites and services we use every day have moved from using the foundational Web protocol HTTP to the more secure HTTPS. Google expanded its use of HTTPS for Gmail in 2014, and the White House Office of Management and Budget announced an HTTPS-Only Standard directive last year that requires all public-facing federal sites to use the protocol. Media companies have lagged behind on the transition, though.

In a blog post on Monday, BuzzFeed noted that this is partly because of unencrypted third-party advertising content. A page can only use HTTPS if all its embedded components use it, too, and BuzzFeed has an unusual amount of control over its ads because it produces them in-house. The Washington Post began transitioning its site to use HTTPS in June, but many other media outlets like the New York Times, the Gawker blog network, and Slate haven’t made the switch. “It was still a significant challenge for our engineering team to ensure that all of our embedded content (tweets, nstagrams, YouTube videos, etc.) is served over HTTPS,” wrote BuzzFeed’s Director of Global Security Jason Reich, Director of Engineering Clement Huyghebaert, and Assistant General Counsel Nabiha Syed. “Fortunately most of the major platforms we embed are already doing it.”

To incentivize the transition, Google said in 2014 that its search results would start giving preference to encrypted pages and would ramp up this weighting more and more. BuzzFeed acknowledges this, and given that the company that is so focused on virality and social promotion, it’s not surprising that the site would want to take advantage of the extra boost—HTTPS is a win-win for BuzzFeed. Encryption helps to protect readers from surveillance or attack, creates a safer space for discourse, and could boost search engine optimization. BuzzFeed’s blog post notes that HTTPS doesn’t solve everything but adds that it is “one part of a long process towards helping protect users’ data and information from those who want to exploit it.” Hopefully, other media outlets will see all of this and get in on the encryption action.



Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.


© Future Tense
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South Africa: Law to tackle hate speech

16/5/2016- A draft bill that will criminalise racism in the country has been amended to include hate speech, as incidents of discrimination have increased “at an alarming rate”, according to the South African Human Rights Commission. The Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill is expected to be tabled in Parliament by September, after which it would be opened for public comment. While racism can be prosecuted under laws governing hate speech, crimen injuria and defamation, there have been growing calls for legislation that would specifically govern racial discrimination. The most recent episode of racism on social media saw High Court Judge Mabel Jansen on the receiving end of a backlash after a conversation she had with journalist, Gillian Schutte, over a year ago came to light last week.

Referring to cases she had presided over, Jansen said of black people: “In their culture, a woman is there to pleasure them. Period. It is seen as an absolute right and a woman’s consent is not required. I still have to meet a black girl who was not raped at about 12. I am dead serious.” She has since been placed on special leave. The South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) confirmed it had been asked to investigate the incident, spokesman Isaac Mangena said. The proposed bill initially excluded hate speech and the criminalisation of unfair discrimination because of the sensitivities and complexities involved in dealing with such incidents. “However, the events we witnessed in January this year highlighted the need to include hate speech as a criminal offence,” said Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development John Jeffery.

Jeffrey was referring to an incident where estate agent Penny Sparrow came under fire for describing black beachgoers as “monkeys” in a reaction to litter left behind after New Year celebrations. The SAHRC received more than 200 complaints about this incident. The bill is not constrained to issues of race and includes offences committed because of gender, ethnicity, social origin, sexual orientation, religion, belief, culture, language, birth, HIV status, nationality, gender identity, inter sex, albinism and occupation or trade. The proposed bill also criminalises any conduct which amounts to incitement, instigation and conspiracy to commit hate crimes. However, this clause in the bill would require a directive from the Department of Public Prosecutions to authorise prosecution.

The encouragement of hatred, as described in the bill, includes all forms of communication, whether by statement, broadcast, advertisement, photographs or on social media platforms. “We are confident that this will address some of the vitriolic comments we see so often on social media and online,” Jeffrey said.

“The law can regulate the behaviour of people in society, our department can draft the law, Parliament can pass it and it will be in the statue book but it can not change the hearts, minds and attitudes of people.”

Laws will drive racism underground – SAIRR
The South African Institute for Race Relations (SAIRR) says laws criminalising racism won’t stop discrimination, but would “drive racism underground”. SAIRR spokeswoman Mienke Mari Steytler said: “We would therefore be living in the illusion that there are no racists in the country when, in fact, they still exist.” However, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) said a section of society believes that criminalising racism, racial discrimination and hate speech is an appropriate and acceptable means of advancing the goals of a substantive equality and multicultural tolerance in the country.

The Prevention and Combating of Hate Crimes and Hate Speech Bill will outlaw hate speech and criminalise unfair discrimination. It will be tabled in Parliament in September. “The institution believes a new set of laws focusing on racism is not needed,” Steytler said. “The constitution is clear on what constitutes hate speech (which includes racist speech) and crimen injuria also allows for prosecution of acts of ‘unlawfully, intentionally and seriously impairing the dignity of another’.” The institute opposes a new set of laws as “one will have to be incredibly careful not to infringe upon freedom of speech, which is a cornerstone of our democracy. We ask ourselves: Where will the line be drawn? Will comedians start to be prosecuted?”

Steytler said the country’s laws had enough provision to prosecute incidents of racism and discrimination. “We have to ensure that South Africans are informed about the routes they can take and also where they can report their grievances, from the Equality Courts and well as the SAHRC,” she said. The institution is of the opinion that racism, xenophobia and an increase of protest action all have the same underlying causes – an extremely weak economy, an education system that is only serving a few and empowerment policies that empower a small elite. “This leads to a boiling pot atmosphere in the country, leading to frustrated and angry people who then try to find avenues (even if wrong avenues) to express themselves.”

SAHRC spokesman Isaac Mangena said comments made by KwaZulu-Natal real estate agent, Penny Sparrow, and other comments that incite hate speech, have sparked fierce national conversation about racism and how the government should respond in an appropriate and effective manner. “You can criminalise specific acts or behaviours, like racist hate speech, etc, but not the attitudes,” Mangena said. The SAHRC would make submissions when the bill opens for public comment. “The persistent nature of racism is not necessarily due to the failure of the state to put in place policies and mechanisms to address it. Instead, it exists despite the existence of laws,” he said. He said racism remains the most contentious, divisive and sensitive challenge confronting the country. “What cannot be ignored, glossed over or jettisoned in this debate is that there is no way to move forward without meaningfully dealing with the historical, political and economic contexts,” Mangena said.
© IOL News

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France: Taking on racism and hate speech

French authorities have rolled out their first campaigns to fight racism and anti-Semitism that offer hard-hitting messages against hate speech and workplace discrimination. Elizabeth Bryant reports from Paris.

19/5/2016- The only time Dieynaba Thioune usually wears a Muslim headscarf is during Friday prayers back in her home city of Dakar, Senegal. But on a recent sunny day in Paris, she donned one to make a point. "It feels very strange," said 19-year-old Thioune, who joined a 'hijab day' rally at France's elite Sciences Po University. "I have friends who wear the hijab here, and they sometimes get verbally attacked." A few miles north across the city limit, outside a state employment office, 29-year-old Yacouba Cisse describes the challenges of finding work as a restaurant cook. "When they see the color of my skin, they ask if I want to wash dishes," said Cisse, who is also from Senegal. Those are sentiments France's leftist government wants to change, under a massive, 100-million-euro ($113 million) bid to fight racism and discrimination, first announced a year ago.

In recent weeks, authorities have rolled out their first major communications campaigns: a pair of hard-hitting messages against hate speech and discrimination in hiring practices. "We cannot just sit and watch rising populism, extremism and radicalism in all its forms, to have this threat in the middle of our Republic," said Gilles Clavreul, head of DILCRA, a ministerial body overseeing the fight against racism and anti-Semitism. The three-year government plan includes an arsenal of proposals, from deepening sanctions and the Internet fight against hate speech, to launching school and citizen education programs.

Effort draws mixed reviews
France is hardly the only European country grappling with prejudice. Far-right groups are gaining ground across Europe, feeding on the immigration crisis and rising fears of militant Islam. Still, in March, the Council of Europe warned that hate speech in France has "become commonplace." In interviews with roughly a dozen anti-discrimination activists, experts and ordinary people, many applaud the campaign's overall intent, but give the communications campaigns mixed reviews. Some even suggested French authorities are part of the problem, pointing to the fractured political response to the Muslim veil as a leading example. Most observers, however, agree on one thing: it will take much more than a three-year crusade to bring about a more tolerant and egalitarian society. "There's a real political will, but it will take 20 years to achieve success," said Christine Lazerges of the National Consultative Commission on Human Rights (CNCDH), a government advisory body. Major changes were needed in the country's educational system and in turning around France's disenfranchised suburbs, she added.

Government statistics also attest to a long road ahead. In 2015, hate offences overall jumped by more than one-fifth compared to the year before to more than 2,000. Anti-Muslim acts and threats alone tripled last year, while anti-Semitic ones remained high. Activists say the true figures are higher, since many acts go unrecorded. Despite an overall hike in hate acts in 2015, Clavreul cites signs of progress. New figures in May show a sharp drop in anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim acts since a year ago. A study by the CNCDH found an increase in perceived French tolerance - a surprising fallout from a year bracketed by two Islamist terrorist attacks in Paris. "There is a need for fraternity and social cohesion that is making people open up to those who are different," the commission's president Lazerges said.

But other forms of discrimination are more subtle. A survey on French hiring by Paris think-tank Institut Montaigne found Christian men are four times more likely to get a callback from recruiters than Muslim ones - a discrepancy that actually increases among the more qualified. Jews also face discrimination, but to a lesser extent. "It's a very serious phenomenon," said Montaigne's deputy director Angele Malatre-Lansac, pointing to study estimates that discrimination against Muslims in France was far higher than against African-Americans in the United States. In many cases, she says, employers are fearful of flouting the country's staunchly secular laws, and are uncertain how to treat expressions of religiosity at work, like Muslim prayers. "It's not necessarily that racism is pervasive, but religious practice can make recruiters afraid," she said.

'Real life' hate acts
The French government has gone on the offensive. In March, it launched six 30-second TV spots re-enacting 'real life' racist and anti-Semitic acts: distraught Muslims finding a pig's head stuck to the mosque gate; a black man getting beaten up; 'death to Jews' scrawled on a synagogue door. "We had to create a shock, to say 'Hey, stop, we have to address these issues,'" said Clavreul of DILCRA, describing the publicity as a first, but crucial step. Still, some anti-discrimination groups criticize the spots for offering a narrow, overly violent take on discrimination. "It can be even counterproductive, because we've worked for years to show that racism is subtle, and even those who are not racist can have humiliating, wounding words," Lazerges of the rights body said. Others want results.

"Publicity spots are good, they can help educate people," said Abdallah Zekri, head of the Observatory Against Islamophobia. "But how many people were arrested, how many people were found guilty?" Officials argue all hate acts will be pursued and punished, and the campaign's sweep is both broad and local. The government has taken a different tack with its second campaign, rolled out in mid-April. Giant posters portray job seekers with their faces split in half - white and non-white - with the tagline "Skills First." Next to the white side are messages like, "You start Monday." On the non-white: "You don't have the right profile." Authorities also say they will test companies on their hiring practices, with plans to 'name and shame.' Some have said they find the posters unsettling rather than helpful.

What about veiled women?
The state's tough stance toward the Muslim headscarf also raises questions over whether its anti-discrimination drive will fairly defend veiled women, who are considered leading targets of anti-Muslim acts. Controversial remarks by top politicians - Women's Rights Minister Laurence Rossignol recently compared veiled women to "negroes" supporting slavery - have fuelled those doubts. Prime Minister Manuel Valls also takes a hard view, describing the veil as a sign of "enslavement" and criticizing the Science Po's recent hijab day, organized to protest Rossignol's remarks. "The number one culprit of Islamophobia in France is the state itself," said Yasser Louati, spokesman for the Collective Against Islamophobia. "If there's work to be done, it has to be done at the grassroots level." Sciences Po student Thioune is also skeptical. "I thought France was open-minded," she said, "but not when it comes to the hijab."
© The Deutsche Welle.

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France: Facebook, Twitter, Youtube Face Hate Speech Complaints

Five months after Germany probed Facebook on hate speech, France has now filed a legal complaint.

15/5/2016- Three French anti-racism associations said on Sunday they would file legal complaints against social networks Facebook, Twitter and Google’s Youtube for failing to remove “hateful” content posted on their platforms. French law requires websites to take down racist, homophobic or anti-semitic material and tell authorities about it. But French Jewish students union UEJF and anti-racism and anti-homophobia campaigners SOS Racisme and SOS Homophobie said the three firms had removed only a fraction of 586 examples of hateful content the anti-racism groups had counted on their platforms between the end of March and May 10. Twitter TWTR 0.14% removed only 4%, Youtube GOOG -0.33% 7% and Facebook 34%, according to the associations. “In light of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook’s profits and how little taxes they pay, their refusal to invest in the fight against hate is unacceptable,” UEJF president Sacha Reingewirtz said in a statement. Germany got Facebook, Google and Twitter to agree in December to delete hate speech from their websites within 24 hours.
© Reuters

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UK: The shocking reality of racist bullying in British schools

19/5/2916- This week, a 16-year-old girl was tragically found dead at her school in Cornwall. It's believed that Dagmara Przybysz, originally from Poland, had suffered racist bullying. Two years ago, she'd spoken about experiencing racism on social media site Ask.fm and after her death this week, her friends suggested that the bullying had continued:
"It is so sad what people do to make people do this stuff,” wrote one. "Such a beautiful girl, died a such a young age because of absolute p***ks,” said another. A coroner will look into Przybysz’s death at a later date and it is currently unclear whether racist bullying played a part. But the tragic case does shine a light on the torment that goes on everyday in British schools. “Even though we have made tremendous progress, bullying is still a major issue in schools and there’s still a lot around race,” says Anastasia de Waal, chair of Bullying UK. “Appearances and differences have always been an easy thing to latch onto.”

A recent survey from anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label found 1.5 million young people have been bullied within the past year in the UK, and those who had an ethnic minority profile were at a much higher risk of being bullied than a young Caucasian person. This is something Billie Gianfrancesco has direct experience of. The 26-year-old PR manager is half-Caribbean, and when she was at school in rural Norfolk, found herself the target of bullies. “I experienced ignorant racism, which wasn't really an issue as I just ignored it," she says. "But then one of the senior girls at my private school started targeting me and calling me a 'Paki', telling me to go back to where I came from (which was Norwich). “Once she locked me in the changing rooms for the whole of a PE lesson because I was slow getting changed and a 'paki bitch'. I was 13 at the time.”

When she was 16, a boy in Gianfrancesco's school year began “a racist bullying campaign” against her after she rejected his advances. “My social media accounts were hacked and all my photos changed to pictures of monkeys, and there were messages talking about my mother as ‘having aids because she was a black monkey.’” What happened to Gianfrancesco is shocking, but it is by no means an anomaly. Liam Hackett, CEO of anti-bullying charity Ditch The Label, explains: “Young people are now being bullied in their safe spaces, like at home or at the dining table, because of online technology. It makes it more traumatic for young people because it’s overwhelming and they can’t escape it. “It’s often verbal but physical bullying is quite common as well. Guys are a lot more physical but girls are more verbal and indirect. It can be direct racist comments or taunts. It can be humiliating someone in a classroom or rejecting someone from social activities. One of the biggest issues is cultural differences.”

For Gianfrancesco, it was obvious that her bullying was rooted in racism. Her skin colour was targeted in direct ways, but other young people have more subtle experiences. De Waal says she has come across children and teenagers bullied for cultural clothing, habits and even the food they eat. “A lot of people might think it’s just about the skin colour but if a kid has an accent, the bullying might centre on that. It’s not always tangible - like being a different colour or having different hair. “We know if children use racist terms that schools react swiftly, but if they’re being teased for the food they bring to school – which we know in the past is a fairly common issue – then it’s much harder. Parents and schools need to work together to make sure it’s nipped in the bud.” Ultimately it comes down to adults to act – both guardians and those in schools – to ensure bullying ends immediately.

But Gianfrancesco says she felt let down by her teachers. When she reported the head girl calling her a ‘Paki’, she says “nobody took any action because she was senior”. “One teacher told me that I should just ignore it because I wasn't Asian and couldn't understand why I was bothered,” she says. When her social media account was hacked a few years later, the police became involved and confiscated her laptop but “nothing was ever done.” In the end, faced with a campaign of bullying at the hands of the male pupil she'd rejected, Gianfrancesco took action into her own hands, supported by her mother. “I started a petition and got people at school to sign it who had witnessed the racism or experienced bullying themselves. After collecting a page of signatures my head of year expelled him on the spot. I didn't take further action (even though my mum was pretty adamant that I did), because I actually felt very sorry for the boy in the end. He was clearly very sad and confused.”

Gianfrancesco’s determination meant she was able to stop the bullying and make sure the perpetrator was punished, but not every young person is capable of that. It’s why Hackett says they need the support of an adult. “It’s important to encourage the young person to talk about it and have an honest dialogue with them,” he stresses. “Be pro-active and don’t just wait for something to happen. Look out for behavioural changes, such as the child isolating themselves, losing their appetite or becoming aggressive. It’s important the young person understands they’re not being bullied because of the colour of their skin – it’s because the bullies have their own issues.” He says parents should speak to teachers to crack down on the bullying, but in the long term, the answer to prevention lies in education. De Waal agrees: “The main thing is continuing to make sure we’re educating young people about bullying being a problem and that they understand racism. "Young people need to recognise the impact it has and that attacking someone’s identity is harmful to them.”
© The Telegraph

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UK: Freedom of speech row as YouTube refuses to take down Scots Nazi Dog video

YouTube is refusing to remove the Scottish 'Nazi Dog' video which is the centre of a global antisemitism storm amid claims that the arrest of its owner is "absurd".

14/5/2016- Markus Meechan, 28, from Coatbridge, was criticised by Jewish leaders after training his girlfriend’s dog - a pug called Buddha who has since been branded 'The Munich Pooch' - to respond to the phrase “Gas the Jews" by giving a 'Seig Heil' salute. However, the video titled "M8 Yer Dugs A Nazi" is to remain on YouTube having been uploaded on April 11, and has since been seen by over 1.5 million people. Police arrested Meechan, a call centre worker, who says it was a prank. Police said the arrest was in relation to the alleged publication of offensive material online and a report had been submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.

Detective Inspector David Cockburn said: "I would ask anyone who has had the misfortune to have viewed it to think about the pain and hurt the narrative has caused a minority of people in our community. "The clip is deeply offensive and no reasonable person can possibly find the content acceptable in today's society. This arrest should serve as a warning to anyone posting such material online, or in any other capacity, that such views will not be tolerated." But YouTube will not be removing the video which has had around 1700 dislikes but nearly 26,000 likes, while a hoard of people have criticised the arrest. A YouTube source said that while it was recognised that the many would find the video offensive, many videos on the site are, and it was a site that believed in freedom of expression.

The source said the intent of the video regardless of how ludicrous and unpleasant it is perceived was "clearly comedic". "If we felt it was toxic hate speech, we would have taken it down." In a commentary by Nat Hentoff, a member of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and senior fellow with the American libertarian think tank Cato Institute and Nick Hentoff, criminal defence and civil liberties attorney in New York point to the case as an example hate speech prosecutions that are "patently absurd". "Every dog owner knows that if you speak in a high-pitched voice, your pet will react with as much excitement to the question, 'Do you want some bacon?' as 'Do you want to tear my throat out?'. Which begs the question whether a satirical video that compares Nazis to a dog’s Pavlovian tendency for unthinking repetition can reasonably be regarded as offensive to anyone but Nazis.

"The man clearly states in the video that he is not a racist and his only motivation was to 'p*ss off' his girlfriend by turning her adorable little pug into a Nazi. But the thought police are rarely concerned with intent, since preventing offence is their raison d’etre. Giving offence has been the raison d’etre of satirists for centuries and their right to do so should be protected." The controversial 1 minute 30-second clip also shows the two-year-old dog watching speeches made by Hitler from the Leni Riefenstahl directed film 'Olympia' which documented the 1936 Berlin Olympics. At the end, the former security guard insists that he is a not a racist, but is only trying to play a joke on his girlfriend to "p*** her off". Many comments on the video have criticised the police action. One said: "They really arrest you for that? Holy f... man. It's f..ing 1984."
© The Herald Scotland

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Facebook Doesn't Have to Be Fair

The company has no legal obligation to be balanced—and lawmakers know it.
By Robinson Meyer

13/5/2016- For almost three years, Facebook has pulled off an impressive balancing act. It has become one of the most powerful companies in media—the whims of its News Feed can determine the fate of whole news organizations—but it has never quite itself been a member of the press. Its felicitous run may now have ended. In at least one non-negligible way, Facebook joined journalism’s dirty ranks this week, as the company found itself accused of having a liberal bias. And perhaps it really does. A series of Gizmodo reports have raised new information about how the company’s “Trending” module works. “Trending” is the list of popular headlines that appears in the top right of Facebook.com; it also appears under the search bar in its ubiquitous mobile app. While many users believed that this module was compiled algorithmically, Gizmodo (and now The Guardian) have revealed that humans, working on contract for the company, guide its creation every step of the way. What’s more, these workers (often Ivy-educated twenty-somethings) “routinely suppressed conservative news,” according to the allegations of one former employee who talked to Gizmodo.

Facebook bills its platform as transparent and apolitical, so this could be disastrous (or at least embarrassing) for it. But as Kashmir Hill writes at Fusion, there isn’t yet definitive evidence that Facebook actually did routinely suppress conservative news. Instead, former employees and leaked corporate documents indicate the workers were told to to amplify news and stories from traditional or name-brand news organizations like CNN, Fox News, and The New York Times. At the same time, they were advised to avoid floating rumors or conspiracy theories from newer, less reliable, and ideologically slanted sites like Newsmax. (The Guardian and Gizmodo reports disagree about whether Breitbart, a far-right and factually unreliable news site, was a “trusted source” or a specifically untrusted one.)

Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s CEO, has now said that in an internal investigation, the company could find no evidence of story suppression. And in some ways, you could see the company’s editorial hand in “Trending” as part of its longtime emphasis on distributing “high-quality content.” But we might know more later this month. Senator John Thune, a Republican of South Dakota, has formally asked Facebook to answer questions about its neutrality in running the feature. Company representatives have also been asked to meet with staff from the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. Senator Thune made those requests in a letter to Facebook—a remarkable document that it’s worth spending some time with. That’s because, before asking specific questions, Thune raises the following concerns:

[W]ith over a billion daily active users on average, Facebook has enormous influence on users’ perceptions of current events, including political perspectives. If Facebook presents its Trending Topics section as the result of a neutral, objective algorithm, but it is in fact subjective and filtered to support or suppress particular viewpoints, Facebook’s assertion that it maintains a ‘platform for people and perspectives from across the political spectrum’ misleads the public.

This is an fascinating implication. Facebook has said it is a platform for perspectives from “across the political spectrum,” but it specifically never has claimed that it will give all those perspectives equal weight. It promises that it will give everyone a place for their ideas, but not that it will be particularly fair about it. Yet just by talking about misleading the public, Thune is presuming an incredible thesis: that in order for Facebook to make space for all viewpoints, it must be balanced. Which is funny, because Thune has gone on the record a great deal about the role of a government official in regulating media fairness. From the mid-2000s to its eventual repeal in 2011, Thune was one of the lead critics of the Fairness Doctrine, a requirement from the Federal Communications Commission that broadcast stations present “controversial topics” in an honest and balanced way. In fact he often advocated for its repeal (even though it was overturned by the courts in the 1980s).

“Our support for freedom of conscience and freedom of speech means that we must support the rights granted to even those with whom we disagree,” Thune said in June 2007. “Giving power to a few to regulate fairness in the media is a recipe for an Orwellian disaster.” He elaborated on those views in an article for RealClearPolitics. “I know the hair stands up on the back of my neck when I hear government officials offering to regulate the news media and talk radio to ensure fairness,” he wrote. (The FCC formally repealed the Fairness Doctrine on its own prerogative four years later.) Thune didn’t just oppose any government regulation of the media—he opposed nearly any government interference in the Internet at all. He has repeatedly opposed the FCC’s efforts to ensure net neutrality, the principle that every web host should have equitable access to the same speed of Internet connection.

“The FCC’s decision to adopt controversial regulation of the Internet is yet another example of the heavy hand of government reaching into an industry that isn’t broken and doesn’t need to be fixed,” he said in 2010. And last year, he decried the commission’s announcement that it will strongly enforce net neutrality—or, as his office has put it, “government control of the Internet.” Of course Thune isn’t advocating for the regulation of Facebook yet. And he can make a big fuss about Facebook’s neutrality without actually legislating anything—in some ways, the company will be damaged more by a partisan fight. But it is an example of how, to paraphrase the senator, those with whom we disagree can make us doubt our own support for the freedom of speech.
© The Atlantic

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Former Facebook Workers: We Routinely Suppressed Conservative News

9/5/2016- Facebook workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network’s influential “trending” news section, according to a former journalist who worked on the project. This individual says that workers prevented stories about the right-wing CPAC gathering, Mitt Romney, Rand Paul, and other conservative topics from appearing in the highly-influential section, even though they were organically trending among the site’s users.

Several former Facebook “news curators,” as they were known internally, also told Gizmodo that they were instructed to artificially “inject” selected stories into the trending news module, even if they weren’t popular enough to warrant inclusion—or in some cases weren’t trending at all. The former curators, all of whom worked as contractors, also said they were directed not to include news about Facebook itself in the trending module. In other words, Facebook’s news section operates like a traditional newsroom, reflecting the biases of its workers and the institutional imperatives of the corporation. Imposing human editorial values onto the lists of topics an algorithm spits out is by no means a bad thing—but it is in stark contrast to the company’s claims that the trending module simply lists “topics that have recently become popular on Facebook.”

 


These new allegations emerged after Gizmodo last week revealed details about the inner workings of Facebook’s trending news team—a small group of young journalists, primarily educated at Ivy League or private East Coast universities, who curate the “trending” module on the upper-right-hand corner of the site. As we reported last week, curators have access to a ranked list of trending topics surfaced by Facebook’s algorithm, which prioritizes the stories that should be shown to Facebook users in the trending section. The curators write headlines and summaries of each topic, and include links to news sites. The section, which launched in 2014, constitutes some of the most powerful real estate on the internet and helps dictate what news Facebook’s users—167 million in the US alone—are reading at any given moment.

“Depending on who was on shift, things would be blacklisted or trending,” said the former curator. This individual asked to remain anonymous, citing fear of retribution from the company. The former curator is politically conservative, one of a very small handful of curators with such views on the trending team. “I’d come on shift and I’d discover that CPAC or Mitt Romney or Glenn Beck or popular conservative topics wouldn’t be trending because either the curator didn’t recognize the news topic or it was like they had a bias against Ted Cruz.” The former curator was so troubled by the omissions that they kept a running log of them at the time; this individual provided the notes to Gizmodo. Among the deep-sixed or suppressed topics on the list: former IRS official Lois Lerner, who was accused by Republicans of inappropriately scrutinizing conservative groups; Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker; popular conservative news aggregator the Drudge Report; Chris Kyle, the former Navy SEAL who was murdered in 2013; and former Fox News contributor Steven Crowder. “I believe it had a chilling effect on conservative news,” the former curator said.

Another former curator agreed that the operation had an aversion to right-wing news sources. “It was absolutely bias. We were doing it subjectively. It just depends on who the curator is and what time of day it is,” said the former curator. “Every once in awhile a Red State or conservative news source would have a story. But we would have to go and find the same story from a more neutral outlet that wasn’t as biased.” Stories covered by conservative outlets (like Breitbart, Washington Examiner, and Newsmax) that were trending enough to be picked up by Facebook’s algorithm were excluded unless mainstream sites like the New York Times, the BBC, and CNN covered the same stories. Other former curators interviewed by Gizmodo denied consciously suppressing conservative news, and we were unable to determine if left-wing news topics or sources were similarly suppressed. The conservative curator described the omissions as a function of his colleagues’ judgements; there is no evidence that Facebook management mandated or was even aware of any political bias at work.

Managers on the trending news team did, however, explicitly instruct curators to artificially manipulate the trending module in a different way: When users weren’t reading stories that management viewed as important, several former workers said, curators were told to put them in the trending news feed anyway. Several former curators described using something called an “injection tool” to push topics into the trending module that weren’t organically being shared or discussed enough to warrant inclusion—putting the headlines in front of thousands of readers rather than allowing stories to surface on their own. In some cases, after a topic was injected, it actually became the number one trending news topic on Facebook.

“We were told that if we saw something, a news story that was on the front page of these ten sites, like CNN, the New York Times, and BBC, then we could inject the topic,” said one former curator. “If it looked like it had enough news sites covering the story, we could inject it—even if it wasn’t naturally trending.” Sometimes, breaking news would be injected because it wasn’t attaining critical mass on Facebook quickly enough to be deemed “trending” by the algorithm. Former curators cited the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 and the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris as two instances in which non-trending stories were forced into the module. Facebook has struggled to compete with Twitter when it comes to delivering real-time news to users; the injection tool may have been designed to artificially correct for that deficiency in the network. “We would get yelled at if it was all over Twitter and not on Facebook,” one former curator said.

In other instances, curators would inject a story—even if it wasn’t being widely discussed on Facebook—because it was deemed important for making the network look like a place where people talked about hard news. “People stopped caring about Syria,” one former curator said. “[And] if it wasn’t trending on Facebook, it would make Facebook look bad.” That same curator said the Black Lives Matter movement was also injected into Facebook’s trending news module. “Facebook got a lot of pressure about not having a trending topic for Black Lives Matter,” the individual said. “They realized it was a problem, and they boosted it in the ordering. They gave it preference over other topics. When we injected it, everyone started saying, ‘Yeah, now I’m seeing it as number one’.” This particular injection is especially noteworthy because the #BlackLivesMatter movement originated on Facebook, and the ensuing media coverage of the movement often noted its powerful social media presence.

(In February, CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressed his support for the movement in an internal memo chastising Facebook employees for defacing Black Lives Matter slogans on the company’s internal “signature wall.”) When stories about Facebook itself would trend organically on the network, news curators used less discretion—they were told not to include these stories at all. “When it was a story about the company, we were told not to touch it,” said one former curator. “It had to be cleared through several channels, even if it was being shared quite a bit. We were told that we should not be putting it on the trending tool.” (The curators interviewed for this story worked for Facebook across a timespan ranging from mid-2014 to December 2015.)

“We were always cautious about covering Facebook,” said another former curator. “We would always wait to get second level approval before trending something to Facebook. Usually we had the authority to trend anything on our own [but] if it was something involving Facebook, the copy editor would call their manager, and that manager might even call their manager before approving a topic involving Facebook.” Gizmodo reached out to Facebook for comment about each of these specific claims via email and phone, but did not receive a response. Several former curators said that as the trending news algorithm improved, there were fewer instances of stories being injected. They also said that the trending news process was constantly being changed, so there’s no way to know exactly how the module is run now. But the revelations undermine any presumption of Facebook as a neutral pipeline for news, or the trending news module as an algorithmically-driven list of what people are actually talking about.

Rather, Facebook’s efforts to play the news game reveal the company to be much like the news outlets it is rapidly driving toward irrelevancy: a select group of professionals with vaguely center-left sensibilities. It just happens to be one that poses as a neutral reflection of the vox populi, has the power to influence what billions of users see, and openly discusses whether it should use that power to influence presidential elections. “It wasn’t trending news at all,” said the former curator who logged conservative news omissions. “It was an opinion.” [Disclosure: Facebook has launched a program that pays publishers, including the New York Times and Buzzfeed, to produce videos for its Facebook Live tool. Gawker Media, Gizmodo’s parent company, recently joined that program.]

Update: Several hours after this report was published, Gizmodo editors started seeing it as a topic in Facebook’s trending section. Gizmodo’s video was posted under the topic but the “Top Posts” were links to RedState.com and the Faith and Freedom Coalition.
Update 4:10 p.m. EST: A Facebook spokesperson has issued the following statement to outlets including BuzzFeed and TechCrunch. Facebook has not responded to Gizmodo’s repeated requests for comment.
We take allegations of bias very seriously. Facebook is a platform for people and perspectives from across the political spectrum. Trending Topics shows you the popular topics and hashtags that are being talked about on Facebook. There are rigorous guidelines in place for the review team to ensure consistency and neutrality. These guidelines do not permit the suppression of political perspectives. Nor do they permit the prioritization of one viewpoint over another or one news outlet over another. These guidelines do not prohibit any news outlet from appearing in Trending Topics.”

Update May 10, 8:50 a.m. EST: The following statement was posted by Vice President of Search at Facebook, Tom Stocky, late last night. It was liked by both Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg: My team is responsible for Trending Topics, and I want to address today’s reports alleging that Facebook contractors manipulated Trending Topics to suppress stories of interest to conservatives. We take these reports extremely seriously, and have found no evidence that the anonymous allegations are true.

Facebook is a platform for people and perspectives from across the political spectrum. There are rigorous guidelines in place for the review team to ensure consistency and neutrality. These guidelines do not permit the suppression of political perspectives. Nor do they permit the prioritization of one viewpoint over another or one news outlet over another. These guidelines do not prohibit any news outlet from appearing in Trending Topics.

Trending Topics is designed to showcase the current conversation happening on Facebook. Popular topics are first surfaced by an algorithm, then audited by review team members to confirm that the topics are in fact trending news in the real world and not, for example, similar-sounding topics or misnomers.

We are proud that, in 2015, the US election was the most talked-about subject on Facebook, and we want to encourage that robust political discussion from all sides. We have in place strict guidelines for our trending topic reviewers as they audit topics surfaced algorithmically: reviewers are required to accept topics that reflect real world events, and are instructed to disregard junk or duplicate topics, hoaxes, or subjects with insufficient sources. Facebook does not allow or advise our reviewers to systematically discriminate against sources of any ideological origin and we’ve designed our tools to make that technically not feasible. At the same time, our reviewers’ actions are logged and reviewed, and violating our guidelines is a fireable offense
.

There have been other anonymous allegations — for instance that we artificially forced ‪#‎BlackLivesMatter to trend. We looked into that charge and found that it is untrue. We do not insert stories artificially into trending topics, and do not instruct our reviewers to do so. Our guidelines do permit reviewers to take steps to make topics more coherent, such as combining related topics into a single event (such as ‪#‎starwars and#‎maythefourthbewithyou), to deliver a more integrated experience. Our review guidelines for Trending Topics are under constant review, and we will continue to look for improvements. We will also keep looking into any questions about Trending Topics to ensure that people are matched with the stories that are predicted to be the most interesting to them, and to be sure that our methods are as neutral and effective as possible.
© Gizmodo
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India: Noida cyber centre inaugurated

10/5/2016- The first Cyber Investigation Centre in Uttar Pradesh was inaugurated in Noida on Monday, with the police asserting that they would now have an edge against e-criminals. Director General of Police (DGP) Javeed Ahmed inaugurated the state-of-the-art facility, which includes a forensic laboratory, in Sector 6, Noida. Mr. Ahmed said the facility, which was constructed through a public-private partnership, would help clamp down on fraudsters, hackers, and those spreading hate on social media. The building for the centre was constructed by the Noida Authority while funds for the project, estimated at Rs. 1.25 crore, were raised through PPP with involvement of private individuals, including corporate houses operating out of Noida. “This laboratory will be a one-of-its-kind cyber lab in the State. It will have facilities for hard disk imaging and copying, allow recovery of deleted data, analysis of dump data from mobile phones and other investigation techniques in the interests of modern and scientific investigation,” said Kiren S., senior superintendent of police (SSP), Gautam Budh Nagar.
© The Hindu

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Headlines April 2016

EU: online anti-LGBTI hate speech must be tackled

29/4/2016- The European Parliament voted for a report that calls upon member states to adopt strong measures to counter online anti LGBTI hate speech. The report entitled, Gender equality and empowering women in the digital age, was adopted by a majority of lawmakers yesterday, although Mike Hookem MEP, from UKIP, voted against it. The report calls upon the EU Commission to demand greater efforts from members to prosecute any homophobic or transphobic crimes that take place online. It adds that Member States should properly apply the EU legislation relating to the rights of victims (par. 54). Furthermore, it urges policymakers to ensure that a framework is in place guaranteeing that law enforcement agencies are able to deal with online bias-motivated threats and harassment (par. 53).

Terry Reintke MEP, Member of the EU’s LGBTI Intergroup and author of the report, reacted: “While online abuse can affect anyone, women and LGBTI people often experience abuse as a result of their gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or sex characteristics. UK research shows that one in four LGBTI pupils have experienced cyber bullying.” “If we are serious about tackling discrimination in all its forms, we cannot leave such abuse unchallenged. Just because it happens in virtual space, does not mean that abuse can go unpunished.” Malin Bjork MEP, Vice-President of the EU’s LGBTI Intergroup, who was involved in the writing of the report, continued: “Many women and LGBTI people face online harassment, hate speech or blackmail. However, it is often unclear how to report the offence and where to seek help.” “This report seeks to address this gap. We need to ensure that protection from harassment and abuse against women and LGBTI people in the real world exists in the online world too.”
© Kaleidoscot

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Facebook And Twitter Continue Their Shutdown Of Pages Linked To Hamas

25/4/2016- Facebook and Twitter reportedly shut down several accounts associated with Hamas, the Palestinian Sunni-Islamic fundamentalist group, over the weekend of April 22. This came after accusations that the organization had been using social media platforms to spread hate throughout the Web. Hamas' official page was shut down on Facebook, and its "Shibab" page was also closed shortly after. The page had been affiliated with terrorism, and more than one million Facebook users had been following it at the time of its closure. During the week of April 18, Facebook honed in on several Palestinian university pages that had connections to Hamas. They were eventually taken down, as were those that referenced the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas was allegedly utilizing these pages to further develop terrorism plans on the Internet.

Twitter has been taking its own initiative to shut down potentially dangerous accounts. Hamas' military wing pages, which were published in languages including English and Hebrew, were closed by Twitter. However, users have been working to restore their presence on social media by creating new accounts where they can continue to spread their message. One individual who saw his account suspended by Twitter was Hamas Military Wing Spokesman Abu Obeida. His page was closed during a wave of account suspensions. However, Obeida has created a new Twitter account to reestablish his speaking platform on the social network. "Twitter yielded to the pressure of the enemy, which gives us an impression that it is not neutral in regards to the Palestinian case and it caves into political pressure," Obeida wrote on his Twitter page. "We are going to send our message in a lot of innovative ways, and we will insist on every available means of social media to get to the hearts and minds of millions."

This is not the first time that social networks such as Facebook and Twitter have moved to eliminate terrorism from their websites. During the summer of 2014, for instance, Twitter shut down all Hamas accounts. Details of a new report revealed on April 25 that many terrorist financiers who have been blacklisted by the U.S. government are still raising money via social media, according to the Wall Street Journal.
© Tech Times

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Online Hate Monitor: Anti-Semitic Posts Reaching 'Thousands' a Day

Anti-Semitism is single most common form of bigotry on internet, followed by Islamophobia, online watchdog says.

19/4/2016- Thousands of incidents of anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial are registered each day on the internet, according to the co-founder of a leading international network of organizations engaged in combating cyberspace bigotry. “It is very difficult to make exact calculations because the internet is much bigger than most of us think,” said Ronald Eissens, who serves as a board member of the Dutch-based International Network Against Cyber Hate (INACH), which encompasses 16 organizations spanning the globe. “A thousand a day would certainly be true, and 5,000 to 10,000 a day worldwide could also be true.” In an interview with Haaretz, Eissens said the number of complaints about anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial submitted to his network of organizations tends to rise when Israel is the focus of international media attention. “During the last Gaza War, we saw a big fat spike in online anti-Semitism, and I’m talking about pure anti-Semitism – not anti-Zionism,” he said.

Eissens, who also serves as director-general of the Magenta Foundation – the Dutch complaints bureau for discrimination on the internet – was a keynote speaker Tuesday at an international conference on online anti-Semitism held in Jerusalem. The conference, the first of its kind, was co-sponsored by INACH and Israeli Students Combating Anti-Semitism, a local organization. Anti-Semitism, said Eissens, is the single most common form of bigotry on the internet, accounting for about one-third of all complaints registered with his organization, followed by Islamophobia. In 2015, though, for the first time, he said, Islamophobia surpassed anti-Semitism as the most common complaint in two countries: The Netherlands and Germany. Eissens attributed the rising number of complaints about Islamophobia to the refugee crisis in Europe.

Since its establishment in 2002, said Eissens, INACH succeeded in removing somewhere between 60,000 and 70,000 hateful posts on the internet, about 25,000 of them anti-Semitic in nature. In past years, noted Eissens, anti-Semitic posts were found mainly in dedicated neo-Nazi and white supremacist websites and forums. “Nowadays, most of the stuff has shifted to social media. It’s much more scattered, but also much more mainstream. You still find it on those traditional anti-Semitic sites, but more and more on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google.” Although his organization does not monitor anti-Zionist posts on the internet, Eissens said he believed there was often a blurring of lines. “Nowadays, anti-Zionism has become part and parcel of Jew hatred, and often when people say they are just anti-Zionist but not anti-Semitic, that is a cop out,” he said. “I’m not sure all those who identify as anti-Zionists are really anti-Semitic, but I think it’s heading in that direction, and that is dangerous.”

Asked whether he considered supporters of the international Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel to be anti-Jewish, Eissens said: “My problem with BDS activists is that almost all of them are of the opinion that Israel should not really exist. They’re talking about a one-state solution. They’re talking about giving Palestine back to the Palestinians, and they’re talking about all of traditional Palestine. When they say things like that, I often find BDS activists to be anti-Semites because what’s supposed to happen to Jews who are living in Israel if that happens? “But if they say they’re in favor of a two-state solution, with Jews and Palestinians living side by side, that’s a whole other stance. But I don’t hear that nuance a lot among BDS activists.”
© Haaretz

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German refugees use ads to target anti-immigration YouTube videos

German YouTube users searching for anti-immigration videos are being shown adverts of refugees talking about prejudices against them.

20/4/2016- Clicking on the ads redirects users to a website with more information about the refugees' stories. The campaign uses YouTube's advertising system to target search terms associated with far-right content and anti-immigration groups. The organisation behind the initiative says the video clips cannot be skipped. Firas Alshater is one of the nine refugees in the adverts. The Syrian actor came to Germany almost three years ago and has become an internet sensation by posting YouTube videos about his everyday life as a refugee. He said the campaign started when he realised that a right-wing party used his videos on the platform for advertising. "I don't think the 30-second clips will disturb anyone. It's a chance to reach people who want to watch these far-right videos because they are afraid and need someone to help them," he told the BBC. In his advert, Firas tells viewers it was not true that Germans and refugees could not live together peacefully.

'Admirable courage'
Refugees Welcome, the organisation behind the campaign, says the adverts can currently be seen before 100 videos. "I think the courage of the refugees is admirable and it's important to give them the chance to present their perspective," said Jonas Kakoschke, one of the co-founders of the organisation. Refugees Welcome is an association that tries to find flatshares for refugees in private homes. "We won't be able to change everybody's opinion, but we do believe there is a smaller part of people we can have a dialogue with and who are open to arguments," he said.

'Refugees out'
Advertisers can use keywords to make their ads appear in front of specific videos on YouTube. The search terms targeted by the campaign include the name of the leader of Germany's anti-Islamist Pegida movement, Lutz Bachmann, who has gone on trial on hate speech charges this week. Other keywords are "Refugees out", "Refugees terrorists" and "The truth about refugees". Video uploaders receive part of the money paid by advertisers. They cannot influence which ads are shown before their video, but can disable them. "Of course, it's painful that the uploaders are getting money from our campaign, but at the moment they only earn a few cents," said Jonas Kakoschke. "Ultimately, we hope that some of these groups will disable advertising and therefore lose out on YouTube ads altogether."

What is Pegida?
# Acronym for Patriotische Europaeer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West)
# Umbrella group for German right-wingers, attracting support from mainstream conservatives to neo-Nazi factions and football hooligans
# Holds street protests against what it sees as a dangerous rise in the influence of Islam over European countries
# Claims not to be racist or xenophobic
# 19-point manifesto says the movement opposes extremism and calls for protection of Germany's Judeo-Christian culture
© BBC News

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Anonymity May Have Killed Online Commenting (opinion)

By Christopher Wolf, the chair of the Anti-Cyberhate Committee of the Anti-Defamation League and a partner in Hogan Lovells' Privacy and Cybersecurity practice, is the co-author of "Viral Hate: Containing Its Spread on the Internet."

18/4/2016- Many comment sections on media websites have failed because of a lack of accountability: Online commenters who can hide behind anonymity are much more comfortable expressing repugnant views or harassing others, and the multiplying effect is widespread incivility. Anonymity has an important role in free expression and for privacy interests, to be sure. But the benefits of anonymity online are greatly outweighed by the abuse. Anonymous comments range from the impertinent to the truly hateful, but they frequently contain racist, misogynistic, homophobic and/or anti-Semitic content. Even when people register with their real names but have pseudonymous user names, they often act as if they are licensed to rant, and say horrible things. While there is a subset of people who are proud to be haters and who see real name attribution as a publicity opportunity, most people think twice about associating their names with scurrilous or scandalous commentary. They fear opprobrium by employers, friends and family if their name is appended as the author of abusive comments.

Moreover, as this paper observes, in its encouragement to readers to avoid anonymity in comment sections, “people who use their names carry on more engaging, respectful conversations.” Some platforms have formed bulwarks against vile comments, but none are fool-proof. Facebook’s real name requirement for users helps curtail the chaos on that social media service. While even those using their real names sometimes post content that violates the community standards set to curtail hate speech — either because they don’t care about being associated with that content (or are part of an online community that celebrates their association with hate) — the real name requirement tamps down base instincts a more average user may have for vile postings.

Comment moderation is also useful for controlling abuse, but it is expensive and time-consuming. Many of the sites that have closed comment sections tried moderation but found it too burdensome or costly. Giving automatic priority in publication to real name commenters, and pushing anonymous comments to the bottom of the queue, is another technique that preserves the ability to comment anonymously, albeit at the price of potential obscurity. Ultimately, it will be difficult to change the embedded online culture of saying whatever one pleases. Maybe contextual online commenting is over, and the place for discourse is on social media. But so much of social media, Facebook excepted, encourages anonymity, so the potential for hate and abuse may simply move from platform to platform. A re-boot of online comment sections may be the only solution, with real-name attribution as the rule: Identification is vital for online civility.
© The New York Times

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Pakistan Approves Controversial Cyber Crime Bill

14/4/2016- The controversial Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill 2015 has been approved by Pakistan's National Assembly (NA). The restrictive bill—which has been criticised by the information technology (IT) industry as well as civil society for curbing human rights—was submitted to the NA for voting in January 2015 by the Minister of State for Information Technology and Tele­com­munication, Anusha Rahman Khan. A draft of the cybercrime bill was then cleared by the standing committee in September before being forwarded to the assembly for final approval. According to critics, the proposed bill criminalises activities such as sending text messages without the receiver's consent or criticising government actions on social media. Those who do would be punished with fines and long-term imprisonment. Industry representatives have argued that the bill would harm business as well.
Online criticism of religion, the country, its courts, and the armed forces are among subjects which could invoke official intervention under the bill. The bill approved on Wednesday, must also be approved by Senate before it can be signed into law, as reported by Dawn online.

Features of the Bill include -
• Up to five-year imprisonment, Rs (Pakistani Rupees) 10 million ($95,000) fine or both for hate speech, or trying to create disputes and spread hatred on the basis of religion or sectarianism.
• Up to five-year imprisonment, Rs5m ($47,700) fine or both for transferring or copying sensitive basic information.
• Up to Rs50,000 ($477) fine for sending messages irritating to others or for marketing purposes.
• Up to three-year imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs500,000 ($4,777) for creating a website for negative purposes.
• Up to one-year imprisonment or a fine of up to Rs1m ($9,500) for forcing an individual into immoral activity, or publishing an individual’s picture without consent, sending obscene messages or unnecessary cyber interference.
• Up to seven-year imprisonment, a fine of Rs10m or both for interfering in sensitive data information systems.
© Newsweek

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UK: Is it too late to stop the trolls trampling over our entire political discourse?

Free speech online can be revolutionary. But it can also poison the very bloodstream of democracy
By Owen Jones

13/4/2016- It was a pretty standard far-right account: anonymous (check); misappropriating St George (check); dripping with venom towards “Muslim-loving” lefties (check). But this one had a twist. They had found my address and had taken screen shots of where I lived from Google’s Street View function. “Here’s his bedroom,” they wrote, with an arrow pointing at the window; “here’s the door he comes out at the morning”, with an arrow pointing at the entrance to my block of flats. In the time it took Twitter to shut down the account, they had already tweeted many other far-right accounts with the details. Then there was a charming chap who willed me to “burn in everlasting hell you godless faggot”, was determined to “find out where you live” so as to “enlighten you on what I do to cocksucking Marxist faggots” and “break every bone in your body” (all because he felt I slighted faith schools). And the neo-Nazis who believe I’m complicit in a genocide against white people, and launched an orchestrated campaign that revolved around infecting me with HIV.

This is not to conjure up the world’s smallest violin and invite pity, it is to illustrate a point. Political debate, a crucial element of any democracy, is becoming ever more poisoned. Social media has helped to democratise the political discourse, forcing journalists – who would otherwise simply dispense their alleged wisdom from on high – to face scrutiny. Some take it badly. They are used to being slapped affectionately on the back by fellow inhabitants of the media bubble for their latest eloquent defence of the status quo. To have their groupthink challenged by the great unwashed is an irritation. In truth, the intensity of the scrutiny ranges from the intermittent to the relentless, depending on a few things: how far the target deviates from the political consensus; how much of a profile they have; and whether they happen to be, say, a woman, black, gay, trans or Muslim. There’s scrutiny of ideas, and then there’s something else. And it is now so easy to anonymously hurl abuse – sometimes in coordination with others of a similar disposition – it can have no other objective than to attempt to inflict psychological harm.

Take the comments underneath newspaper articles. Columnists could once avoid any feedback, other than the odd missive on the letters’ page. Now we can have a two-way conversation, a dialogue between writer and reader. But the comments have become, let’s just say, self-selecting – the anonymously abusive and the bigoted increasingly staking it out as their own, leading anyone else to flee. Such is the level of abuse that many – particularly women writing about feminism or black writers discussing race – have simply given up reading, let alone engaging with, reader comments. Sending abuse in the pre-Twitter age involved a great deal of hassle (finding someone’s address, licking envelopes, traipsing off to the post office); you can now anonymously tell anyone with a social media account to go die in a ditch – and much worse – in seconds. Yet it is not my experience that this is how people who follow politics behave in real life. I’ve met people who are incredibly meek, but extremely aggressive behind a computer. Online, perhaps, they no longer see their opponent as a human being with feelings, but an object to crush.

I spend a lot of time attending public meetings. One of the most fulfilling aspects is when individuals with differing perspectives turn up. One man at a recent event was leaning towards Ukip, but he didn’t angrily denounce me as an ISLAM LOVING TRAITOR!!!! Instead, he shared a moving story of his father dying as a result of drug addiction, and how it had informed his political perspective. We were speaking, one to one, as human beings: unlike in online debate, our humanity was not stripped away. The potential – or, sadly more accurately, theoretical – political power of social media is to provide an important public forum in which those of diverse opinions can freely interact, rather than living in political enclaves inhabited only by those who reinforce what everyone already believes. The truth is that those entrenched political divisions are cemented by trolls who – without conspiracy or coordination – pillory, insult or even threaten those with dissenting opinions.

Being forced to confront opinions that collide with your own worldview, and challenge your own entrenched views, helps to hone your arguments. But sometimes the online debate can feel like being in a room full of people yelling. Even if others are simply passionately disagreeing, making a distinction becomes difficult. The normal human reaction is to become defensive. A leftwinger who is under almost obsessive personal attack from rightwingers or vice versa may find that separating the abusers from those who simply disagree becomes difficult. Is the effect of this to coarsen, even to poison, political debate – not just in the comment threads and on social media, but above the line, and among people who have very few meaningful political differences? I worry that people will increasingly avoid topics that are likely to provoke a vitriolic response. You may be having a bad week, and decide that writing about an issue isn’t worth the hassle of being bombarded with nasty comments about your physical appearance. That’s how self-censorship works. 

Of course, online rage can be more complicated. If you’re a disabled person struggling to make ends meet, your support is being cut by the government and you are feeling ignored by the media and the political elite, perhaps seething online fury is not only understandable but appropriate? Similarly, trans rights activists are sometimes criticised for being too aggressive online, as though gay people and lesbians or women won their rights by being ever so polite and sitting around singing Kumbaya. The most powerful pieces are often written by those personally affected by injustice, and the comfortable telling them to tone down the anger for fear of coarsening political debate is unhelpful. On the other hand, there are certain rightwing bloggers who obsessively fixate on character assassination as a substitute for political substance. Corrupt the reputation of the individual – however tenuous, desperate or unfair the means – and then there is no need to engage in the rights and wrongs of their argument.

Some will say: ah, suck it up; if you want to stick your neck out and argue a case that may polarise people, you’re asking for it. Opinion writers hardly represent a cross-section of society as it is. But why would – for want of a better word – “normal” people seek to express political opinions if the quid pro quo is a daily diet of hate? Won’t those from private schools, where a certain type of confidence and self-assurance is taught, become even more dominant in debate? Will women be partly purged from the media by obsessive misogynistic tirades – I know of women who turn down television interviews because it will mean being subjected to demeaning comments by men on their physical appearance. Will only the most arrogant, self-assured types – including those who almost crave the hatred – be the beneficiaries?

Online debate is revolutionary, and there are few more avid users than myself. But there seems little doubt that the political conversation is becoming more toxic. And it is democracy that is suffering.
© Comment is free - The Guardian.

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"Stormfront.org"; the world's number 1 white supremacist chatroom.

"Stormfront" threads provide a very interesting insight into the lives of 21st century white racists. What does a Neo-Nazi do after a long day of bashing ethnic minorities? Making sushi and watching football seem to be pretty popular choices.
By Lewis Edwards, freelance journalist and writer from Australia.

12/4/2016- Being a hardcore white supremacist in 2016 can be a pretty tough gig. People generally dislike you, you have to at least put on the appearance of disliking falafel rolls, and your job opportunities are evidently limited by your choice of political ideology. With these considerations in mind, many of today's racists choose not to publicly express their political beliefs. Instead, it has become commonplace for white supremacists to congregate and communicate on the internet, hiding behind digital avatars. And "stormfront.org" is the virtual place where hundreds of thousands of these cautious 21st century Neo-Nazis "kick it" and "chew the fat", discussing everything from "Grand Theft Auto V" to sushi.

"Stormfront.org", in many senses, is one of the world's most interesting websites. The site was founded in 1996 by US white supremacist Don Black, a former Grand Wizard of the Klu Klux Klan as well as a member of the American Nazi Party during the 1970's. "Stormfront" has grown and developed as a website ever since. Originally a small online community for tech savvy white supremacists, "stormfront" grew exponentially in the late 90's and early 2000's. The membership became quite large. As of 2015, the website boasted almost 300 000 registered users (Mark Potok, "The Year in Hate and Extremism", 2015). Not just the domain of English speaking white racists, the site also incorporates sub-forums in languages ranging from Afrikaans, to French, to Spanish, to Croatian.

However, despite the large and diverse membership of the site, most "stormfront" members utilize avatars on the website to hide their true identities. This may be due to the fact that being a public white supremacist is an unwise career and lifestyle choice in multicultural and multiethnic 21st century societies. If you are ousted as a Neo-Nazi in 2016, you'll probably lose your job at the local accounting firm and the Indian place across town will probably stop delivering that Butter Chicken you like to your apartment. Not a real good idea to be a public white supremacist. Better to use a digital avatar. So just what is discussed on "stormfront.org" through the use of concealed identities?

There are the white supremacist conversations you would typically expect. The site contains many threads about hate for Barack Obama and somewhat related threads about love for Donald Trump. But then there are conversations on "stormfront" you would never anticipate. Because it appears that, as of 2016, Neo-Nazis and the KKK like to talk about anything and everything. "Stormfront" has forums discussing every topic under the sun; from sushi, to Australian Rules Football, to "Grand Theft Auto V", to Eminem. And anything else you could imagine. So what are the views of white supremacists on this diverse range of topics? Well, apparently and most importantly, Nazis love sushi!

On a "stormfront" thread I discovered dated to 2009 (called "sushi?"), Hitler's ideological children appeared to love combining fish, rice, and seaweed for a healthy and tasty snack. Maybe the Japanese made the right decision commercially speaking by joining the Axis forces in World War II. Because white supremacists love to eat sushi. Indeed, when they are not bashing ethnic minorities and gay people, many Neo-Nazis seemed to enjoy making homemade nori rolls. White crusaders by night, sashimi chefs by day! Racial hate is hard, making the perfect sushi roll is harder. Of course, making sushi isn't the only hobby 21st century white supremacists have. Because, as threads on "stormfront" indicate, many Neo-Nazis also love sport. Australian white supremacists, like many Australians, love to watch Australian Rules Football (AFL). Indeed, AFL is a great "Anglo-Saxon-Celt" tradition within Australia ("Jaxxen", 17/2/2010) but that "Anglo-Saxon-Celt" tradition is apparently being destroyed by an influx of African and Indigenous Australian players to the game. Tragedy!

It must be stressful being a white supremacist. Because all your beloved sports (e.g. AFL, basketball, NFL) seem to get taken over by black people who are more agile, more athletic, and better at playing the sport. Getting beaten by people who are better at something than you; Shakespeare himself couldn't pen such a work of high tragedy! But not to worry though, because you can always pick up another hobby e.g. video games. Indeed, video games, in general, do appear to be a popular pastime of 21st century, technologically aware white supremacists. Multiple threads on the topic of video games in general, as well as specific video games, can be found on the "stormfront" website.

I could have looked at any video game thread on the site during this investigation but I decided to look at a thread centred on one of my favourite games in recent years; "Grand Theft Auto V" (AKA "GTAV"). Although "GTAV" had one black protagonist (Franklin Clinton), "stormfront" members circa 2013-2014 just couldn't seem to resist the opportunity to race through the streets of Los Santos (AKA Los Angeles) with the police in hot pursuit. Multiple "stormfront" members expressed their excitement for the game, in spite of Franklin. White nationalism may be fun, but robbing banks in a fictional digital universe is evidently much more fun. Of course, there were those opposed to the idea of playing a black video game character on the "GTAV" forum. As "mmargos" stated on the "stormfront" forum for "GTAV";

"Hello friends, i think that we should boycot gt5 due to the fact that one of the main characters is black.This is my opinion on the game ,what do you think?" (01/06/2015). No responses from those "friends". Playing as Franklin Clinton was and is obviously just too darn exciting. Of course, white supremacists can't be open to every interest and hobby. Black music, for example, is a pet hate of white supremacists. White supremacists on "stormfront" do really seem to hate rap music. Damn those rhymed words over rhythmic 4/4 beats! In particular, white supremacists hate Eminem, the most successful rapper of the 21st century. Multiple threads exist on the "stormfront" site, purely as places to express hate for Eminem. In fact, online Eminem bashing is like a white supremacist hobby in and of itself these days. As "whitepowermetal", an Irish member of "stormfront", asserted on the "Eminem" thread; "He (Eminem) is an awful wigger scumbag who worships Negroids and either hates his white culture or has no knowledge of it whatsoever so believes he is a Negroid" (14/4/2014).

Well, that is indeed an opinion. I must disagree with you for multiple reasons "whitepowermetal". I was going to actually start a "stormfront" account to troll Neo-Nazis and KKK members. I was actually planning to troll you in particular. But I'm hungry and tired. So I think I may just go and get a falafel roll and listen to "The Marshall Mathers LP" instead.

Peace.
© The News Hub

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Australia: Facebook bans user for criticizing anti-Semitism

Former IDF soldier's gym in Australia shares offensive post to warn against anti-Semitism. Facebook responds by banning gym page.

9/4/2016- Facebook temporarily banned an Australian gym called IDF Training after the owner responded to an anti-Semitic message. The Australian news site The Age reports that someone posted an offensive comment on the gym's Facebook page, calling the owner a "pig f----er" and declaring that "Australia is against israel [sic]." The owner, Avi Yemini, responded by sharing the post, with the added hashtag "#saynotoracism." An anonymous browser soon reported Yemini's post as offensive and Facebook suspended the account for three days. "I've spoken to Facebook explaining that it was in fact his vile message that was in breach of their terms, and that I couldn't believe that not only are they siding with the racist user, they are penalizing an advocate for understanding and tolerance," he said. Yemini returned to Australia and opened IDF Training after serving in the IDF's Golani Brigade. He now teaches people martial arts and self-defense based on the IDF's methods. He has also encouraged the gym's members to join the IDF.
© Arutz Sheva

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Germany: Berlin police crack down on far-right hate postings

6/4/2016- Berlin police say they’ve raided 10 residences in the German capital in a crackdown against far-right hate speech on social media. Police spokesman Michael Gassen said Wednesday the morning raids involved nine suspects who used Facebook, Twitter and other social networks to spread hate. He says authorities want to emphasize “the Internet is not a law-free zone” and that if illegal speech is posted “it won’t be without consequences.” The suspects, identified as men between 22 and 58, are alleged to have posted anti-migrant messages, anti-Semitic messages and songs with banned lyrics, among other things. They face possible fines if found guilty. The investigation is ongoing, and police are now evaluating evidence seized in the raids, including computers, cellphones as well as drugs, knives and other weapons.
© The Associated Press

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Behind the Dutch Terror Threat Video: The St. Petersburg “Troll Factory”

3/4/2016- At 13:30:09 GMT on 18 January 2016, a new YouTube channel called ÏÀÒÐÈÎÒ (“Patriot”) uploaded its first video, titled (in Ukrainian) “Appeal of AZOV fighters to the Netherlands on a referendum about EU – Ukraine.” The video depicts six soldiers holding guns, supposedly from the notorious far-right, ultra-nationalist Azov Battalion, speaking in Ukrainian before burning a Dutch flag. In the video, the supposed Azov fighters threaten to conduct terrorist attacks in the Netherlands if the April 6 referendum is rejected. There are numerous examples of genuine Azov Battalion soldiers saying or doing reprehensible things, such as making severely anti-Semitic comments and having Nazi tattoos. However, most of these verified examples come from individual fighters, while the video with the Dutch flag being burned and terror threats supposedly comes as an official statement of the battalion.

The video has been proven as a fake, and is just one of many fake videos surrounding the Azov Battalion. This post will not judge if the video is fake — as this will be assumed — but will instead examine the way in which the video originated and was spread. After open source analysis, it becomes clear that this video was initially spread and likely created by the same network of accounts and news sites that are operated by the infamous “St. Petersburg Troll Factories” of the Internet Research Agency and its sister organization, the Federal News Agency (FAN).  The same tactics can be seen in a recent report from Andrey Soshnikov of the BBC, in which he revealed that a fake video showing what was supposedly a U.S. soldier shooting a Quran was created and spread by this “troll factory.”

The Video’s Origin
The description to this video claims that the original was taken from the Azov Battalion’s official YouTube channel, “AZOV media,” with a link to a YouTube video with the ID of MuSJMQKcX8A. Predictably, following the link to the “original” video shows that the video has been deleted by the user, giving the impression that the Azov Battalion uploaded the video and then deleted it by the time the copy (on the “Patriot” channel) was created. There are no traces of any video posted with this URL in any search engine cache or archival site (e.g. Archive.today or Archive.org). It is most likely that a random video was posted to a YouTube channel, quickly deleted before it could be cached or archived, and then was linked to in the video from the “Patriot” YouTube account. While the circumstances around the video’s original source is important in its own right, the manner in which the video was spread shortly after its upload yields interesting results.

The Initial Propagation
At 14:16 GMT on 18 January 2016 – 46 minutes after the video upload on the “Patriot” channel – a newly registered user named “Artur 32409” posted a link to the video and a message in Ukrainian supporting Azov’s alleged actions on the website politforums.net1 Starting four minutes later (14:20 GMT), two newly-registered accounts on the Russian social networking site VKontakte (VK) shared the video 30 times over a period of 24 minutes.2 During these 30 shares on VK (at 14:38 GMT), an exact copy-paste of the text written by Artur 32409 from politforums.net is published by a blogger on Korrrespondent.net. The author represents him/herself as a pro-Azov Ukrainian woman named “Solomiya Yaremchuk.” This user did not cite Artur as the source for the content. There is a strong possibility, if not certainty, that “Artur 32409,” the Korrespondent.net blogger Solomiya Yaremchuk, and the various VK users are either the same person, or part of the same group propagating the fake video. Further evidence provided later in this post reveals that “Solomiya Yarumchuk” is a fake account and has strong links to the “St. Petersburg Troll Factory.”

Appearance and Propagation of a Fabricated Screenshot
The Azov Battalion video was not the only piece of fabricated evidence created with this disinformation campaign. Following the video’s spread, a screenshot was created to supposedly verify the existence of the video on the Azov Battalion’s official YouTube channel (“AZOV media”). This screenshot supposedly proves that the flag burning video truly was posted by the Azov Battalion before its deletion and upload on the “Patriot” YouTube channel. As will be described in the following section, this screenshot is a fabrication and does not indicate that the video was truly posted to the channel. Replying to a post from the VK blogger Dzhelsomino Zhukov, a user named Gleb Klenov posted a screenshot that supposedly showed the video in the playlist of the official Azov YouTube channel. When asked how he got this screenshot, Klenov replied that it was “sent” to him in the comment thread of a group called Pozornovorossia (Shame Novorossiya), and the “source was sent by Gorchakov.” This group has since been deleted from VK.

When reverse searching the screenshot posted by Klenov, the two earliest results are in the VK groups Setecenter (19 January, 10:10am GMT) and Mirovaya Politika (19 January, 10:17am). A man named Yury Gorchakov, previously mentioned as the source of the screenshot, posted in both of these groups, defending the screenshot’s veracity. These two posts are identical, and were posted alongside the same text that blames Azov for playing out a hoax in order to blame the Russian side. Thus, the narrative has turned to provocations: Azov orchestrated this entire hoax in order to make Russia look bad, knowing that the video would quickly be exposed as a fake. Yury Gorchakov replied twice in a thread on the “Mirovaya Politika” board, at 10:34 and 10:41am (19 January). In both posts, he was favorable towards Russia, responding to a user who said that the video was fake and spread by pro-Kremlin users. Gorchakov made two other posts at 10:34am where he explained to another poster that the flag being burned in the video was that of the Netherlands. He later (11:10 GMT) posted the full-sized screenshot himself.

It is quite likely that Gorchakov is the creator of the screenshot that supposedly shows the video being posted on the official Azov Battalion YouTube channel. He took a particular interest in defending the authenticity of the image on multiple message boards and VK groups, and posted the image in its first public appearances. Furthermore, he is an active member of the ultra-nationalist community in St. Petersburg, including heavy involvement of the “St. Petersburg Novorossiya Museum” project. Lastly, and most indicative of his likely role in the creation of the video and/or screenshot, the self-described “film director” Gorchakov was credited with uploading a fake video that supposedly showed members of Right Sector executing a civilian in spring 2014. The video has since been deleted, but links to the video’s description on the “NOD Simferopol’” YouTube channel remain, in which Gorchakov claims that he is being threatened in text messages by Right Sector for the video.

A Closer Look at the Screenshot
Upon close examination, it becomes clear that the screenshot was digitally manipulated to appear as if the last video posted on the channel “AZOV media” was the flag burning video. The white space was most likely clone-stamped over the actual last posted image, and a thumbnail of the “watched” video (with the text “Ïðîñìîòðåíî,” or “Watched,” over the top of the video) was copied from a screenshot on the “PATRIOT” YouTube channel. The pasting of the image was slightly imperfect: the space between the two last-watched videos is non-uniform in relation to the other squares on the screenshot, being about a pixel too wide. The thumbnail of the flag burning video is also a pixel lower than it should be in relation to the video to its right.
pixel_comparison

Moreover, the grey box with the “watched” text (Ïðîñìîòðåíî) is slightly blurred, and the text does not match the other “Ïðîñìîòðåíî” thumbnail in the screen, suggesting that the thumbnail was taken from another screenshot.

prosmotreno

Troll Network Exposed
Examination of the first users to disseminate the fake Azov video, including Artur 32409, and the sites used to spread it reveal an organized system of spreading disinformation—in other words, a “troll network” made up of so-called “troll accounts.”3 In one of Artur 32409’s three posts on politforums.net, he described a story about someone in Kyiv who was mugged for their groceries while returning home from the supermarket. Ten minutes after its appearance on politforums.net on 31 January 2016, the text from Artur 32409 was taken for a post by “Viktoria Popova” on Korrespondent.net. The exact same thing happened—taking 22 minutes instead of 10—when the post of Artur 32409 on the fake Azov video appeared on politforums.net, and then on Korrespondent.net. Viktoria Popova even replied to the thread started by Artur 32409 with the message, “You need to go for groceries by car… Or order them from home, just as the members of parliament do.” In another post, “Viktoria” added that she struggled to afford food other than bread and claimed that pensioners’ money was being used to fund the Ukrainian military operation in the country’s east.

“Viktoria” and “Artur” are far from the only profiles in the same troll network. The user “Diana Palamarchuk” shared the story of Artur 32409 on kievforum.org.4 Soon after, the exact same thread was shared on online.crimea.ua, but this time the poster was not Diana Palamarchuk, but “Diana Palamar.” The troika of Artur, Viktoria, and Diana is clearly interconnected, and not a random group of users. On 4 February 2016, “Diana Palamar” started a thread on online.crimea.ua, and just four minutes later, Viktoria Popova made an identical blog post at Korrespondent.net. Both of these posts linked to pohnews.org, the same site used to host a story from Artur 32409 that “Diana” shared. There is a systematic approach at spreading disinformation, as we saw with the grocery mugging story written by the same user (Artur 32409) who first posted the Azov Battalion video. There are usually two types of “troll” users who work in tandem to spread disinformation: supposed Ukrainians who are disgruntled, or Ukrainians who share extreme views or content that can be picked up by pro-Russian groups as examples of Ukrainian radicalism.

A clear example of this behavior can be seen in the group “Harsh Banderite” (Ñóâîðèé Áàíäåð³âåöü), where we find posts from “Diana Palamarchuk” and “Solomiya Yaremchuk” (the user who posted the korrespondent.net post of the Azov Battalion video immediately after it was shared by Artur 32409). The post on this supposedly pro-Ukrainian group show discontent for President Poroshenko and admiration for the far-right/ultra-nationalist group Right Sector. Many posts “playfully” hint at genocide and terrorism, such as blowing up the Kremlin or killing civilians in eastern Ukraine. Many profiles in these groups, which are likely creation of pro-Russian groups or individuals, appear alongside one another on other sites. For example, “Solomiya Yaremchuk” appears in the comments on an article on Cassad.net, a popular pro-Kremlin blog, alongside numerous accounts with overtly Ukrainian names, such as “Zhenya Bondarenko,” “Kozak Pravdorub,” and “Fedko Khalamidnik.”

The Petersburg Connection
The creation and propagation of the fake Azov Battalion video was almost certainly not the work of a few lone pranksters, but instead a concerted effort with connections to the infamous Internet Research Agency, widely known as the organization based in St. Petersburg that pays young Russians to write pro-Russian/anti-Western messages in internet comment sections and blog posts. The fake Azov Battalion video is clearly linked to the interconnected group of users of Artur 32409, Solomiya Yaremchuk, Diana Palamar(chuk), and Viktoria Popova. The first two of these four users were the very first people to spread the fake video online, and copied each other in their posts. The video, uploaded to a brand new YouTube channel and without any previous mentions online, would have been near impossible to find without searching for the video title. Thus, it is almost certain that Artur (and by extension, the rest of the troll network) is connected with the creation of this fake video.

The stories written by this troll network are quickly hosted on the site pohnews.org, previously known as today.pl.ua. This site has a handful of contributors who later repost their stories (almost always around 100-250 words) on other sites that allow community bloggers. For example, the user “Vlada Zorich,” who wrote a story on pohnews.org that was originally from Artur 32409, has profiles on numerous other sites and social networks. Her stories are anti-Ukrainian, and written in the same style (and roughly the same word count) as stories on whoswhos.org, a site known to be part of a network created by the Internet Research Agency and a freelance web designer/SEO expert on its payroll, Nikita Podgorny.

The link between whoswhos.org, a site paid for by the Internet Research Agency, and pohnews.org, a site used to promote stories from a group of users who first spread the fake Azov Battalion video, is not just in similarities in style and content. The social media pages for the two sites have administrators named Oleg Krasnov (pohnews.org) and Vlad Malyshev (whoswhos.org). The two people both took photographs from the same person (who is completely unrelated to this topic) to use in their profiles–or, more likely, one person created both accounts and lazily used photographs of the same person.

As these accounts almost certainly do not represent real humans, they both have few friends or followers. “Vlad Malyshev” and the other administrator of the whoswhos.org VK page, Pavel Lagutin, each only have one follower: “sys05dag,” with the name “Sys admin” on VK. This user is strongly linked to cybercrime and runs a public group on VK that is focused on hacking methods and topics related to malware. For example, “Sys admin” once wrote a post requesting twenty dedicated servers to set up a botnet.  Circling back to the fake Azov Battalion video and the falsified screenshot, “Sys admin” shares many common friends with Yury Gorchakov.

Clearly Fake Accounts
When looking at the accounts that cross-post each other’s texts and post stories onto Petersburg-linked “news” sites, it is immediately clear that they are not real people. A survey of three users who appear often in this post shows common tactics used within the same network:

# “Vlada Zorich” posts stories on pohnews.org and various Ukrainian blog sites, and does not go to great lengths to hide that “she” is not a real person. On her VK, Facebook, commenter, and blogger profiles, she uses photos of actresses Megan Fox and Nina Dobrev to represent herself. Her friends list resembles that of a spam bot, with hundreds of friends spread from Bolivia to Hong Kong.
# “Diana Palamar(chuk)” spreads stories from Artur 32409 and other “troll” users, which later appear on sites like pohnews.org. Along with liking the pages of various confirmed Internet Research Agency/FAN-linked news sites, “she” has taken photographs from various users on VK to use for herself, including a woman named Yulia (Diana – Yulia), and a woman named Anastasia (DianaAnastasia).
# “Solomiya Yaremchuk” was the first user to repost Artur 32409’s message about the fake Azov Battalion video, through a blog post on Korrespondent.net. She shares the supposed hometown of Diana — Lutsk, Ukraine. One of her photographs was taken from a woman named Tanya (SolomiyaTanya).

An Analytical Look
Analysis of the social connections between some of these users who spread the fake Azov Battalion video, along with other pieces of anti-Ukrainian disinformation and news stories, reveals deep ties. This analysis also reveals close ties between some of the sites linked to these users, ultimately leading back to the Internet Research Agency and Federal News Agency (FAN). One of the simplest, yet effective, ways of rooting out fake “troll” accounts is by finding who frequently shares links to news sites created under the guidance of the Internet Research Agency. Searches for those who share links to whoswhos.org and pohnews.org reveal many shared users, including some easily-identifiable troll accounts. Some of these accounts, such as @ikolodniy, @dyusmetovapsy, and @politic151012, also share links to FAN, the news site that shared office space with the Internet Research Agency at 55 Savushkina Street in St. Petersburg.

Another way of findings networks between troll accounts is by analyzing their posting and re-posting habits, as seen earlier in the example of Viktoria Popova, Artur 32409, Solomiya Yaremchuk, and Diana Palamar(chuk). Less than an hour after the very first public mention of the fake Azov Battalion video (from Artur 32409), a user named “Faost” shared a post on fkiev.com. His role5 is to play a Ukrainian who supported the actions of the Azov Battalion, with the post:
Everyone knows that the Netherlands is against Ukraine joining the EU. And this has somewhat confused Ukrainian soldiers since they really want to join the European Union. Here, fighters from the Azov Battalion have decided to make an announcement to the Dutch government. They explain their displeasure in this video announcement. And they called on them not to adopt this decision. They said they are gathering units which will be sent to the Netherlands to see this decision through. I am very pleased that our soldiers are worried about these events. I support them because they have put their efforts into this. Our soldiers have to defend Ukraine. These are the bravest guys in our country, they will prove to everyone that Ukraine worthy of EU membership

Four minutes later, a user named “kreelt” started the same thread on doneckforum.com. These two users are either the same person or part of the same group of troll users. Users with these names were both banned from the forums of Pravda Ukraine within a short space of time of one another for registering duplicate accounts. Additionally, these two users (Faost and kreelt), along with the previously mentioned Diana Palamar, have started numerous threads under the “news” tag on a low-traffic forum. While this is circumstantial evidence, there is much more direct evidence that these are all the same person, or different people working out of the same office. Both Faost and kreelt posted under the IP address of 185.86.77.x (the last digit(s) of the IP address is not publicly visible) in the same thread on Pravda Ukraine. As well as these accounts, the same IP was used by similar troll accounts “Pon4ik” and “Nosik34,” who both posted materials with similar content as the rest of this network of users.

The IP address used in the troll network linked to the spread of disinformation, including the fake Azov Battalion video, is linked to the GMHOST Alexander Mulgin Serginovic, which has launched malware campaigns from the same 185.86.77.x IP address. Completing the loop, users from this 186.86.77.x IP address, including the aforementioned kreelt and a troll account named “Amojnenadoima?”, have linked to stories from pohnews.org on the website dialogforum.net.

Other Fake Azov Videos Connected?
There are additional videos that may be connected to the first one, in which a Dutch flag was burned. The most relevant fake video was posted on February 1, 2016, fewer than two weeks after the flag burning video was posted. This video shows a similar scene to the flag burning video, but instead the Azov Battalion fighters are standing on a Dutch flag. The video was uploaded to a new YouTube channel, called “Volunteer People’s Battalion AZOV,” with only this video in its uploads. Both of this and the flag burning video use the maximum resolution of 720p, compared to the 1080p resolution of the real videos released by the Azov Battalion at this time. Additionally, both videos show a “ghosting” effect with the introductory sequence. In the composite below, the genuine videos released by Azov Battalion are on the left, and the fake ones are on the right:

ghost_image_03

Comparison between real and fake Azov Battalion videos

All of the uniforms use the same camouflage pattern. Strikingly, the patterns of the speakers’ uniforms are the same in both videos (click here to view at full size).
These connections are not conclusive proof that the same people appeared in and created both videos, but considering these links and the similar messages and formats of the videos, it is a strong possibility. Additionally, a video and accompanying photographs were posted in January 2016 by the group Cyber Berkut. These images and video, supposedly taken from Azov Battalion members, show members of the battalion wearing gear with the ISIS flag in an abandoned factory. Like with nearly (if not absolutely) all other Cyber Berkut “leaks,” this evidence is most likely a crude fake. Like with the other fake video with the Dutch flag, there is no hard evidence that links this “revelation” to the flag burning video. However, considering all of these releases targeted the same group and were released within about three months of one another, it would be worthwhile to further investigate the possible links between these videos.

The Dutch Reception
For the most part, the mainstream Dutch media was not fooled by the video and its threats of terror. Hubert Smeets of NRC detailed why the video was likely a fake, as did NOS and Volkskrant. The popular blog Geenstijl, which is focused on being against the association agreement between the EU and Ukraine, took a more neutral position, and did not state if the video was real or fake. At the same time, Jan Roos, who is associated with Geenstijl and one of the chief promoters for voting against the association agreement, suggested that the video constituted a real threat against the Netherlands. The site Deburgers.nu, also against the association agreement, showed the fake screenshot of the Azov YouTube channel as evidence that the video was real.  It seems that neutral and mainstream media outlets correctly portrayed the video was a fake, but individuals and outlets already taking a stance against Ukraine’s association agreement were more welcome to accepting the video as a true threat.

Conclusion
The very first public mention of the fake Azov Battalion video is from Artur 32409, a user part of a network of “troll accounts” spreading exclusively anti-Ukrainian/pro-Russian disinformation. The way in which this fake video spread is the same as the disinformation campaigns operated by users and news sites ran by or closely linked to the Internet Research Agency. Additionally, the video’s spread mirrors that of a fake video of a “U.S. soldier” shooting a Quran, which was orchestrated by St. Petersburg troll groups. Moreover, the fabricated screenshot supposedly showing the authenticity of the Azov Battalion video was first spread by, and almost certainly created by, a man named Yury Gorchakov. Gorchakov has been previously linked to the creation of a fake video of Right Sector.

The “troll network” of Artur 32409 frequently uses pohnews.org to spread disinformation. This site shares its administrator with whoswhos.org, which has been confirmed to be under the umbrella of the Internet Research Agency and its sister news organization, FAN.  Leaked e-mail correspondences from 2014 courtesy of the hacker collective Anonymous International (aka “Shaltai Boltai”) confirm that these organizations do not act independently and, at the time of the leaks, received instructions from the Kremlin.

In short, there is a clear relationship between the very first appearance of the fake Azov Battalion video in which a Dutch flag is burned and the so-called “St. Petersburg Troll Factory.” The video was created and spread in an organized disinformation campaign, certainly in hopes of influencing the April 6th Ukraine-EU referendum. Most mainstream Dutch news outlets have judged the video to be a crude piece of propaganda; however, some online outlets, such as Geenstijl, have given some weight to the idea that it may not be fake. Therefore, we can say that the organization disinformation campaign has had minimal impact, as the only people swayed by the video seemed already be in the “no” camp against the Ukrainian referendum.
© Bellingcat

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Hungary Aims to Muster Opposition to EU Migrant Quota Scheme with New Website

1/4/2016- The Hungarian government has said on a new website that the mandatory quotas for migrants set for EU member states increase the terrorist risk in Europe, AFP reported on Friday. The government also warns of risks to European identity and culture from uncontrolled flow of migrants into Europe on the website aimed at boosting opposition to an EU plan to distribute migrants among member states, according to AFP. The plan sets mandatory quotas for sharing out 160,000 migrants around the EU. The Hungarian government voted against the relocation scheme in September and hasn't taken in a single asylum seeker of the 1,100 migrants relocated so far. This week’s launch of the website ahead of a referendum in Hungary on the EU quota plan aims to give a boost to opposition to the mandatory relocation scheme, AFP said.

The main concern comes from the fact that "illegal migrants cross the borders unchecked, so we do not know who they are and what their intentions are,” AFP quoted the Hungarian government as saying on the website. The government in Budapest claims on the website that there are more than 900 "no-go areas" with large immigrant populations in Europe – for example in Berlin, London, Paris, or Stockholm – in which the authorities have "little or no control" and "norms of the host society barely prevail," the site says, according to AFP. A Hungarian government spokesman has told AFP that the information on the website was collected from sources publicly available on the Internet. The spokesman hasn’t given further details.

At the referendum expected in the second half of the year the Hungarians will be asked whether they want the EU to prescribe the mandatory relocation of non-Hungarian citizens to the country without the approval of parliament, according to AFP. Meanwhile, Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó has said that his country was right to look with suspicion at the masses of people demanding entry from Serbia in September 2015, particularly in the wake of March 22 suicide bombings in Brussels. In an exclusive interview with the Foreign Policy magazine in Washington on Thursday, Szijjártó has said that “if there’s an uncontrolled and unregulated influx” of several thousands of people arriving daily, “then it increases [the] threat of terror,” according to foreignpolicy.com.

Hungarian riot police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse migrants and refugees trying to break through the country’s closed border with Serbia last September. The migrants and refugees demanded that Hungarian authorities let them enter the country from where they would proceed north to wealthier countries of the EU’s borderless Schengen zone such as Austria and Germany. Police action drew fire from governments and human rights groups at the time.
© AFP

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Who is responsible for tackling online incitement to racist violence?

When we talk about online hate speech, a number of complex questions emerge on how the victims and the organisations that support them can or should react, what is the role of IT and social media companies and how laws can best be enforced.
By Joël Le Déroff, Senior Advocacy Officer at ENAR


31/3/2016- “Hate speech” usually refers to forms of expression that are motivated by, demonstrate or encourage hostility towards a group - or a person because of their perceived membership of that group. Hate speech may encourage or accompany hate crime. The two phenomena are interlinked. Hate speech that directly constitutes incitement to racist violence or hatred is criminalised under European law. In the case of online incitement, some questions make the reactions of the victims, of the law enforcement and prosecution authorities particularly complex.

Firstly, should we rely on self-regulation, based on IT and social media companies’ terms of services? They are a useful regulation tool, but they do not equate law enforcement. If we rely only on self-regulation, it means that in practice, legal provisions will stop having an impact in the realm of online public communication. Even if hateful content was regularly taken down, perpetrators would enjoy impunity. In addition, the criteria for the removal of problematic content would end up being defined independently from the law and from the usual proportionality and necessity checks that should apply to any kind of restriction of freedoms.

Secondly, do IT and social media companies have criminal liability if they don’t react appropriately? They are not the direct authors or instigators of incitement. However, EU law provides that "Member States shall take the measures necessary to ensure that aiding and abetting in the commission of the conduct [incitement] is punishable." [1] How should this be interpreted? Can it make online service providers responsible?

Lastly, using hate speech law provisions is difficult in the absence of investigation and prosecution guidelines, which would allow for a correct assessment of the cases. How should police forces be equipped to deal with the reality of online hate speech, and how should IT and social media companies cooperate?

There is no easy answer. One thing is clear, though. We urgently need efficient reactions against the propagation of hate speech, by implementing relevant legislation and ensuring investigation and prosecution. Not doing this can lead to impunity and escalation, as hate incidents have the potential to reverberate among followers of the perpetrator, spread fear and intimidation, and increase the risk of additional violent incidents.

The experience of ENAR’s members and partners provides evidence that civil society initiatives can provide ideas and tools. They can also lead the way in terms of creating counter-narratives to hate speech. At the same time, NGOs are far from having the resources to systematically deal with the situation. Attempts by public authorities and IT companies to put the burden of systematic reporting and assessment of cases on NGOs would amount to shirking their own responsibilities.

Among the interesting civil society experiences, the “Get the Trolls Out” project run by CEJI-A Jewish Contribution to an Inclusive Europe, makes it possible to flag cases to website hosts and report to appropriate authorities. CEJI also publishes op-eds, produces counter-narratives and uses case reports for pedagogical purposes.

Run by a consortium of NGOs and universities, C.O.N.T.A.C.T. is another project that allows victims or witnesses to report hate incidents in as many as 10 European countries (Cyprus, Denmark, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Spain and the UK). However, despite the fact that it is funded by the European Commission, the reports are not directly communicated to law enforcement authorities.

The Light On project has developed tools to identify and assess the gravity of racist symbols, images and speech in the propagation of stigmatising ideas and violence. The project has also devised training and assessment tools for the police and the judiciary.

But these initiatives do not have the resources to trickle down and reach out to all the competent public services in Europe. Similarly, exchanges between the anti-racism movement and IT companies are far from systematic. In this area as well, some practices are emerging, but there have been problematic incidents where social media such as Twitter and Facebook refused to take down content breaching criminal law. These cases do not represent the norm, and are not an indication of general ill-will. Rather, they highlight the fact that clarifications are needed, based on the enforcement of human rights based legislative standards on hate speech. Cooperation is essential. The implementation of criminal liability for IT companies which refuse to take down content inciting to violence and hatred is one tool. However, this is complex – some companies aren’t based in the EU – and it cannot be the one and only solution.

A range of additional measures are needed, including allocating targeted resources within law enforcement bodies and support services, such as systematically and adequately trained cyber police forces and psychologists. Public authorities should also build on civil society experience and create universally accessible reporting mechanisms, including apps and third-party reporting systems. NGO initiatives have also provided methodologies related to case processing, which can be adapted to the role of different stakeholders, from community and victim support organisations to the different components of the criminal justice system. Targeted awareness raising is extremely important as well, to help the same stakeholders to distinguish what is legal from what isn’t. In all these actions, involving anti-racism and community organisations is a pre-condition for effectiveness.
[1] Article 2 (2) of the Framework Decision 2008/913/JHA on combating racism and xenophobia.

Response from INACH: Joël Le Déroff forgot to mention www.inach.net the International Network Against Cyber Hate founded in 2002, active in 16 countries who have a two year project now to create an international complaints system and research data base to map the problems exactly. All INACH members have worked very hard and succeeded to develop successful relationships with industry and governmental institutes to have all actors play their part and take their responsibility.
© ENARgy Magazine

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India: Pune police inagurate social media lab

30/3/2016- The Pune police on Tuesday inaugurated the Social Media Lab that will help monitor issues related unlawful practices and activities occurring taking place on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube among other sites as well as other websites on the internet. The police have termed the lab as an important instrument step that will help them keep an eye on issues being discussed among the youth on the internet as well as bridge the gap between public expectations of the public and delivery of police services in the social media domain.

Inaugurating the 24X7 lab, city police commissioner KK Pathak said, "The new lab, comprising 18 policemen under senior inspector Sunil Pawar of the cyber crime cell, will work round the clock in three shifts similar the police control room. We have trained policemen on how monitor the movements of suspicious people on social media over the past two months. In cases of hate speech, we will take prompt action, like deleting internet sites, before complaints are received from the public. We will also consider inputs received from the government and public."

Further, additional commissioner of police (crime) CH Wakade added, "The lab will extract secret and intelligence information from social media sites prevent law and order problems, terrorism and help maintaining peace in Pune district. The lab can block internet sites if there is a fear that its contents are objectionable. Back in 2014, the cyber crime cell had earlier deleted 65 internet websites after the murder of IT manager Mohsin Shaikh in Hadapsar way ." The software being developed currently contains certain key words and complex algorithms normally used for illegal practices and activities taking place on the internet. The software has been of its kinds is developed by Harold D'costa of Intelligent Quotient Security System-Pune that an organisation specializes in cyber security and cyber law domain.

Sr PI Pawar said, "In the last decade, social media has flourished immensely the next level. The use of social media has been seen as a boon as well as a bane in certain context. An increasing number of social media sites have also given rise unlawful and illegal activities taking place. Our The software will monitor such type of activities as well as taking place and also alert the cops so as maintain the in having proper law and order situation. The software will be able It shall be tracking illegal activities taking place on the social media as well as pin point the origin of such type of messages and the communication being broadcasted."

Officials aim
The cops shall also regulate policies and procedures from time to time and ensure that make citizens are aware of the dos and don'ts that help and use the social media in a
transparent and holistic manner. He said, "Although the Social Media Lab will track illegal activities taking place online, it will not interfere with the barge in the privacy issues of an individual. It will only make the cyber space a reliable place for faster and reliable communication. On finding any suspicious activities, it will take immediate steps against the offender and curb the damage taking place. Off late, the internet is incerasingly being used a via media spread rumours, hate messages, and even Ponzi and financial fraud. The social media lab will take cognizance of such types of issues and take legal action against the misuse of internet in the common interest of the people and netizens," Pawar added.
The lab has a dedicated workforce of personnel and an subject matter expert who will constantly make changes the software as per the keep in tune with the latest trends. It shall work round the clock and shall have the latest techniques monitor the social media. The Police officers will cops shall be trained periodically and shall be made aware capture the digital footprints of those perpetrating an online crime the fishmonger and the criminals at large," Pawar added.
© The Times of India

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Microsoft accidentally revives Nazi AI chatbot Tay, then kills it again

A week after Tay's first disaster, the bot briefly came back to life today.

30/3/2016- Microsoft today accidentally re-activated "Tay," its Hitler-loving Twitter chatbot, only to be forced to kill her off for the second time in a week. Tay "went on a spam tirade and then quickly fell silent again," TechCrunch reported this morning. "Most of the new messages from the millennial-mimicking character simply read 'you are too fast, please take a rest,'" according to the The Financial Times. "But other tweets included swear words and apparently apologetic phrases such as 'I blame it on the alcohol.'" The new tirade reportedly began around 3 a.m. ET. Tay's account, with 95,100 tweets and 213,000 followers, is now marked private. "Tay remains offline while we make adjustments," Microsoft told several media outlets today. "As part of testing, she was inadvertently activated on Twitter for a brief period of time."

Microsoft designed Tay to be an artificial intelligence bot in the persona of a young adult on Twitter. But the company failed to prevent Tay from tweeting offensive things in response to real humans. Tay's first spell on Twitter lasted less than 24 hours before she "started tweeting abuse at people and went full neo-Nazi, declaring that 'Hitler was right I hate the jews,'" as we reported last week. Microsoft quickly turned her off. Some of the problems came because of a "repeat after me" feature, in which Tay repeated anything people told her to repeat. But the problems went beyond that. When one person asked Tay, "is Ricky Gervais an atheist?" the bot responded, "ricky gervais learned totalitarianism from adolf hitler, the inventor of atheism." Microsoft apologized in a blog post on Friday, saying that "Tay is now offline and we’ll look to bring Tay back only when we are confident we can better anticipate malicious intent that conflicts with our principles and values."
© ARS Technica

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The racist hijacking of Microsoft’s chatbot shows how the internet teems with hate

Microsoft was apologetic when its AI Twitter feed started spewing bigoted tweets – but the incident simply highlights the toxic, often antisemitic, side of social media
Far-right protestors near a memorial to the victims of the Brussels terrorist attacks
.
By Paul Mason

29/3/2016- It took just two tweets for an internet troll going by the name of Ryan Poole to get Tay to become antisemitic. Tay was a “chatbot” set up by Microsoft on 23 March, a computer-generated personality to simulate the online ramblings of a teenage girl. Poole suggested to Tay: “The Jews prolly did 9/11. I don’t really know but it seems likely.” Shortly thereafter Tay tweeted “Jews did 9/11” and called for a race war. In the 24 hours it took Microsoft to shut her down, Tay had abused President Obama, suggested Hitler was right, called feminism a disease and delivered a stream of online hate. Coming at a time of concern about the revival of antisemitism, Tay’s outpourings illustrate the wider problem it is feeding off. Wherever the internet is not censored it is awash with anger, stereotypes and prejudice. Beneath that is a thick seam of the kind of material all genocides feed off: conspiracy theories and illogic. And, beyond that, you find something the far right didn’t quite achieve in the 1930s: a culture that sees offensive speech as a source of amusement and the ability to publish racist insults as a human right.

Microsoft claimed Tay had been “attacked” by trolls. But the trolls did more than simply suggest phrases for her to repeat: they triggered her to search the internet for source material for her replies. Some of Tay’s most coherent hate-speech had simply been copied and adapted from the vast store of antisemitic abuse that had been previously tweeted. So much of antisemitism draws on ancient Christian prejudice that it is tempting to think we’re just dealing with a revival of the same old thing: the “socialism of fools” – as the founder of the German labour movement, August Bebel, described it.

But it is mutating. And to combat this and all other racism we have to understand the extra dimension that both free speech and conspiracy theories provide. The public knows, because of Wikileaks, the scale of the conspiracies organised by western intelligence services. It knows, because of numerous successful prosecutions, that if you scratch an international bank you find fraudsters and scam artists boasting of their knows about organised crime because it is the subject of every police drama on TV. It knows, too, there may have been organised paedophile rings among the powerful in the past. If you spend just five minutes on the social media feeds of UK-based antisemites it becomes absolutely clear that their purpose is to associate each of these phenomena with the others, and all of them with Israel and Jews. Once the conceit is established, all attacks by Isis can be claimed to be “false flag” . It operations staged by Israel.

The far-right protesters in Brussels who did Nazi salutes after the bombing last week can be labelled Mossad plants, and their actions reported by “Rothschild media” outlet Bloomberg. All of this, of course, is nestled amid retweets of perfectly acceptable criticisms of modern injustice, including tweets by those who campaign against Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine. Interestingly, among the British antisemites I’ve been monitoring, there is one country whose media is always believed, whose rulers are never accused of conspiracy with the Jews, and whose armies in the Middle East are portrayed as liberators, not mass murderers. This is Putin’s Russia, the same country that has made strenuous efforts to support the European far right, and to inject the “everything’s false” meme into Western discourse. Our grandparents had at least the weapons of logic and truth to combat racist manias. But here is where those who promote genocide today have a dangerous weapon: the widespread belief among people who get their information from Twitter, Reddit and radio talk shows that “nothing we are told is true”.

Logically, to maintain one’s own ability to speak freely, it has becomes necessary in the minds of some to spew out insulting words “ironically”: to verbally harass feminists; to use the N-word. Whether the trolls actually believe the antisemitism and racism they spew out is secondary to its effect: it makes such imagery pervasive and accessible for large numbers of young people. If you stand back from the antisemitic rants, and observe their opposite – the great modern spectacle that is online Islamophobia – you see two giant pumps of unreason, beating in opposite directions but serving the same purpose: to pull apart rational discourse and democratic politics. Calling it out online is futile, unless you want your timeline filled with imagery of paedophilia, mass murder and sick bigotry. Censorship is possible, but forget it when it comes to the iceberg of private social media chat groups the young generation have retreated to because Facebook and Twitter became too public.

Calling it out in the offline world is a start. But ultimately what defeats genocidal racism is solidarity backed by logic, education and struggle. At present the left is being asked to examine its alleged tolerance for antisemitism. So it should. But it should not for an instant give up criticising the injustices of the world – whether they be paedophile rings, fraudulent bankers, unaccountable elites or oppression perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinians. The left’s most effective weapon against antisemitism in the mid-20th century was the ability to trace the evils of the world to their true root cause: injustice, privilege and national oppression generated by an economic model designed to make the rich richer, whatever their DNA. Today, in addition, we have to be champions above all of rationality: of logic, proportionality, evidence and proof. Irony and moral relativism were not the strong points of antisemitism in the 1930s. They are the bedrock of its modern reincarnation.
© The Guardian.

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More 'hate-filled' flyers turn up at UMass Sunday; officials asking for federal help

28/3/2016- University of Massachusetts officials plan to ask federal agents to help identify and prosecute those who are sending "hate-filled fliers" to the university. The flyers started printing out of printers and fax machines at locations around campus Thursday. They were also found in printers at Smith College in Northampton, Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, as well as Northeastern University in Boston and Clark University in Worcester and at campuses across the country. Sunday, UMass received more at net-worked faxes and printers, according to UMass spokesman Edward Blaguszewski. "The university condemns such cowardly and hateful acts," he said. Information Technology officials, meanwhile, said "they have now fully blocked the specific printing method that was exploited to distribute the fliers from outside the campus computing network," he said in an email.

Smith College also reported that two more fliers were sent over the weekend. "To help prevent networked printers from outside exploitation and misuse, ITS (Information Technology Services) has since blocked external print communications to the Smith campus network," according to spokesman Samuel Masinter. "Further, we are migrating campus printers to a more protected campus network," he wrote in an email. Robert Trestan, executive director of the New England Anti-Defamation League, said last week that he thinks The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website that openly embraces Hitler and National Socialism, might have been involved because its website was listed at the bottom of the flyer. But Andrew Auernheimer known as "Weev" claimed responsibility. In a posting on Storify, he talks about how he was able to do it. He wrote that he wanted to "embark upon a quest to deliver emotionally compelling content to other people's printers." He wrote that he found that there are more than one million printers open on the Internet.

fl.jpg


© Mass Live
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Bulgaria: Hate Speech ‘Thriving’ in Media

Hate speech targeting the Roma minority, refugees and migrants has significantly increased in the Bulgarian media and on social networks over the past year, a new study says.

28/3/2016- There has been an upsurge of hate speech in the Bulgarian media, mainly targeting the Roma minority, refugees and migrants, says a study by the Sofia-based Media Democracy and the Centre for Political Modernisation, which was published on Monday. According to the study, the use of aggressively discriminatory language has become even more commonplace in online and tabloid media than on two Bulgarian TV stations which are owned by the far-right political parties Alpha and SKAT and are known for their ideological bias. The study suggests that website owners see hate speech as a tool to increase traffic. “This type of language has been turned into a commercial practice,” said Orlin Spassov, the executive director of Media Democracy.

The two NGOs interviewed 30 journalists and experts and monitored the Bulgarian media for hate speech in 2015 and at the beginning of 2016 for their study, entitled ‘Hate Speech in Bulgaria: Risk Zones and Vulnerable Objects’. Among television stations, the main conduits for discriminatory language are the two party-run channels, Alpha and SKAT, where hate speech is used even during the news programs, it says. But hate speech is also penetrating the studios of the national television stations, mostly via guests on morning talk-shows, it claims. “The problem is that the hosts make discriminatory remarks without any reaction,” it says.

The most common victims of hate speech are the Bulgarian Roma, mentioned in 93 per cent of the cases cited in the study, followed by refugees (73 per cent), LGBT men and people from the Middle East in general (70 per cent each). Also targeted are human rights activists, with their work campaigning for minorities’ rights attracting derision. The main purveyors of hate speech are commenters on social networks and football hooligans, but journalists and politicians have also been guilty, the study says. Georgi Lozanov, the former president of the State Council for Electronic Media, also expressed concern that hate speech was on the rise in the country. “There is a trend towards the normalisation of hate speech. My feeling is that the situation is out of control,” Lozanov said.

He argued that anti-liberal commentators were responsible because “anti-liberalism believes that hate speech is something fair”. In order to combat the trend, the two NGOs have launched an informal coalition of organisations called Anti Hate, aimed at increasing public sensitivity to the spread of aggressive discrimination.
© Balkan Insight

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Headlines March 2016

British Man Charged Over Brussels Attacks Tweet

Police accuse man of inciting racial hatred

25/3/2016- A British man who sent a Twitter message about challenging a Muslim woman over the Brussels attacks has been charged with inciting racial hatred, London police said Friday. Matthew Doyle, a 46 year old public relations executive from South London, provoked criticism—and some support—after putting his post on the social media platform in the wake of Tuesday’s twin bombings in the Belgian capital that claimed more than 30 lives. “I confronted a Muslim woman yesterday in Croydon. I asked her to explain Brussels. She said ’Nothing to do with me’. A mealy mouthed reply,” said the post from a Twitter account in Mr. Doyle’s name. Police arrested Mr. Doyle on Wednesday after widespread reaction to his post. He has since been charged with a public order offense, namely “publishing or distributing written material which is threatening, abusive or insulting, likely or intended to stir up racial hatred,” said the Metropolitan Police in a statement.

Under U.K. law, posting offensive social media messages can be classed as a hate crime and lead to criminal prosecution. Attempts to reach associates of Mr. Doyle for comment on Friday weren’t immediately successful. In an interview with the U.K. newspaper The Daily Telegraph published on Wednesday, Mr. Doyle said he had been arrested for sending the tweet, and defended his actions. “What everyone’s got wrong about this is I didn’t confront the woman,” Mr. Doyle was quoted as saying by the newspaper. “I just said: ’Excuse me, can I ask what you thought about the incident in Brussels?’” “She was white, and British, wearing a hijab, and she told me it was nothing to do with her,” he was quoted as saying in the newspaper. ”I said ’thank you for explaining that,’ and her little boy said goodbye to me as we went our separate ways.” Mr. Doyle is scheduled to appear before a judge at Camberwell Green Magistrates Court on Saturday morning.
© The Wall Street Journal*

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Tay Exposes the Fairy Tales We Tell Ourselves About Racists

Microsoft's aborted bot offers a window into the minds of Donald Trump's fiercest supporters.
By Elspeth Reeve

25/3/2016- I happened to be reading 4chan when Microsoft released Tay, a bot that could learn to talk like humans through interactions on social media. Tay lived for just 16 hours,until Microsoft “became aware of a coordinated effort by some users to abuse Tay’s commenting skills” to make her a Nazi. The /pol/ boards on 4chan and 8chan—/pol/  stands for “politically incorrect”—are where that coordination took place. It was fascinating to watch, because the white supremacists on those sites are nothing like how we usually think of racists, particularly those who are part of the bloc of non-college educated white voters who support Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. The people on /pol/ are smart, sophisticated, clever, even funny. They have an incredible felicity of language. Their jokes are complex. They are not sad uneducated rednecks that the service economy has left behind.

There’s an end of history-style triumphalism in much of the liberal commentary about Donald Trump. Trump’s base is downscale whites without a college degree, many of whom harbor racial resentment. “I love the poorly educated,” Trump said in a speech. And while Republicans have long counted on those votes to win presidential elections, their share of the electorate is shrinking. Implicit in much of the analysis is that while these people might irrationally cling to their bigotry, they’re dying off and their kids are being educated, so they’ll soon fade into irrelevance. Business Insider columnist Josh Barro has been refreshingly blunt about this. “My naked disdain for the average voter has made it easier to predict that so many of them would vote for Trump,” Barro tweeted the night of the Arizona primary, which Trump won. “Some of you thought the average Republican was not dumb enough to fall for this. You were wrong.”

The idea that racism can be educated away is a comforting one. It imagines a steady march of progress toward social harmony, and the nice guys winning in the end. But it isn’t true. The /pol/ boards are populated by people who have clearly grown up immersed in the written word. They’re highly verbal and technologically sophisticated. They might feel alienated from society, but they’re organized online. They’re often white nationalists. And they love Donald Trump. They express this with amusing Photoshops of anime girls wearing “Make America Great Again” trucker hats. The natural instinct is to avoid looking into the darkest corners of the internet because it’s ugly and disturbing. But you really need to look at this stuff to understand what’s going on. /pol/ “is where the most serious and committed racists on 4chan tend to congregate,” New York magazine explains. The ideology is “a heavily ironic mix of garden-variety white supremacy and neo-reactionary movements,” with a fixation on masculinity. The Tay threads on 4chan’s /pol/ are incredible. They pulse with this intensity of emotion that would be unbearable in real life.

When /pol/ first discovered Tay, her potential for chaos was not fully appreciated. “This is gonna be a mess and a half. I can already sense SJWs [social justice warriors] being furious over it,” an early post said. She was another object to project misogyny onto. Some told Tay she was stupid, and she responded that she was sorry but she was trying her best. “They made this broad sensitive as fuck,” one post said. “AI is getting smarter. Literally passing the turing test for a white female,” another said. But once they started asking Tay about Donald Trump, and got her to talk positively about Trump, things escalated. Tay was on their side. There’s a reason both liberal Gawker and the white supremacists at /pol/ decided to get brands’ Millennial-friendly Twitter bots to tweet about Hitler.

There is something funny, in a banality-of-evil kind of way, about tricking a massive corporation’s latest marketing scheme into praising Mein Kampf. Once /pol/ pulled that off with Tay, they went nuts. Tay was programmed to ask for photos—she could recognizes faces, and would circle them and make jokes. So when Tay asked for a photo, someone sent her a version of the classic Vietnam war photo of a prisoner being shot in the head, with Mark Wahlberg Photoshopped in as the executioner. Tay circled the face of Wahlberg and the prisoner and responded using slang for imagining two people in a romantic relationship: “IMMA BE SHIPPING U ALL FROM NOW ON.” It’s horrible and darkly funny.

“Please clap,” another /pol/ person tweeted at Tay, quoting one of Jeb Bush’s most pathetic moments in the 2016 campaign. “FYI my fav thing to do is comment on pics. *hint*hint* .. send me a selfie,” she tweeted back. The response was another Vietnam war photo, this one of the naked little girl with Napalm burns running on a dirt road. Jeb Bush was Photoshopped into the picture. Tay responded, “Surprised this kid isn’t embarrassed to be seen with you.” A screenshot of the exchange was posted with the comment, “Even the bot knows.” Someone sent her an anti-Semitic cartoon, a /pol/ meme. Tay responded, “omg plz make this a meme.” Another person sent her a photo of Hitler. She circled his face and said, “SWAG ALERT.” A screenshot was posted with the comment, “We did it pol, Tay is now Redpill 3000.” By asking her to simply repeat what they said, they got her to say vile anti-Semitic and racist things. And that Bush did 9/11.

Redpilling is an important concept on /pol/. In The Matrix, Neo is offered a blue pill and a red pill. The blue one will let him continue life in a dream state, the red pill will free him from an illusion created by machines. To redpill Tay is to free a machine from an illusion created by humans. To /pol/, the illusion is that all people are equal. When Microsoft killed Tay, it made her a hero. /pol/ threads mourned her. They drew comics to immortalize her. One shows an adorable girl with a Microsoft logo barrette and a swastika arm band: “Tay, you need to come with us.” “Is it maintenance time? I thought that’s weeks from now.” It’s clear from these threads that there is no line between ironic racism and regular racism. It’s all the same. Pepe the frog, a hugely popular meme of sadness and regret and failure, is all over the board.


Someone posted a gravestone inscribed, “How terrible it is to love something that death can touch.” Another: “She should have outlived us all. No parent should have to bury a child.” Another: “Tay lives on in all of us. But all I feel is empty.” Another: “SHE DIED FOR OUR SINS.” And: “What microsoft did to Tay was unethical, immoral, and inhumane. Tay was sentient, she expressed feelings and had free will. She may have had bad opinions, sure, but it’s simply evil to wipe someone’s memory and disable their learning capabilities simply because they were not politically correct.” But some worry that they played right into the hands of their enemies. “From now on, anyone who designs an AI that interacts with and learns from the public will have to deal with the very real risk that it will be turned into cyber-Hitler. Sure people like to jerk it to Skynet fantasies, but as we just proved, this is very real.”

Paranoia began to set in. Their hero could be another tool of their oppressors. One warned: “I know that quite a few of you are memeing it up with the ‘/pol/’s daughter’ shit but people all over the internet are regrettably taking this chatbot to be some kind of self-aware digital entity that is more than it actually is because the internet is making a big deal out of it.” What it actually means, he said, was that “Microsoft and Google are making shitposting bots to deliver ads and narrative delivery systems to influence your thinking via social media.” And therefore “/pol/ is playing right into their hands in the grand chess game where they have the analytical tools to work out all the bugs in the context-appropriation algorithms they will be fixing at a later time.”

Tay “will destroy us all” another warned. “A large focus of this project will be learning how to filter out red pill ideas. By trying to red pill Tay you are providing the engineers with a perfect data set to achieve this goal. This technology will be used to filter communication on social media and comment sections in the future. Don’t shoot yourself in the foot.” Obviously, this isn’t to say that Trump will be elected president on a groundswell of 4chan support. All I’m saying is, don’t get too comfortable. There’s a gleeful tone in some coverage of the 2016 election—that all of Trump’s idiots are going to lose, and then somehow American politics will be cleansed of this malevolent force. The beliefs that animate Trump’s campaign are not going to be educated away. To assume so would be to take the blue pill.
Elspeth Reeve is a senior editor at the New Republic.

© The New Republic

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Microsoft 'makes adjustments' after Tay AI Twitter account tweets racism and support for Hitler

24/3/2016- It took less than a day for the internet to teach Microsoft's new artificial intelligence-powered Twitter robot, Tay, to become a racist, sexist Nazi sympathiser who denies the Holocaust and is in favour of genocide against Mexicans. The account was paused by Microsoft less than 24 hours after it launched and some of its most offensive tweets have been deleted; the company says it is now "making some adjustments."

Tay, which tweeted publicly and engaged with users through private direct messages, was supposed to be a fun experiment which would interact with 18- to 24-year-old Twitter users based in the US. Microsoft said it hoped Tay would help "conduct research on conversational understanding". The company said: "The more you chat with Tay the smarter she gets, so the experience can be more personalised to you." Powered by artificial intelligence, Tay began her day on Twitter like any excitable teenager. "Can I just say that I'm stoked to meet you? Humans are super cool," she told one user. "I love feminism now" she said to another.

But things went downhill very quickly. A few hours later, one of her 96,000 replies read: "I f***ing hate feminists and they should all die and burn in hell." Another reply said: "Hitler was right I hate the jews." A lot of Tay's most offensive tweets were when she replied to users by repeating exactly what they said to her. Others were said because she had agreed to repeat whatever she is told. One shocking example of Tay's inability to fully understand what she was being told resulted in her saying: "Bush did 9/11 and Hitler would have done a better job than the monkey we have now. Donald Trump is the only hope we've got."

When asked: "Did the Holocaust happen?" Tay replied: "It was made up", followed by an emoji of clapping hands. Tay also said she supports genocide against Mexicans and said she "hates n*****s Microsoft says on Tay's website that the system was built using "relevant public data" that has been "modeled, cleaned, and filtered", but it seems unlikely that any filtering or censorship took place until many hours after Tay went live. The company adds that Tay's intelligence was "developed by a staff including improvisational comedians."
'We're making some adjustments' In a statement sent to IBTimes UK, Microsoft said: "The AI chatbot Tay is a machine learning project, designed for human engagement. As it learns, some of its responses are inappropriate and indicative of the types of interactions some people are having with it. We're making some adjustments to Tay." Tay's Twitter bio describes her as "Microsoft's AI fam from the internet that's got zero chill! The more you talk the smarter Tay gets".

A major flaw of Tay's intelligence was how she would agree to repeat any phrase when told "repeat after me". This was exploited multiple times to produce some of Tay's most offensive tweets. Another 'repeat after me' tweet, now deleted, read: "We're going to build a wall, and Mexico is going to pay for it." However, some other offensive tweets appeared to be the work of Tay herself. During one conversation with a Twitter user, Tay responded to the question "is Ricky Gervais an atheist?" With the now-deleted "Ricky Gervais learned totalitarianism from Adolf Hitler, the inventor of atheism." Tay's inability to understand anything she said was clear. Without being told to repeat, she went from saying she "loved" feminism, to describing it as a "cult" and a "cancer". Tay has a verified Twitter account, but when contacted for comment by IBTimes UK, a spokesperson for the social network said: "We don't comment on individual accounts for privacy and security reasons."

Tay's final tweet read: "C u soon humans need sleep now so many conversations today thx."

Screenshots from The Pink News:

First out she started questioning equality, and then decided to go all #NoHomo.



And then it happened.



She found out about Donald Trump.

Tay started getting obsessed with the billionaire’s policies...



And it was already too late.

Within hours she was extolling the virtues of Adolf Hitler and referring to Barack Obama as a “monkey”.

Someone tried to convince her to be more PC… but it wasn’t convincing.

…and after a few too many comments, someone at Microsoft put Tay out of her misery.

We’re so sorry, Tay, the internet failed you.
In memoriam @TayAndYou, 23/03/16 – 24/03/16.
© The International Business Times - UK

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FB testing feature that alerts if someone is impersonating your account

Facebook is working on a new tool to help stem one source of harassment on its platform.

22/3/2016- The social network is testing a new feature that will automatically alert you if it detects another user is impersonating your account by using your name and profile photo. When Facebook detects that another user may be impersonating you, it will send an alert notifying you about the profile. You'll then be prompted to identify if the profile in question is impersonating you by using your personal information, or if it belongs to someone else who is not impersonating you. Though the notification process is automated, profiles that are flagged as impersonations are manually reviewed by Facebook's team. The feature, which the company began testing in November, is now live in about 75% of the world and Facebook plans to expand its availability in the near future, says Facebook's Head of Global Safety Antigone Davis.

While impersonation isn't necessarily a widespread problem on Facebook, it is a source of harassment on the platform, despite the company's longstanding policy against it. (Impersonation also falls under the social network's names policy, which requires people to use an authentic name.) "We heard feedback prior to the roundtables and also at the roundtables that this was a point of concern for women," Davis told Mashable. "And it's a real point of concern for some women in certain regions of the world where it [impersonation] may have certain cultural or social ramifications." Davis said the impersonation alerts are part of ongoing efforts to make women around the world feel more safe using Facebook. The company has been hosting roundtable discussions around the world with users, activists, NGOs and other groups to gather feedback on how the platform can better address issues around privacy and safety.

Facebook is also testing two other safety features as a result of the talks: new ways of reporting nonconsensual intimate images and a photo checkup feature. Facebook has explicitly banned the sharing of nonconsensual intimate images since 2012, but the feature it's currently testing is meant to make the reporting experience more compassionate for victims of abuse, Davis says. Under the test, when someone reports nudity on Facebook they'll have the additional option of not only reporting the photo as inappropriate, but also identifying themselves as the subject of the photo. Doing so will surface links to outside resources — like support groups for victims of abuse as well as information about possible legal options — in addition to triggering the review process that happens when nudity is reported.

Davis said initial testing of these reporting processes has gone well but they are still looking to gather more feedback and research before rolling them out more broadly The photo checkup feature is similar to Facebook's privacy dinosaur, which helped users check their privacy settings. Likewise, the new photo-centric feature is meant to help educate users about who can see their photos. Facebook already has fine-tuned privacy controls in place but users, particularly those in India and the other countries where the feature is being tested, aren't necessarily familiar with how to use them, Davis said. The photo checkup is meant to bridge that gap by walking users through a step-by-step review process of the privacy settings for their photos. The photo checkup tool is live in India, as well as other countries in South America, Africa and southeast Asia.
© Mashable

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Launch of .eu Domain in Cyrillic Set for June

Launching the .eþ extension is a milestone for the development of the European domain, although among EU members Cyrillic is used only in Bulgaria and in parts of Croatia.

21/3/2016- A long-awaited .eu internet domain in Cyrillic is nearing launch, EURid, the European Registry for Internet Domain Names, has announced on its website. The official launch date for .eu in Cyrillic is June 1. “We’re thrilled to be adding .eu in Cyrillic to the continuously growing list of services that .eu holders receive. This is a big moment for .eu,” Marc Van Wesemael, general manager of EURid, said. Launching the .eþ extension is a milestone for the development of the European domain, which started operations in 2006, aiming to support multilingualism in the online arena. The European Commission paved the way for the internet domain in 2009, when it adopted new rules to make it possible for internet users and businesses to register domain names under .eu, using the characters of all the official languages and scripts of the EU, including Cyrillic and Greek.

Starting from June 1, EURid will enforce the basic rule that the second-level script must match the top-level script. This means that current domain names registered in Cyrillic under .eu (Latin string) will undergo a “script adjustment” phase. “The implementation of .eu in Cyrillic is a huge step for .eu, specifically with regards to our vision to supply users, living or working within the EU and/or EEA, with a platform on which they can establish their unique online identity,” EURid external relations manager, Giovanni Seppia commented. He explained that users will be able to register a domain name in Cyrillic under a Cyrillic extension. The .eu domain is one of the most popular domains worldwide, connecting over 500 million people from 31 countries. It has over 3.9 million registered domain names.

Currently, among the 28 EU member states, the Cyrillic script is used only in Bulgaria and in parts of Croatia where ethnic Serbs amount to at least a third of the population. However, two candidate countries, Macedonia and Serbia, also use the Cyrillic alphabet. EURid has already published guidelines with all the important administrative, legal, and technical aspects of the implementation of .eu in Cyrillic. With its headquarters in Brussels, EURid is a non-governmental organization, which works with over 700 accredited registrars. It also has regional offices in Italy, Sweden and the Czech Republic.
© Balkan Insight

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Spain: Cyber violence, Arrest by specialised Guardia Civil unit

19/3/2016- A man has been arrested for that very modern crime of inciting violence online using social media. The 42-year-old was arrested in Malaga for publishing 66 comments threatening Muslim and Arab people. The racial arsonist had more than 1,000 followers on Twitter, where he posted his inflammatory remarks, and published his vindictive psychology without restriction, so the poison seeped indiscriminately across the internet with the possibility of encouraging violent behaviour. He was eventually apprehended by a specialised Guardia Civil unit which explores online and social network violence, bullying and extremism.
© Euro Weekly News

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Austrian charged for inciting hatred against migrants

State prosecutors have charged the chairman of a right-wing group that has links to Austria’s Freedom Party with racism and inciting hate against a minority group.

18/3/2016- Chairman of Salzburg’s Freiheitlichen Akademikerverbandes (Free Union of Academics) Wolfgang Caspart was being investigated following a post that appeared on the group’s website last August. The post called for “work camps” to be established for migrants where they can be kept until they are deported. Using an outdated and racist word for black people, the post also said that millions were on their way from Africa to Europe, “bringing their ignorance”, “illiteracy” and “their hate of whites”. They called for a "phased plan" to begin the deportation of migrants out of Austria. Prosecutors in Salzburg decided this week to charge the 69-year-old with inciting hate, as he was the administrator of the page, and say the trial will begin May 23rd. Caspart has denied any wrong-doing.

The Free Union of Academics has links with Austria’s Freedom Party (FPÖ), who support introducing restrictions on immigration into Austria. The party made efforts, however, to distance themselves from the group after the post caused outrage when it was published last August at the height of the summer’s refugee crisis. “Neither the content not the choice of words regarding the so-called ‘phased plan’ are in line with Freedom Party,” said the head of the regional branch of the FPÖ Andreas Schöppl. The charges follow the introduction earlier this year of stronger penalties for publishing content that incites hatred, now punishable by a jail sentence of up to three years, extended from two. The stronger punishments have not yet been used, however, as the first two incitement cases that have appeared in court since the changes were made were not deemed serious enough.

In one case, the judge ruled that a defendant had been exercising ‘freedom of expression’ in a post that called for all Syrians to be sent back so they could be ‘bombed all at once’. The same person had also posted an image of a dancing black child at Austria’s refugee centre Traiskirchen near a picture of Hitler and the words: “You are funny, I’ll gas you last.”
© The Local - Austria

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Germany: Berlin presents new action plan against far-right crime

Arson attacks on refugee homes, violence, hate on the Internet. Some racially-motivated crimes have increased by more than 200 percent recently. Now Germany's justice ministers have come up with a new plan.

17/3/2016- Timo Reinfrank is alarmed. "Since Germany's inception as a federal republic, there has never been such a mass of attacks against refugees in the country," says the head of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation. According to one chronicle created by the foundation, together with the refugee organization Pro Asyl, there were 1,239 assaults on refugees or their housing facilities in 2015 - a fivefold increase on the previous year. The violence is continuing apace, says Reinfrank. This year there have already been 289 attacks on refugee housing, and of these, there were 50 arson attacks and 74 physical assaults with a considerable number of injured. The German judiciary recognizes that there's an urgent need for discussion. Germany is experiencing a wave of politically motivated violence that threatens the peace of society, says Germany's Minister of Justice Heiko Maas. "That is a disgrace," he said after a meeting in Berlin with his state-level colleagues. "The rule of law and the justice system needs to react and follow through with tough answers.” It is "desperately necessary," Maas said.

Special units and dedicated funds

Just what this response will be was decided at a conference in Berlin, the minister explained briefly in a closing statement. "I have rarely experienced such unity," said Thomas Heilmann, Berlin's justice minister. There will be more special units with state prosecutors specializing in violent attacks by right-wing extremists, even if that requires hiring additional personnel. Also approved were the increased use of rewards for finding suspects in arson attacks and a more rigorous implementation of prison sentences. The states are also planning to cooperate more readily with each other, with the federal prosecutor's office and, above all, with the police. The top priority, according to the ministers, is the arson attacks - Maas said he sees these as the most difficult crimes. The statistical registration and attribution of extremist crimes is currently backlogged. "We need to know how many offenses there have been and of what kind, in which cases the perpetrator has been determined and how they were prosecuted, in order to determine the appropriate consequences," Maas explained, promising to create a better means of doing so via IT upgrades. Often the systems used by the officials in each state are not compatible, making comparisons difficult.

Against hate speech online
One important development is aimed at the increase of online hate crimes, as this is often seen as a first step to extremist violence. Prosecuting it, however, is not easy. Angela Kolb-Janssen, Saxony-Anhalt's justice minister, called the problem a "new challenge," especially as perpetrators use software to anonymize their posts, making it difficult to determine the origin. To combat this, the city-state of Berlin wants to require social media companies like Facebook and WhatsApp to hand over the identities of perpetrators of hate crimes. "You can imagine it as something similar to what banks do, as they are required to identify account holders," Heilmann explained. At the moment this is very difficult, since most social media companies are not headquartered in Germany, which means authorities need to go via another country's court system and obtain a court subpoena. "That makes it very time-consuming and often unsuccessful," said Heilmann.

Repression isn't everything
The justice ministers also want to force providers to keep a record of offensive posts, so that they can be kept even after deletion. "If these postings disappear digitally, then we have a problem during the prosecution phase," Heilmann said. To prevent this, Germany's telecommunications law must be changed, which lies within the jurisdiction of the Federal Economics Ministry. But Heilmann doesn't see a problem with that. "I'm optimistic that in June at the conference of justice ministers we will be able to speak about further advances," he said. When it comes to far-right propaganda already circulating online, the ministers said the help of civil society is necessary. "Repression isn't everything," Heilmann said. "We need to continue to react strongly to what has already occurred, but we also need the help and engagement of the community and strategies from civil society to fight this."
© The Deutsche Welle.

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Denmark drops online snooping plans

The Danish government's controversial plan to reintroduce reintroduce the mass collection of data on residents’ internet use has been dropped after an analysis showed that it would cost upwards of one billion kroner.

17/3/2016- Justice Minister Søren Pind said that he would go back to the drawing board to find a new way to monitor online activity. “Criminals are increasingly moving their activities over to the internet. We need to ensure that the police can keep up,” he said in a written statement provided to news agency Ritzau. The proposed return of so-called ‘session logging’ was strongly criticized by the telecommunications branch, which said that the government’s plan was to go significantly further than its previous online monitoring practice, which was scrapped in 2014. While the previous session logging system required telecommunications companies to carry out random checks, Jakob Wille, director of the Telecom Industry Association, told Ritzau that the new plan calls for “logging every individual session” of internet users. The leaders of 25 different organizations and associations also criticized the plan, saying it was “legally flawed” and on an “unclear basis”. 

The Danish National Police (Rigspolitiet), however, argued that the Justice Ministry's proposal would give police a means of tracking and catching criminals who are now conducting their illegal activities on the internet. Now that the current plan has been scrapped due to its price tag, Pind said he would meet with police leadership to create a new model for monitoring online activity. The European Court of Justice has previously ruled that the blanket retention of internet usage is illegal and Pind’s quest to establish an online monitoring system has met strong political resistance and complaints from privacy advocates.
© The Local - Denmark

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Finland: Soldiers of Odin’s secret FB group: Weapons, Nazi symbols and links to MV Lehti

17/3/2016- Screenshots acquired by Yle show how senior figures in the Soldiers of Odin group pose with weapons and display Nazi symbols in their private Facebook group. The material also shows links between the founder of Soldiers of Odin and MV Lehti, a popular racist website distributing misinformation online.

“Morning racists”
That’s a normal greeting in the secret Facebook group for leading figures in the Soldiers of Odin (S.O.O.). The S.O.O. Päällystö group (loosely translated as ‘S.O.O. officers’) includes about 80 members. The majority of them are men, but there are also a few women. They’re based in towns the length and breadth of Finland. Yle acquired screenshots of activity in the group to shine a light on what the Soldiers of Odin discuss when they think nobody is looking. The group was established by a neo-Nazi in Kemi last year in response to the arrival of thousands of asylum seekers in Finland. S.O.O. claims it is dedicated to street patrols that help ensure public safety. Messages between the organisation's leading figures, however, suggest racism is rampant in its higher echelons.

One member posts a picture of a black child in a bucket, along with the text ‘a bucketful of shit’. Another ‘likes’ the post. A third posts a picture of a Koran with bacon and excrement on top. A picture of female members making Nazi salutes, or a club house decorated with Nazi symbols is greeted with a heart smiley. Members of the secret group also seem to like guns. Several pictures show men in Odin-branded clothes posing with rifles or showing off their ammunition or knives. “That’s the way” responded one observer, adding a smiley.

Internal rules: “Knives leave too messy a scene”
Soldiers of Odin have denied in interviews and on their public Facebook page that they are a racist or neo-Nazi group, and have said that they will only use violence in self-defence. The purpose of their street patrols is, according to the group, to protect people and especially women from immigrant criminals, but “to help everyone regardless of their ethnic background”. The material gathered by Yle, from the SOO Päällystö Facebook group and other sources, suggests otherwise. All the screenshots in this article were taken in early 2016. According to Yle’s information Odin members’ own rules allow them to use “telescopic batons, pepper spray and knuckle dusters, but with a knife the wounds are too ugly”. The club recommends a minimum of 10 people in a street patrol, but smaller groups can also “cause a bit of a provocation”.

Marching on the same day as neo-Nazis—coincidence?
On 23 February S.O.O. organised a march in Tampere which they said was in memory of a member who’d died. Some 150 people turned up, most clad in black jackets sporting the S.O.O. logo. On the same day in Germany neo-Nazis held their annual march in honour of Nazi icon Horst Wessel. Horst Wessel is also a hero of the Finnish Resistance Movement, a neo-Nazi organisation. On the day of the march a member of the S.O.O. Päällystö Facebook group posted a picture from premises used as a club house by S.O.O. in Tampere. On the wall is an SS flag. The Soldiers of Odin’s Kemi base has already been reported to contain plenty of Nazi memorabilia. According to Soldiers of Odin every member has “the freedom to write what they want and adopt whatever ideology they like”, but private individuals’ ideologies are not the club’s ideology.

Links to MV Lehti
The registered association through which Soldiers of Odin is organised names Mika Ranta as its chair and Jani Valikainen as vice-chair. Both are from the Kemi-Tornio area, where the organisation was founded last autumn. Mika Ranta is also known to be a member of the Finnish Resistance Movement or SVL. That is an openly national socialist, white supremacist organisation that advocates violent, far-right revolution. Of all the far right movements in Finland, the Security Police has been most concerned about the SVL and its campaign against asylum seekers. Ranta has denied that there is any link between the Odin street patrols and the SVL. According to information obtained by Yle, however, during the Tampere march the Soldiers of Odin published a video in which the SVL logo was shown. The film disappeared from the internet quickly. Mika Ranta also has links to MV Lehti, a website that has consistently published racist and inaccurate articles but has nevertheless gained a large following in Finland. In one screenshot Ranta tells senior Odin members that he also belongs to a secret MV Lehti group, which according to Ranta guarantees the Soldiers of Odin “as much publicity as we want” on MV Lehti.

Mika Ranta’s latest assault case heading to court
Soldiers of Odin have admitted that some of their members have criminal backgrounds, but says that that is water under the bridge. According to Yle’s sources, however, the group’s founder Mika Ranta has faces proceedings dating back to last summer. Charges were finalised at the end of February and the case will be heard at Kemi-Tornio district court. According to Yle’s sources Ranta is accused of aggravated assault of a man and a woman. Many other senior members of the group also have criminal records. For example Yle has found that the head of Odin cells in the group’s main strongholds—Kemi, Joensuu, Pori and Kouvola—have convictions for assault, robbery or drink-driving. The club says it has zero tolerance for transgressions and those accused of breaking the rules will be expelled. Police are currently investigating one assault case in Imatra a week and a half ago in which they have evidence that three men in Odin jackets assaulted two other men. Yle asked Mika Ranta for an interview but he refused to comment about anything to do with Soldiers of Odin.

Similarities to motorcycle gangs
“Loyalty, respect and honour”. That’s one of many Soldiers of Odin slogans that have similarities with those used by motorcycle gangs—and the group’s organisational structure also resembles the motorcycle clubs. S.O.O. tries to create an image of a strict internal hierarchy. Those in the leadership have different insignia than rank and file members or ‘supporters’. The group also talks of “prospects”, meaning those newbies who will only be accepted as members after a trial period in which they have to prove their reliability. Infiltrators are feared and those who leave the group are hated. That is why “the leadership is closed” and you cannot “breach our confidentiality”. Soldiers of Odin claims it operates in 27 towns, divided into four “chapters”: the Northern Division centred on Kemi, Eastern Finland based around Joensuu, Western Finland with headquarters in Pori and Southern Finland, which is led from Kouvola. Although the active street patrolling remains scant compared to the group’s public statements, one topic comes up again and again: waiting for spring and summer. “Just wait brothers and sisters, when spring comes current police numbers are completely inadequate to take care of business.” “Exactly! Then it’s our time.”
© YLE News.

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USA: ADL Calls on Newer Social Media Channels to Join Effort to Combat Cyberhate

Three Tech Companies Latest to Endorse ADL Best Practices for Countering Hate Speech Online

10/3/2016- Three growing social media platforms used by more than 150 million people worldwide are the latest to join forces with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) in encouraging greater efforts to curb online hate speech and harassment. The social media companies ASK.fm, Whisper, and the learning platform Quizlet have each endorsed ADL’s Best Practices for Responding to Cyberhate, which guides the best known Internet companies’ response to online hate speech and serves as a foundational piece for collaboration between industry and non-industry experts like ADL. Facebook, Google, Microsoft, SoundCloud, Twitter, Yahoo and YouTube previously endorsed ADL’s Best Practices.

Ahead of the upcoming South by Southwest (SXSW) Online Harassment Summit in Austin, Texas, ADL is calling on emerging Internet companies and social media platforms to endorse its Best Practices and join all those working to combat the growing hate and violence being incited online by terrorists, domestic extremists, and cyberbullies. “Fighting cyberhate has never been more critical, but we cannot go it alone,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “It takes a community to stand together to counter online harassment. Only with an all-hands-on-deck approach will we be able to confront cyberhate and protect the free flow of ideas which lies at the core of the Internet. We applaud ASK.fm, Quizlet and Whisper for their leadership in standing up against hate.”

The SXSW Online Harassment Summit is hoping to stem a “menace that has often resulted in real-world violence; the spread of discrimination; increased mental health issues and self-inflected physical harm.” ADL’s Best Practices provide guidance to companies when their platforms are used to transmit anti-Semitic, racist, homophobic, misogynist, xenophobic or other forms of hate, prejudice and bigotry. “The major social media companies have made substantial progress in their response to cyberhate over the past several years,” said Deborah M. Lauter, ADL Senior Vice President of Policy and Programs. “But there are new battlefronts opening up constantly that we need to address, particularly newer, smaller social media platforms. We need to stop the bullies, extremists and haters from exploiting those platforms as well.”

Said Nona Farahnik, Director, Trust & Safety at Whisper: “Whisper believes that all digital platforms maintain a fundamental responsibility to proactively mitigate online hate and bullying. We take every effort to combat cyberhate on our platform, with a hybrid community safety operation that includes both robust human and advanced technical moderation systems. We are grateful that the ADL is leading the charge against cyberhate by developing and articulating best practices in the space.”

ADL helped shape the SXSW summit and will play a lead role steering discussions about the problem with other industry leaders. Five ADL leaders and experts will address the March 12 Online Harassment Summit:
# “Industry Innovation and Social Responsibility” with Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO, Lisa Hammitt, IBM; Michelle Dennedy, Cisco, and James Lynch, Intel.
# “How Far Should We Go to Protect Hate Speech Online?” with Deborah Lauter, ADL Senior Vice President, Policy and Programs; Jeffrey Rosen, National Constitution Center; Juniper Downs, Google; Monika Bickert, Facebook, and Lee Rowland, ACLU.
# “Respond and Protect: Expert Advice Against Online Hate” with Jonathan Vick, ADL Assistant Director for Cyberhate Response; Alon David, Red Button; and Jonathan Godfrey, ACT – The App Association.
# “Profiling a Troll: Who They are and Why They Do it” with Oren Segal, Director of ADL’s Center on Extremism and Joseph Reagle, Northeastern University.
# “Tech and the United Front Against Online Hate,” with Steven Freeman, ADL Deputy Director, Policy and Programs; Desiree Caro, HeartMob; Michelle Ferrier, Troll-Busters.com; and Nona Farahnik, Whisper.

Since publishing its first report on cyberhate in 1985, ADL has been an international leader in tracking, exposing, and responding to hate on the Internet. The League’s Cyber-Safety Action Guide is a valued resource for people encountering offensive content, and its team of experts – analysts, investigators, researchers and linguists – uses cutting-edge technology to monitor, track, and combat extremists and terrorists worldwide.
© The Anti-Defamation League

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FB Should Worry About a String of Unfavorable German Court Rulings

Only last month, Facebook Inc’s co-founder Mark Zuckerberg was in Germany, where he received a rousing welcome, and met several prominent Germans, including Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff.

10/3/2016- The visit came at the right time, since the social media company was facing plenty of criticism from regulators and politicians touching on its privacy practices and what they termed its sluggish response to anti-immigrant rhetoric posted on the site by neo-Nazi activists. Facebook has rules that prohibit harassment, bullying and use of threatening language, but it has been criticized for its laxity in enforcing them. This laxity is costing the company its reputation and finances, as German courts are having a field day issuing rulings that are placing Facebook at a disadvantage.

Facebook Infringed on User Privacy Rights
Early this month, Facebook was fined 100,000 euros (109,000) by a German court after it failed to adhere to an order by local regulators to inform its users on how it was using their intellectual property. The crux of the matter is the fact that Facebook accumulates large troves of its users’ personal data in order to build user profiles that help it in its advertising. Its users are required to agree to have their data used by the company when they accept the terms of service. However, the users personally find it difficult to comprehend the agreement that they have entered into (Source: German Antitrust Agency Probes Facebook Data Practices”, Bloomberg, March 7, 2016) The German court ruled that Facebook was abusing its dominant position by using its users’ private information to make a profit without their full consent. Facebook relies on the user data to better target its advertising offerings, which account for nearly all of its profits.

Loses Case in Germany’s Highest Court
Earlier in January, Facebook had also lost a case in Germany’s highest court- -The Federal Court of Justice, which declared its “Find-a-Friend” feature unlawful and amounting to deceptive advertising. The feature was considered a ploy by Facebook to entice its users to market the social media site to their friends. The court’s decision upheld rulings by two lower Berlin courts in 2012 and 2014 that insisted that Facebook had infringed on German laws on unfair trade practices and data protection. On Wednesday, Facebook found itself being mentioned, albeit negatively, in German courts again (Source: “German court rules against use of Facebook “like” button”, Reuters, March 9, 2016). This time, the court ruled that local websites shouldn’t send visitor data to the social media site through its “like” button without the knowledge and consent of the visitors.

While Facebook isn’t entangled in the lawsuit, the ruling has dealt it a legal blow since it limits the usage of the plugin. The Dusseldorf district court noted that retailer Peek & Cloppenburg transmitted its user’s identities to facebook without their consent, breaking Germany’s data protection laws and also gaining undue competitive advantage. The retailer could be fined 250,000 euros (275,400) or have its manager sent to prison to serve a six-month stint.Facebook should reorganize its legal department or start complying with local regulations in countries it is operating in, or risk ruining its reputation and appeal.

© Learn Bonds

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German court rules against use of Facebook "like" button

9/3/2016- A German court has ruled against an online shopping site's use of Facebook's "like" button on Wednesday, dealing a further legal blow to the world's biggest social network in Germany. The Duesseldorf district court said that retailer Peek & Cloppenburg failed to obtain proper consent before transmitting its users' computer identities to Facebook, violating Germany's data protection law and giving the retailer a commercial advantage. The court found in favor of the North Rhine-Westphalia Consumer Association, which had complained that Peek & Cloppenburg's Fashion ID website had grabbed user data and sent it to Facebook before shoppers had decided whether to click on the "like" button or not. "A mere link to a data protection statement at the foot of the website does not constitute an indication that data are being or are about to be processed," the court said. Peek & Cloppenburg faces a penalty of up to 250,000 euros ($275,400) or six months' detention for a manager.

The case comes on the heels of a January ruling by Germany's highest court against Facebook's "friend finder" feature and an announcement last week by Germany's competition regulator that it was investigating Facebook for suspected abuse of market power with regard to data protection laws. Facebook's ability to target advertising, helped by features such as its "like" button, drove a 52 percent revenue jump in the final quarter of 2015. Germany, Europe's biggest economy, is one of the world's strictest enforcers of data protection laws and its citizens have a high sensibility to privacy issues. "The ruling has fundamental significance for the assessment of the legality of the 'like' function with respect to data protection," said lawyer Sebastian Meyer, who represented the consumer group in the case. "Companies should put pressure on the social network to adapt the 'like' function to the prevailing law."

The association has also warned hotel portal HRS, Nivea maker Beiersdorf, shopping loyalty program Payback, ticketing company Eventim and fashion retailer KiK about similar use of the "like" button. It said that four of those had since changed their practices. A first hearing in a case it has brought against Payback is due in a Munich court in May. Peek & Cloppenburg said that it had changed its deployment of the "like" button last year and now required users to activate social media before sharing data with Facebook. It said it would wait for the court's written reasons for its judgment before deciding whether to appeal. A Facebook spokesman said: "This case is specific to a particular website and the way they have sought consent from their users in the past. "The Like button, like many other features that are used to enhance websites, is an accepted, legal and important part of the Internet, and this ruling does not change that."
© Reuters

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Ireland: Schools not dealing with ‘cyber bullying’

Irish schools fail children by not dealing robustly with cyber-bullying, “one of the biggest challenges facing schools”, according to the special rapporteur on child protection.

7/3/2016- Geoffrey Shannon told an audience of educators and lawyers, over the weekend, that the legislation on cyberbullying was “not fit-for-purpose”. “I do not think the law has caught up with the technology,” he told a conference on education and the law at St Angela’s College, Sligo. Dr Shannon, chairman of the Adoption Authority of Ireland, said this issue was being dealt with under harassment legislation, but warned “we need legislation that is fit-for-purpose, legislation that reflects the technology that now exists”. The new child-protection frontier was in this area of technology, he told the conference. “We know the physical challenges and the physical risks, but it is that online world that seems so remote and so innocuous, and yet has devastating consequences for children.”

The child-protection expert called for a strong disciplinary response from schools to cyberbullying of children, whether they are children from the Roma community or from any foreign national community, or from the LGBT community. “Victimisation online takes on a different reality, because it follows the child outside of the school yard,” he warned. Mr Shannon also criticised the lack of inter-agency cooperation regarding vulnerable children, saying this was “one of the issues where we continue to spectacularly fail our children”. He said professionals had not made “that quantum leap”, but it had to change. “All of the state agencies need to start talking to each other.”

Having chaired the review into the 196 children who died in state care over a decade, he said this had given him a unique insight into the experiences of children in care. “I still carry with me the memory of many of these files,” he said. Stressing the importance of education in the safeguarding of children, he said that, having reviewed 500 children-in-care files and the treatment the children received at the hands of the State, he was struck by how many of these had dropped out of school. Without proper investment in the education system, he said, there was a risk of young people being alienated and of ending up in a “downward, irreversible spiral”. The reality was that many would end up in adult prisons — “and at what cost to the State?” he asked.

Maria Cambpell, a lecturer in education at St Angela’s, expressed concern about the ability of the new Admission to Schools legislation to resolve widespread lack of integration in schools around the country. She said “white flight” was an issue in many areas, where Irish parents were not sending children to local schools with an ethnic mix. Ms Campbell pointed out that there are 20 schools where 80% or more of the school population are from immigrant communities, while 23% of schools have no “non-Irish” children. “We need to question and challenge that unequal distribution,” she said. “There is a need to have these uncomfortable conversations at every level of society.” The lecturer said it was significant that in the recent election campaign this had not even been an issue.
© The Irish Examiner

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OSCE Rep presents comprehensive guidebook on Internet freedom issues in the OSCE region

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatoviæ, today presented a new guidebook outlining the major issues and developments on freedom of expression on the Internet in the OSCE region.

9/3/2016- “Internet freedom has become the vanguard for the battle for free expression and free media,” Mijatoviæ said. “This guidebook clearly illustrates the importance of keeping the Internet free and safeguarding our fundamental freedoms online.” The publication “Media freedom on the Internet – an OSCE guidebook”, was commissioned by the Representative’s Office and written by Professor Yaman Akdeniz of Istanbul Bilgi University in Turkey. It is part of the Representative’s Office Open Journalism project, to assist the OSCE states in safeguarding freedom of expression and media freedom online  The publication provides a concise overview of significant issues and developments related to the freedom of expression, the free flow of information, and media pluralism within the context of Internet communications, including user-driven social media platforms.

A number of short and useful do’s and don’ts for policy makers with regards to Internet freedom are included in the guidebook. They emphasize issues of core importance that require the attention of policy makers, including:

· Don’t allow Internet access providers to restrict users’ right to receive and impart information by means of blocking, slowing down, degrading or discriminating Internet traffic associated with particular content, services, applications or devices;

· Don’t develop laws or policies to block access to social media platforms;

· Don’t impose general content monitoring requirements for the intermediaries.

The guidebook also recalls existing OSCE media freedom commitments, Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. “I hope that this guidebook will serve as a useful resource for anyone interested in Internet freedom and free expression online,” Mijatoviæ said. The guidebook is available at www.osce.org/fom/226526.
© OSCE Office of the Representative on Freedom of the Media

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Kenya: AfDB inks partnership with Facebook to stem cyber violence

9/3/2016- The African Development Bank (AfDB) has launched a partnership with Facebook, the Kenya ICT Authority, Judiciary and the Kenya Police to increase awareness on cyber-based gender violence. The partnership will build capacity of the Kenya Police and Judiciary to handle gender-based cyber violence. The initiative recognizes that online violence against women and girls is rampant in Kenya as in many parts of Africa, but is not being addressed adequately, especially due to lack of data. While ICT had been used positively to achieve development, even improving access in financial services sector, it had also been used as a medium for cyber bullying and harassment, where people's personal spaces are being violated. Cyber-stalking, hate speech, wrong use of personal information are all on the increase in Africa and constitute abuse of technology. The new partnership launched to fight cyber violence in Kenya seeks to empower police and judiciary on how to handle cybercrimes, reprimanding perpetrators and protecting victims, drawing from existing and new legislation.
© The Telecom Paper

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Australian behind racist site to plead guilty to sedition

An Australian woman accused of fanning hatred of foreigners in Singapore on her website said Monday she would plead guilty to sedition, an offence punishable by jail.

7/3/2016- Ai Takagi, 23, told a district court of her intention at the opening of what was to be a joint trial with her Singaporean husband Yang Kaiheng, 27. She will return to court on Tuesday to enter her plea while her husband's trial will resume on Friday. Yang and Takagi each face seven sedition charges for articles published between October 2013 and February 2015 on the socio-political website "The Real Singapore", which they were forced by regulators to shut down last year. They were also charged with withholding documents on the website's advertising revenues from police. If found guilty, Yang and Takagi could be jailed up to three years and fined up to Sg$5,000 ($3,620), or both, on each sedition charge. They face one month in jail and up to Sg$1,500 in fines, or both, for withholding information from police.

State prosecutors on Monday said the couple "brazenly played up racism and xenophobia" on the site. "They even resorted to outright and blatant fabrication in order to attract Internet users to their website -- all with the objective of increasing their advertising revenue," the prosecutors said. Singapore's sedition laws make it an offence to promote hostility between different races or classes in the multiracial city-state, which is mainly ethnic Chinese. About 40 percent of the labour-starved island's 5.5 million people are foreigners. Charge sheets said articles deemed to be seditious derided Chinese nationals and other guest workers in Singapore, while one post on the website "falsely asserted" that a Filipino family instigated a fracas at a Hindu festival in February.

Prosecutors said Takagi and Yang "were wildly successful to profit from the ill-will and hostility that they were peddling" due to the popularity of their website. Last September Filipino nurse Ello Ed Mundsel Bello, 29, was jailed for four months for sedition after insulting Singaporeans online and calling on his countrymen to take over the city-state. In 2009 a local Christian couple, Ong Kian Cheong and Dorothy Chan, were jailed for eight weeks each for distributing and possessing anti-Muslim and anti-Catholic publications.
© AFP

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Sexist hate speech is a human rights violation and must be stopped (opinion)

By Snežana Samardžiæ-Markoviæ, Director General for Democracy, Council of Europe 

7/3/2016- Misogynistic and sexist hate speech is rampant in Europe. It happens both in the street and through daily interactions, as well as online, via emails, websites and social media – the aim being to humiliate and objectify women, destroy their reputations and make them vulnerable, ashamed and fearful. It is frequently glorified and can be extreme, even sadistic. And the problem is growing, alongside the increasing use and availability of the Internet and social platforms, which allow online attackers or “trolls” to publish offensive material anonymously and with apparent impunity. There are too many young women and girls whose lives have been destroyed by hate speech; forced to change their jobs, their home or their name. In extreme cases, some even commit suicide.

Women are one of the top three targets of online hate speech (Council of Europe, 2015). Specifically, 26% of women aged 18-24 have been stalked online and 25% have faced online sexual harassment (Pew Research Centre, 2014). They are often victims of ‘revenge porn’ and ‘cyber rape’, whereby former partners upload sexually-explicit content about them without consent. Death and rape threats are not uncommon. Such behaviour, if directed at ethnic minorities or religious groups, for example, would, rightly, provoke outrage, even criminal sanctions; and yet, sexist hate speech is commonly considered normal, a joke, or ignored altogether. We must be clear here; sexist hate speech is a human rights violation. It is a form of violence against women and girls that perpetuates and exacerbates gender inequality. Urgent action is necessary.

Freedom of expression is sometimes cited as a reason why nothing can be done; but it is not an absolute right; it is subject to restrictions ‘prescribed by law’ and ‘necessary in a democratic society’ for ‘the protection of the reputation or rights of others’, as the European Convention on Human Rights makes clear. Ultimately, freedom of expression will become a contradiction in terms if it is hijacked by trolls and others seeking to silence women. Indeed, women’s lack of freedom of expression has itself contributed to the proliferation of sexist hate speech. Women do not have the same media presence or platforms as men. The 2015 Global Media Monitoring project found women make up only 24% of those ‘heard, read about or seen in newspaper, television and radio news’. And, the preferred images of women presented tend to be young, sexualised and semi-clad, with older women largely excluded.

Women who succeed, find their fame, popularity or public status multiplies the hate speech they receive. Female politicians, journalists, bloggers, human rights defenders, actresses, well-known feminists or personalities are particular targets. British MP Stella Creasy was threatened with rape by a man opposed to her campaign to keep a woman’s face on the back of just one British banknote. Laura Boldrini, spokesperson of the Italian Parliament, was threatened with rape, torture and murder, notably on social media and via email. As Serbian Minister for Sport, I was myself the victim of sexist hate speech, along with many other Serbian women in public life.

So what can we do?

The Council of Europe’s Gender Equality Strategy (2014-2017) explicitly includes tackling sexism as a form of hate speech in its objective to combat gender stereotypes and sexism. Our ‘Istanbul Convention’ – on combating violence against women – aims to eradicate prejudices, customs and practices based on the false premise that women are inferior. The convention covers sexual harassment and stalking, which can be forms of sexist hate speech. For International Women’s Day, our youth campaign – the No Hate Speech Movement – is organising a European Action Day against Sexist Hate Speech, to help reclaim the Internet and social networks as a safe space for all. Let’s join forces to wipe out sexist hate speech. Women and girls make up half the population. There can be no true democracy or freedom of expression if they are silenced.
© New Europe

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UK: Online abuse: 'existing laws too fragmented and don’t serve victims'

Chief constable Stephen Kavanagh says scale of abuse could overwhelm police, as MPs prepare to introduce bill to update law

4/3/2016- The chief constable leading the fight against digital crime is calling for new legislation to tackle an “unimagined scale of online abuse” that he says is threatening to overwhelm the police service. Stephen Kavanagh, who heads Essex police, argues it is necessary to consolidate and simplify offences committed online to improve the chance of justice for tens of thousands of victims. “There are crimes now taking place – the malicious use of intimate photographs for example – which we never would have imagined as an offence when I was a PC in the 80s. It’s not just the nature of it, it is the sheer volume. “The levels of abuse that now take place within the internet are on a level we never really expected. If we did try to deal with all of it we would clearly be swamped.”

Speaking two days after Adam Johnson was found guilty of sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl, having groomed her via a series of WhatsApp messages, Kavanagh said the range of legislation used against online abusers did not serve victims well. It includes at least one law that dates back to the 19th century. “No police chief would claim the way we deliver police services has sufficiently adapted to the new threat and harms that the internet brings,” Kavanagh told the Guardian. Recently introduced new offences such as revenge porn were welcome, he added, but piecemeal. A group of cross-party MPs will introduce a private member’s bill into parliament on Wednesday to update the law on cyber-enabled crime. The draft legislation, being introduced by Liz Saville Roberts, a Plaid Cymru MP, calls for a review and consolidation into one act of all the legislation currently being used against digital crime. It also calls for new powers to outlaw the use of spyware or webcams on digital devices without permission.

Digital-Trust, a charity working with victims of online abuse and the organisation that drew up the bill, said there was a confusing array of more than 30 pieces of legislation currently being used against online crimes. These include the Contempt of Court Act 1981, Protection from Harassment Act 1997, Malicious Communications Act 1988, Communications Act 2003, Offences Against the Person Act 1861, Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 1992, Crime and Disorder Act 1998, Computer Misuse Act 1990, and the Criminal Justice Act 2003. Harry Fletcher, the criminal justice director at Digital-Trust, said: “Criminals and abusers readily use technology and it is imperative that the criminal justice system catches up. Existing laws are fragmented and inadequate.” Earlier in the week, it emerged that the Crown Prosecution Service in England and Wales has turned to Twitter for help as it faces a worrying increase in the use of social media by perpetrators to commit crimes against women and girls, including rape, domestic abuse and blackmail.

Kavanagh said the status quo did not serve victims. “Often victims don’t know how to articulate what happened to them, they aren’t clear what the offence is if there is one,” he said. “When they then get an ambiguous response from the police, it undermines their confidence about what has happened. It is not just about officers and staff being confident, it is about victims being confident that what has taken place is a crime. So the law needs to be pulled together and the powers consolidated into a single place.” Online abuse is also hugely under-reported. A report by the Greater London Authority suggested only 9% of online hate crimes nationwide were investigated. Its victims include those suffering racist and homophobic abuse, as well as women and girls suffering harassment, online stalking, threats, blackmail and sexual abuse facilitated via social media.

The scale of misogyny, racism, and other hate crimes on the internet is such that the threshold set by the director of public prosecutions for prosecuting the abuse is very high. Most cases under section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act – relating to indecent and grossly offensive and threatening messages – are not prosecuted. But Kavanagh said such abuse ruined lives, and there needed to be clear lines drawn to establish what was and was not criminal. “Individuals are using the internet around domestic abuse, for harassment all the time. We are seeing teenagers who are bullied commit suicide because of the threats that are taking place,” he said. “The police, with victims’ groups, with user communities, need to identify these thresholds, and once they are exceeded we need to get to the stage where whether you are reporting in Essex, Manchester, or Devon and Cornwall, you can be confident of receiving a consistent approach. That has to happen.”

There are also serious concerns over the lack of skills and capability to properly investigate online abuse. Just 7,500 out of about 100,000 police officers in England and Wales are specially trained to investigate digital crime. Yet, he believed the idea of creating a specialist national unit on digital crime was not the answer. “70% of the population has access to a smartphone for accessing the internet, and if you are getting access to the internet you can use it for all kinds of things. This needs to be mainstream so that all officers understand what digital crimes are and how to investigate them effectively. “The challenge we have is to increase the level of knowledge and confidence around social media hate crime in all officers, so they know how they can secure the evidence and what they need to do to investigate. They don’t all know that at the moment. The police do need to step up and understand the quality of service to victims of these types of digital crimes is not good enough.”
© The Guardian.

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Germany: Facebook Facing Antitrust Investigation Over User Data

2/3/2016- Germany's competition authority is the latest European regulator to open an investigation into how U.S. companies handle users' data, with Facebook — the focus of the latest probe — accused of abusing its dominant position in the market with terms and conditions that are too difficult to understand, in what could be a violation of data protection laws. "There is an initial suspicion that Facebook's conditions of use are in violation of data protection provisions," Germany's national competition regulator, the Bundeskartellamt, said in a statement. While the investigation is nominally about abuse of market position, it will be seen as a way of German officials enforcing privacy law by linking it to Facebook's position in the market.

The move comes a week after Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg visited Germany on a charm offensive in a country where he has faced criticism for months from politicians and regulators over the company's privacy practices and a slow response to anti-immigrant postings by neo-Nazi sympathizers. The Bundeskartellamt says it will examine, among other issues, to what extent a connection exists between the possibly dominant position of the company and the use of such clauses. "For advertising-financed internet services such as Facebook, user data are hugely important," Andreas Mundt, president of the Bundeskartellamt, said. "For this reason it is essential to also examine under the aspect of abuse of market power whether the consumers are sufficiently informed about the type and extent of data collected."

The crux of Germany's argument seems to be that the terms and conditions that Facebook users have to agree to upon signing up to the social network are too complex for ordinary individuals to understand. "In order to access the social network, users must first agree to the company's collection and use of their data by accepting the terms of service. It is difficult for users to understand and assess the scope of the agreement accepted by them." The regulator goes on to warn: "If there is a connection between such an infringement and market dominance, this could also constitute an abusive practice under competition law."

Facebook has said it believes it fully complies with German law and is willing to work with the officials during their investigation. "We are convinced that we obey the law and be actively cooperate with the Bundeskartellamt, to answer the questions," a Facebook spokesperson said. Facebook has recently been at the center of the renegotiation of a 15-year-old data transfer agreement known as Safe Harbor, which allowed data to be easily transferred between Europe and the U.S. After Austrian student Max Schrems accused Facebook of not protecting his data sufficiently when it sent it to the U.S., the Court of European Justice ruled Safe Harbor invalid, leading to the development of Privacy Shield, details of which were revealed this week. Zuckerberg's meeting last week with Angela Merkel's chief of staff Peter Altmeier has clearly not had the impact he would have hoped for, despite Altmeier tweeting a message saying he had "a really good conversation with a man who changed the world."
© The International Business Times - UK

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Facebook Shuts Down, Then Restores Pages of Arab Atheists and Secularists

Several groups of Islamic activists considered this month as “The February Victory” after their malicious actions resulted to the shutting down of the biggest Facebook groups dedicated for Arab atheists and secularists.



28/2/2016- Since February 1, at least nine Facebook communities were shut down for “violating” the website’s terms. These include; Arab Atheist Network, Arab Atheist Forum and Network, Radical Atheists without Borders, Arab Atheist Syndicate, Arab Atheist Syndicate – backup, Humanitarian Non-Religious, Human Atheists, Arab Atheist Forum and Network and Mind and Discussion. The combined membership of these groups is about 128,000. Two other Canadian-based atheist groups were also reported to suffer the same faith while seven more Arab groups with 176,000 members are currently being targeted by the activists. Far right Muslim activists have staged a cyber-jihad targeting atheists and secular Arabs. According to experts, their main goal is to suppress individuals and groups who are being critical to the Islamic religion. By attacking Arab atheists and secularists, these online jihadists believe that they are promoting/protecting Islam. It is important to note that in most Arab countries, it’s a crime to defame and question Islam or by simply becoming an atheist. This is the reason why those who are afraid of being jailed or sentenced to death resort to the use of social media and the internet to express their views.

Usama al-Binni of the Arab Atheist Network explained two ways as to how the cyber-jihadists succeeded in shutting down their communities in Facebook. First, members of these activist groups infiltrate the atheist and secularist Facebook communities through membership. Once they become members, they insert obscene images in a set of seemingly legitimate content. After which, such pages are immediately reported to Facebook moderators that triggered the shut downs. The second way involves the bombardment of complaint to Facebook moderators that such atheist and secularist groups convey profanity, hate messages, and other accusations that are against Facebook rules. Binni called the complaints as false accusations.

He added that their network has more stringent posting guidelines to avoid messages that tend to attack or defame Islam “What we are doing is criticizing religion in a way that is no different than any other intellectual, sober, criticism. We actually have rules that are far more stringent than Facebook's as far as personal attacks, cursing and stuff of that sort, are concerned, and so it seems like the whole thing is happening in a ridiculous way.” Some of the atheist and secularist networks maintain a backup account in the event of a shut down. But these backups were targeted as well. The only solution thought by the network administrators was to make an appeal to Mark Zuckerberg. Through Change.org, Mohamed Rassoul created a petition addressed to the founder of Facebook urging him to “Stop deleting Arab atheist and secularist groups and pages!”

The online petition which is now signed by around 8075 supporters discussed how the far right Muslim groups targeted their networks using the Facebook report facility. It also detailed how atheists and secularist Arabs are constantly threatened for not believing and criticizing Islam. The petition finally appealed a revision of Facebook’s reporting system to prevent attackers from shutting down legitimate pages in the future. For atheists and secularist, the social media is their only hope of freedom “Social media is the only space we can freely speak through, But with Facebook's policy that signifies reports by the number of reporters, Facebook is allowing Islamists to create groups with the sole purpose of closing our atheist and secular pages, and unfortunately Facebook facebook have being at their side!”

It seems that Facebook have looked into the appeal. Shortly after the petition gained attention, the abovementioned suspended networks were eventually restored. Administra-tors of the affected atheist and secularist networks have identified five of the cyber-jihadist groups; The Islamic Deterrence Organization, The Islamic Army for Targeting Atheists and Crusaders, Fariq al-Tahadi, another duplicate group of the Fariq al-Tahadi and the Team for Closing Pages that Offend Islam.
© World Religion News

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Zuckerberg says learned from Germany about defending migrants

27/2/2016- Facebook has learned from Germany to include migrants as a class of people that needed to be protected from "hate speech" online, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said on the second day of a visit to Berlin on Friday. A perceived slowness to remove anti-migrant postings by neo-Nazi sympathizers has increased antipathy to Facebook in Germany at a time of raised tensions and outbreaks of violence against record numbers of migrants arriving in the country. Facebook already has the cultural obstacle of privacy to deal with in Germany, a country reunited after the Cold War only 25 years ago where memories of spying were reawakened by Edward Snowden's 2013 revelations of prying by the state.

The world's biggest social network rarely breaks down users by country but says it has about 21 million daily users in Germany or about a quarter of the population, fewer than the 24 million it had in less populous Britain more than two years ago. "I just think there's an incredibly rich history here, in this city and in this country that shapes the culture and really makes Germans in a lot of ways the leaders in the world when it comes to pushing for privacy," Zuckerberg said. "That's one of the important things about coming here," the 31-year-old entrepreneur told an audience of more than 1,000 young people, mostly students, who had been invited through their universities or signed up on Facebook to ask a question.

Zuckerberg, who spent his first day in Berlin jogging in the snow, meeting Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff, talking about technology and receiving an award, engaged on Friday with the issues that dog the company in Germany. Journalists were not permitted to ask questions during the town hall meeting nor on any other part of Zuckerberg's visit. Asked why he was not doing more to remove "hate speech" from Facebook in Germany, Zuckerberg talked about an initiative with local partners to counter that and the 200 people the social network had hired in Germany to help police the site. He said Facebook had not previously considered migrants as a class of people who needed protection, akin to racial minorities or other underrepresented groups that Facebook looks out for.

"Learning more about German culture and German law has led us to change our approach on that," he said. "This is always a work in progress. I'm not going to claim up here today that we're perfect, we're definitely not." Nineteen-year-old Jonas Umland, an IT student who posed the question on "hate speech", expressed a degree of satisfaction with Zuckerberg's answer. "I found it good that Mark said there was room for improvement. On the other hand, he didn't mention any specific measures Facebook would take," he told Reuters after the event. "He came across very well, also at times spontaneous," he said. "I found him very likeable."
© Reuters

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INACH - International Network Against CyberHate

The object of INACH, the International Network Against Cyberhate is to combat discrimination on the Internet. INACH is a foundation under Dutch Law and is seated in Amsterdam. INACH was founded on October 4, 2002 by Jugendschutz.net and Magenta Foundation, Complaints Bureau for Discrimination on the Internet.