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Netherlands: Eight fined for discriminatory comments on the Support the PVV Facebookpage

8/10/2015- Eight people who left discriminatory and inflammatory statements on a Facebook page set up to support the anti-Islam PVV have been fined between €350 and €450. The public prosecution department said if they do not pay, they will have to appear in court. The department began a criminal investigation into statements left on the site in January. The comments were made after the page published an article from the Telegraaf newspaper about the firebombing of mosques in Sweden. A number of Moroccan organisations made formal complaints against the page for threatening behaviour and incitement to discrimination and hatred.

A ninth person was not fined. He lost his job after his employer discovered his involvement in the site and has been punished enough, the public prosecution department said. The page Steun de PVV (support the PVV) has some 26,000 ‘friends’. In a reaction to the fines, the page organiser stated: ‘The eight comments were of course unacceptable but we will not let ourselves be silenced any more.’
© The Dutch News


Tool or Weapon? Addressing Cyberhate in the Classroom

7/10/2015- One of the most newsworthy incidents this summer was the tragic murder of nine African American parishioners in Charleston, South Carolina. The suspect in the crime, 21-year-old Dylann Storm Roof, is a white man who was known to be heavily influenced by online white supremacist hate speech, most notably from the Council of Conservative Citizens, a group that now functions primarily as an Internet clearinghouse for racial fear-mongering "news" stories. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Konner Sauve, an 18-year-old high school senior, made headlines in June when he revealed that he was behind the yearlong anonymous posting of 650 photos and kind messages to other students at East Valley High in Yakima, Washington. Sauve said, "I wanted to focus on the better aspects of people. To shed a positive light on each individual, make them feel appreciated, and to know that someone cares." The Instagram account, @thebenevolentone3, has 14.3K followers. As a society, are we more surprised by a Dylann Roof or a Konner Sauve?

The Downside of Social Media
Modern technology, the internet, and mobile communication have quite literally rocked our world and changed it forever. Through online communication, we can buy anything we want, meet and connect with people across the globe, exchange ideas in a polite or heated tone, learn things small and large, and express ourselves in countless ways. Unfortunately, this global communications technology also has become a place for people to communicate and spread hate, vitriolic language, and bigotry. We define online hate speech, or cyberhate, as the use of electronic communications technology to spread bigoted or hateful messages or information about people based on their actual (or perceived) race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or other similar characteristic. Cyberhate has become a growing concern in our society, especially for young people because of their active engagement in the electronic world.

Cyberhate can take various forms, including the web sites and communication forums in which Dylann Roof participated. It includes the vicious and organized rape and death threats toward women who spoke out against sexism in the gaming industry (commonly referred to #GamerGate). It also includes attacking individuals based on their appearance, racist tweets ranging from sports to the Miss America Pageant, anti-Semitism expressed on Facebook, and hateful comments written in response to news articles. It is difficult to quantify the extent of cyberhate and its change over time; however, there seems to be agreement among experts (PDF) that the problem is increasing in magnitude.

5 Strategies to Fight Cyberhate
What can educators do to help young people address cyberhate? The first step is to educate students about cyberhate by defining it and analyzing how it reflects and perpetuates bias and discrimination prevalent in our society. At the same time, it's important to be mindful not to direct students to hateful websites for "research." Instead, provide screen shots and articles about the cyberhate.

Educators can talk with students about the following strategies for responding to cyberhate, and provide the skills needed to make it happen:
1. Don’t support or reinforce the hate.
One of the most important and easiest tactics is not to support the haters. Help students resist the temptation to respond, applaud, "like," or share. By refusing to join in, they send an important message that bigotry, hatred, and intolerance are not acceptable.

2. Report cyberhate.
Many internet companies and social networking sites acknowledge that counterspeech -- using our voices -- is the most powerful tool in fighting hate online. Most have cyberhate policies with direct links for registering a complaint when free speech has crossed the line into hate speech. Help students learn how to report cyberhate.

3. Support the targets.
Whether the targets are individuals or groups, and whether you know them or not, encourage students to reach out and let these targets know that someone cares about them. Or, as Konner Sauve did, design a project in class where students add to or create their own online support forums or individual posts on Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram in support of someone who is a target of cyberhate. The best response to bad speech is good speech, and that's true online as well as in person. Encourage young people to address online hate speech by organizing or participating in counterspeech. They can write an encouraging comment, ask others to do the same, or use social media platforms to support the person.

4. Speak out against hate.
In response to messages of bigotry and hate, students can convey their thoughts by writing a comment in disagreement, making a video, writing a blog, or using social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter to condemn hate online. In this way, they amplify the message that it is unacceptable. Assign this as a group project or infuse it in other parts of your curriculum.

5. Engage in activism.
In the face of cyberhate, many individuals and groups are fighting back with organized efforts to confront the bias. Last year, Honey Maid created a "This Is Wholesome" commercial which included diverse families (two dads, an interracial family, and a family heavily tattooed). The ad immediately sparked negative and hateful backlash from individuals and organizations. In response, Honey Maid released another video titled "Love" which received positive messages -- ten times as many as the original hateful ones. Encourage students to join groups or campaigns already underway, or engage in counterspeech as a class by taking on an activism project of the students' choosing.
© Edutopia


Fighting Cyberhate (portrait of Jonathan Vick -ADL- )

5/10/2015- What do you do when you see someone spewing hate on the internet, or a You Tube video that is all about hate? Do you turn the other cheek and move to another page, or do you report them and where do you report them? The world these days is filled with terror and hate and with the internet, it seems it is easier to spread those messages than ever before, so what can be done about them? This is where Jonathan Vick, who fights cyberhate on a daily basis, knows exactly what to do with those messages of hate and terror and we were pleased to be able to speak to such a real person who is a real inspiration.

Jonathan Vick
Jonathan Vick is an Assistant Director for Cyberhate Response at the Cyber Safety Center in the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Center on Extremism in New York. Growing up in Long Island, his upbringing was eclectic and he didn’t experience much anti-semitism in his community. Jonathan didn’t think much of his Jewish upbringing until he met his wife, whose father was not only a Holocaust survivor, but also a Nazi hunter for the ADL. Although Jonathan’s entire career had been focused on the Internet since its inception in the mid 90’s, he never had a plan to be a cyberhate fighter with the ADL, until a job that involved civil rights and internet monitoring became available and he applied and got offered the position. That was 12 years ago.

Now, Jonathan Vick, has become an expert in tracking, exposing, and responding to hate on the Internet, as well as closely monitoring hate sites and the activities and beliefs promoted by extremists and terrorists. He has helped prepared an extensive toolkit for addressing cyberhate and he has brought together experts, academics, NGOs, and Internet industry leaders to evaluate current practices and to develop new strategies for responding to cyberhate on their sites.

Fighting Cyberhate
There are several ways that cyberhate is fought on the internet, but the first thing to remember is that cyberhate threats are non-denominational and non-spretrum related. Cyberhate can include: anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim bigotry, racism, homophobia, misogyny, xenophobia and other forms of online hate. It doesn’t matter if the online hate is directed toward a social community, national organization or national security, if it is hate speech, then it is considered cyberhate and should be reported, and the ADL has made it very easy to report, with a complaint mechanism form that is so detailed and easy to use, it even lets you drill down to the specific site you saw the cyberhate on.

After a complaint has come into the ADL on cyberhate, it is investigated for accuracy and then brought to the attention of the site owner. The site owner could be Amazon, Twitter or Tumbler. The ADL doesn’t ask the site owner to remove the material, but they are asked to research the material to see if they feel it is appropriate to what they are trying to portray. Because the ADL does not ask these companies to remove material, but rather to make these decisions on their own, they have developed very strong relationships and channels of communications on what is appropriate and what hate speech is and what needs to be done with these large internet giants. So, when an issue is brought to them, the companies usually respond quickly.

The cyberhate team also has several sites that they monitor daily and they often are bouncing material out to law enforcement and arrests have been made in the past. The difference between what they can do and what police can do is that they can give the police the cause that is needed to make the arrest before a terrorist threat can be carried out. The goal is to interrupt patterns of deceit and narrative. The ADL cyberhate team is also the largest trainer for law enforcement agencies when it comes to hate speech and crimes. They train them on bias crimes, activities of extremist groups, hate crimes and all about online activities.

The bottom line….
Say something. If you see something, say something. You can’t gauge the magnitude of a problem if you don’t know if a problem exists. That’s the starting point. It’s all about empowerment. These companies need to know what’s on their sites, and then they have a right to determine what they have on their sites, but they also have to be actionable for it. So, it all starts with reporting it, even if you aren’t sure, report it.

J-Vibe wants to thank Jonathan Vick for taking time out of his very busy schedule for speaking with us about this very important issue. We are a no place for hate site, and we believe in the power of real people, real inspiration and real Houston. We believe that we can change minds and hearts and we believe that by having this knowledge it is power.
© J-Vibe


Facebook and online abuse

Facebook has agreed to join an international social media task force to help combat online hate in the wake of anti-refugee xenophobia on its pages.

4/10/2015- It took some persuading, but Facebook has agreed to join an international social media task force to help combat online hate in the wake of anti-refugee xenophobia on its pages. It’s a good outcome for the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and her Justice Minister, Heiko Maas, who last week called on Facebook to remove racist comments in line with German law. This came after users complained that Facebook was not responding to their reports of racist abuse and threats. It’s also a relative win for the tech giant, which recently boasted about one billion active users in a day and has a market value of US$245 billion. Facebook is keen to avoid any new legislative limits on its operations and to minimise direct censorship. The company said it preferred to allow “robust” debate and discussion, rather than deletion. But Germany has now joined the Israeli, French and Australian governments in asking Facebook to remove dangerous, offensive or illegal content. So the pressure is mounting for it to develop more open and responsive ways of dealing with these problems.

To ban or not to ban
The escalating debate about who Facebook should protect, ban or report to local authorities, and how fast it should intervene, is a reaction to the way social media companies are carving out their own transnational, libertarian policies. To a large extent, this imposes a US free speech paradigm on countries used to more interven-tionist media regimes, even though the legal limits of that paradigm are being thoroughly tested by hate speech. Facebook would much rather we police the pages and posts we make and read, rather than it having to regulate other people’s bad behaviour. Safety, it says, is “a conversation and a shared responsibility”. Users are advised to keep themselves safe by hiding or deleting offensive comments and blocking abusers.

Where content does breach local laws but not its community standards Facebook says “we may make it unavailable only in the relevant country or territory”. But neither strategy stops hate posting, they just reduce its social visibility. Another way the free speech push plays out is with Facebook’s policy on public figures. Its community standards say the company will act on complaints of harassment and direct threats against private individuals, but it allows more critical discussion of public figures. The company’s definition of a public figure is worryingly broad: We permit open and critical discussion of people who are featured in the news or have a large public audience based on their profession or chosen activities. This would include academics, journalists and community spokespeople.

The presumption seems to be that people who enter public debate should expect abuse, or that they are better equipped to deal with it than average users. This premise is demolished by the suicide of Australian celebrity Charlotte Dawson who was the focus of much abuse on social media. Facebook’s standard partly explains why it didn’t immediately act on explicit, sexualised threats made recently against journalist Clementine Ford, after she visually sledged Sunrise, posting a selfie that included some explicit language written on her bare chest. Ford claims moderators moved to temporarily close her account because she had breached the community standards. Facebook denies this. As the company is not publicly accountable for the policing of its standards, we do not have a clear account of what actually happened.

Regulating alone or together?
Ford’s experience, and that of UNSW after its site was hacked twice recently, illustrate the problems that Facebook has in managing and accounting for its procedures for tackling online violence. Facebook’s infographic shows how complicated the workflow is for responding to a complaint. There’s frustration among those Facebook business partners who find they can’t get a quick resolution to reports of anti-social or illegal activities. The ABC struggled for several months to get vigilante sites taken down after presenter Jill Meagher’s murder. There’s no doubt that Facebook is investing in research, policy and education measures to combat online violence. Its psycho-social strategies, suicide prevention tools and other safety measures demonstrate this. But promoting self-protection is a small part of a larger equation. Facebook needs more open, collaborative approaches to tackle violence online.

At the recent SWARM 2015 conference of Australian online community managers, conference co-founder Venessa Paech noted that Facebook had yet to formally consult members of its network about the efficacy of its universal standards. She said the community managers were keen to give feedback about the challenges of applying these standards across very different types of communities, many of which are built on Facebook groups or its commenting platform. As one of the world’s largest digital intermediaries, Facebook is at the vanguard of a new industry sector that is confronted by violent online behaviour every day. So while the company is rightly wedded to the free and open credo of internet communication, it has to recognise that collaborative policy development – with governments and professionals – is paramount. It’s the principle of working with all your stakeholders, rather than on behalf of them, and it’s vital to our mutual investment in social media.

© My Broad Band

Fighting ISIS Online

The Islamic State is an Internet phenomenon as much as a military one. Counteracting it will require better tactics on the battlefield of social media.
By David Talbot

30/9/2015- The two men pecked out messages on opposite sides of the country. “Yes the Islamic State was a fantasy in 2004, now look at it. The U.S. was a fantasy in 1776, now look at it,” the man in Virginia wrote in a Twitter direct message to an online friend in Oregon. The Virginian, who went by various Twitter handles, including one with “Jihadi” in it, had been obsessively watching slick online videos produced by the Islamic State, also known as ISIS: brutality and jihadist propaganda, much of it translated into English and other languages. Now he was talking about traveling to Syria and forming a militia in Virginia. “Washington beat an empire with 3 percent of the population. I can do it with 1 percent.”

His correspondent in Oregon was Paul Dietrich, a programmer and digital activist joining jihad-related Twitter conversations out of curiosity. Alarmed, he did what relatively few are doing: he tried to intervene with someone who was showing signs of being radicalized by ISIS’s social-media campaign. Dietrich heard the man’s grievances sympathetically, tried to talk common sense, and suggested he get psychological help. Then one night he called the Virginia man “stupid.” “How am I stupid?” he responded. “Let me count the ways. You are a jihadist, in America, who wants to start a militia, and you think you’ll win,” ­Dietrich wrote. “Stop. This. Madness. While. You. Can.” The Virginia man was, at least, talking. “I’ll think about it.”

Extremist groups have long used the Internet, and citizens have long left home to fight for their countries’ enemies. But ISIS stands apart in the way it’s mastered online propaganda and recruitment. Using 21st-century technology to promote a medieval ideology involving mass killings, torture, rape, enslavement, and destruction of antiquities, ISIS has been the prime mover among Islamist groups that have lured 25,000 foreigners to fight in Syria and Iraq, including 4,500 from Europe and North America, according to a U.S. government report released this week. “The ISIS social-media campaign is a fundamental game changer in terms of mobilizing people to an extremist cause,” says Amarnath ­Amarasingam, a researcher at the University of Waterloo who is co-directing a study of Western fighters in Syria. “You are seeing foreign fighters from 80 or 90 countries. In terms of numbers and diversity, it has been quite stunning.” As Google’s policy director, ­Victoria Grand, told a conference in Europe in June: “ISIS is having a viral moment on social media, and the countervailing viewpoints are nowhere near strong enough to oppose them.”

We need better ways of identifying the people most at risk of being persuaded by extremist messages and more reliable ways to communicate with them.
Indeed, the technological response to stanching the recruitment isn’t having much of an effect. Internet companies close accounts and delete gory videos; they share information with law enforcement. Government agencies tweet out countermessages and fund general outreach efforts in Muslim communities. Various NGOs train religious and community leaders in how to rebut ISIS messaging, and they create websites with peaceful interpretations of the Quran. But what’s missing is a widespread effort to establish one-on-one contact online with the people who are absorbing content from ISIS and other extremist groups and becoming radicalized.

Humera Khan, executive director of Muflehun (Arabic for “those who will be successful”), a Washington, D.C., think tank devoted to fighting Islamic extremism, says people like her and Dietrich who try such online interventions face daunting math. “The ones who are doing these engagements number only in the tens. That is not sufficient. Just looking at ISIS-supporting social-media accounts—those numbers are several orders of magnitude larger,” says Khan. “In terms of recruiting, ISIS is one of the loudest voices. Their message is sexy, and there is very little effective response out there. Most of the government response isn’t interactive. It’s a one-way broadcast, not a dialogue.”

Reversing the tide will require, among other things, much more of what Khan and Dietrich have done. What’s needed is better ways to identify the people most at risk of being persuaded by extremist messages and more reliable ways to communicate with them. As an example, a London think tank called the Institute for Strategic Dialogue recently piloted experiments in which it found people at risk of radicalization on Facebook and tried to steer 160 of them away. It was a small test, but it shows what a comprehensive peer-to-peer strategy against extremism could look like.

Distribution mechanisms
ISIS differs from previous radical Islamic movements. For one thing, it forged important alliances to capture territory. After merging al-Qaeda factions with elements of Saddam ­Hussein’s military and intelligence agencies, it seized two major cities, Raqqa in Syria and Mosul in Iraq—a region with more than six million inhabitants (at least before the latest mass migrations), substantial resources of oil, water, and wheat, and institutions such as universities. Al-Qaeda, in contrast, never controlled more than a few pockets of territory in such places as Somalia and Yemen. “Never before had a jihadist movement gained the kind of territory and wealth that might allow them to function like states and run public relations campaigns,” says Nico Prucha, a researcher at the University of Vienna and a fellow at the International Center for the Study of Radicalization at King’s College London.

Second, ISIS differs ideologically from other jihadist groups. A few days after ISIS grabbed Mosul in 2014, a stern-faced, black-robed man ascended stone steps in a mosque and claimed the grandest title of them all: “Caliph,” leader of all Muslims, successor to the Prophet Muhammad, with aims to unite Muslim lands into a caliphate much like the ones that rose and fell in the first millennium. The man was Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, ISIS’s leader. He had cleverly attached his extremist cause to a larger idea that resonates with many Muslims: the restoration of the caliphate.

“Really, you are dealing with a social movement in the true sense—it’s no longer just ‘a group’ that people are joining,” says Mubin Shaikh, a former extremist in Toronto. He has worked undercover for Canadian intelligence services on several investigations, one of which involved infiltrating the “Toronto 18,” a group of young Muslims charged with planning terror attacks in 2006. Today, he also advises U.S. counterterrorism agencies and tries to intervene online to stop young people in Toronto’s Muslim community—the largest in North America—from becoming radicalized.

“People will make analogies to fighters joining the Spanish Civil War,” Shaikh says. “While I understand the analogy, I don’t think it applies. This is really peculiar to the Muslim context. The Muslim world—especially the young Muslim world—has been psychologically primed for a long time to the idea of reëstablishing the caliphate. It’s this idea that Muslims are living under humiliation, and the only time we were not is when there was a caliph. It really is an idea of reclaiming lost glory.”

Third, ISIS emerged after important technological shifts. Think back to when terrorists made their first beheading video, in 2004. According to the CIA, this grainy and gruesome piece of media likely shows Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (the leader of al-­Qaeda’s branch in Iraq, which later morphed into ISIS’s predecessor) slaughtering Nick Berg, a radio entrepreneur from Pennsylvania. It was a laborious task to upload this file onto a jihadist Web forum. There was no YouTube or Twitter to allow instant sharing of videos or links to them. Facebook was still a dorm-room plaything. Few people had smartphones. Al-Qaeda used news organizations such as Al Jazeera to release its videos and statements. Today, however, affordable devices, fast networks, and abundant social-media accounts directly feed a spectacularly large potential audience of young people. A recent study found that the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims have a median age of 23.

The notional head of ISIS’s media operations is a 36-year-old Syrian named Abu Amr al-Shami, who had been the ISIS boss in Aleppo, according to the Soufan Group, a consultancy whose leaders include former U.S. and U.K. counterterrorism officials. The propaganda effort includes a slick online magazine called Dabiq. And there’s a division called Al Hayat Media, which targets Western audiences. It’s run by a German rapper formerly known as Deso Dogg who now calls himself Abu Talha al-Almani, according to the Middle East Media Research Institute. His oeuvre includes recruitment videos, called Mujatweets, in which you might see fighters handing out ice cream to children. But the larger social-media campaign is aided by sympathizers in the Middle East, North Africa, and elsewhere who produce their own content in multiple languages. This decentralized approach makes it hard to go after the people producing it. “They can do this anonymously from wherever they live,” says J. M. Berger, a nonresident fellow in the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at the Brookings Institution and coauthor of a paper called The ISIS Twitter Census.”

The propaganda consists of more than graphic videos; it adroitly addresses national, local, and tribal grievances. For example, on February 3, videos surfaced of ISIS soldiers forcing a captured Jordanian fighter pilot, Moaz al-Kasasbeh, into a metal cage—and then burning him to death. Western media reports focused on the deed’s barbarity, but the fire starts 18 minutes into the video. The bulk of it lays out a detailed argument for the act, making connections between President Obama and Jordanian leaders; between American-made armaments and Jordanian air strikes on ISIS; and between those air strikes and the dead and bloodied on the ground in Raqqa. Under the logic of “an eye for an eye,” ISIS had a justification for the fighter pilot’s execution, and the act had a clear political goal as well, ­Prucha explains. It was designed to drive a wedge between King Abdullah of Jordan, who is close to al-Kasasbeh’s uncle, and the many refugees from such airstrikes who are living in the country. For good measure, the text was translated into French, English, and Russian.

The propaganda put out by Dabiq, the ISIS magazine, includes articles geared to certain audience segments. Recruitment pitches for women, for instance, emphasize themes of sisterhood and belonging—and highlight the role of marriage and family in bolstering “Brand Caliphate,” as Sasha Havlicek, founder of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, puts it. As potential recruits are wooed, ISIS supporters engage them in one-on-one chats that are often steered to all-encrypted channels. In trying to understand why ISIS is so adept at all this, one comes back to a simple explanation. The people doing it grew up using the tools. “When you say ‘terrorist use of social media,’ it sounds ominous, but when you look at it as ‘youth use of social media,’ it becomes easier to understand,” says Khan. “Of course they are using social media! They are doing the same thing youth are doing everywhere.”

Scaling up
As he pulls up to meet me at the Toronto City Airport in his cluttered Dodge Caravan, Shaikh, with his gray-flecked pencil sideburns, looks like the 40-year-old, minivan-­driving father of five that he is. Two decades ago, however, he was a disaffected, hard-partying Toronto punk who latched onto Islamic extremism. So he understands ISIS’s target audience today. And like Dietrich and Khan, he sometimes tries to tackle the exhausting task of engaging online. At one point, to attract possible extremist followers, he created a Twitter username, “@CaliphateCop” (he later deleted it, but now the name is used by another Twitter user), and included a quote from the Quran in his profile. He would jump into Twitter conversations and soon engaged with many people professing support for extremist causes.

One was, Shaikh says, an al-Qaeda supporter in Syria. “How can you sleep at night knowing Muslims are in prison due to your snitching?” the Syrian wrote. Shaikh shot back: “How can U claim any sort of Islam and accept the random killing of civilians? Where the heck did U learn your religion?” “Allah Al Musta-an!!” (roughly equivalent to “Oh my God!”) came the reply. “Canada participated in the destruction of the Islamic emirate, they have no innocents for their crime.” Shaikh countered: “Really? Random people walking2work who hav zero attachment2 what govt does—they’re legit targets?” The Syrian had his rationalization ready: “Who was the first person in Islam to use the catapult? It was the prophet. And we both know the catapult doesn’t only hit enemy combatants.” Social-media research has shown that messages from friends and peers are more persuasive than general advertising. Other bodies of research show that youth at risk of falling into many kinds of trouble, from drugs to gangs, often benefit from even small interventions by parents, mentors, or peers.

But so far, major anti-ISIS programs don’t involve that kinds of outreach. For example, over the summer the British government launched a tweet campaign to broadcast government messages against ISIS. Some $188 million from U.S. government agencies funds anti-extremist projects and other ­community-engagement programs around the world, including one aimed at stanching recruitment inside prisons. And there are efforts to develop new social technologies. Affinis Labs, based in Arlington, Virginia, describes itself as a Y Combinator–­like incubator for Muslim-centric apps. One is “QuickFiqh,” in which youths ask 60-second questions about Islamic law and get 60-second answers from mainstream Islamic scholars, made to be easily shared on social media. But these efforts are aimed at Muslims more generally and don’t specifically target people showing signs of becoming radicalized.

Shaikh and others doing peer-to-peer work say they’re frustrated because they can’t know whether the people they talk to online are the ones most at risk or are too far gone and thus a waste of effort. They also want more evidence about what approaches and messages are most effective. So this year the Institute for Strategic Dialogue decided to develop a systematic peer-to-peer anti-extremism strategy. First the group recruited 10 former extremists (five from far-right groups, five from jihadist groups) to serve as “interveners.” Next, they used a Facebook feature called Graph Search to find people whose interests, pages liked, group memberships, and other indicators showed they were likely to be moving toward extremism. The interveners winnowed the list to 160 people and used a little-known “pay per message” feature (you can pay $1 to send a message to a stranger) to start a dialogue. The preliminary results showed that most recipients responded, a crucial first step. Some 60 percent started a “sustained engagement” when the initial overture was nonjudgmental and empathetic.

The study pointed, in a crude way, to what might be possible at a larger scale. “Social media has assisted extremist causes, but there are many ways for us to push back using the same tools,” says Ross Frenett, who led the study. “We just haven’t optimized that. We haven’t pursued that.” Today, ISIS still dominates in the online struggle. Young people continue to leave Western countries for the battle zone. But every now and then, there are small victories. Khan and Dietrich say the young man in Virginia is seeking mental health treatment. Though known to the FBI, he has not been charged with any crime. Having started down the path of radicalization, he may be on his way back because of a few people talking to him online, one on one.
David Talbot is senior writer at MIT Technology Review and a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University.
© MIT Technology Review


USA: Increased internet access led to a rise in racial hate crimes in the early 2000s

The incidence of racial hate crimes increased by 20 percent when a new broadband provider entered an area, according to new research from Carlson School of Management and NYU Stern

28/9/2015- New research from Carlson School of Management Professor Jason Chan and NYU Stern Professors Anindya Ghose and Robert Seamans finds that broadband availability increased the incidence of racial hate crimes committed by lone-wolf perpetrators in the United States during the period 2001-2008. The addition of a single broadband provider led to as much as a 20 percent rise in racial hate crimes in areas where racial tensions were especially high. Their study, the first of its kind to document the relationship between the Internet and hate crimes, sourced data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. According to FBI data, almost two-thirds of reported hate crimes arose from racial bias, making it by far the most typical form of bias-motivated crime in the U.S.

Using a large-scale data set from 2001-2008, the authors show:
@ An increase in the number of broadband providers led to an increase in racial hate crimes, particularly among lone-wolf perpetrators.
@ The addition of one broadband provider in every county in the U.S. would have caused 865 additional incidences of racially driven crimes on an annual basis.
@ Yet the Internet's impact on hate crime was not uniform and was predominantly present in areas with higher levels of racism, identified by the amount of racial segregation present and the proportion of racially charged search terms used.
@ Greater Internet access did not cause an increase in the formation of off-line hate groups. However, it may have enhanced the efficiency with which extremists could spread hate ideology and spur like-minded individuals to carry out lone-wolf attacks.

Furthermore, the authors consider the effectiveness of current Internet regulations and reflect on future policy implications. "Technologically driven solutions fall short in addressing an issue that is inherently social in nature," argues Professor Ghose. "Instead of engaging in a technological rat race with extremists, we should consider incorporating critical literacies - including digital media, anti-racism and social justice - into school curricula as an alternative strategy."  "The positive relationship between broadband providers and the number of hate crimes is mainly found in places that have high levels of racism," says Professor Chan. "The likely reason behind this is the Internet facilitates this specialization of interest. That is to say users will search out content online that is congruent to their beliefs or preferences and are not as likely to look up content that is counter to what they believe in."

The article, "The Internet and Racial Hate Crime: Offline Spillovers from Online Access," is forthcoming in MIS Quarterly. Visit YouTube to watch a video on the research and its implications.
© Eurek Alert


Twitter Reportedly Considering Axing Its 140-Character Limit

Anonymous sources say the company is building a product that lets users share more content than can fit into 140 characters

29/9/2015- Twitter is reportedly considering eliminated its trademark 140-character limit. Well, sort of. According to Re/Code, citing anonymous sources, the microblogging company is building a product (or perhaps feature?) that lets users share more content than can fit into 140 characters. Details are fuzzy, but it would let users publish longer-form text. The increasing popularity of “hacks” like OneShot, a mobile app that attaches screen shots of text as an image to a tweet has made it clear that there’s a demand for this. With that said, it is unlikely that whatever Twitter is plotting will be too detached from its flagship product. If anything, Twitter would do better to bake this into its current service and make it easily available to users, much like what it’s done with Cards (special tweet formats for content like video, music, news articles, etc.).

It would also be unlikely that the company is building a OneShot clone as it wouldn’t make the text easily indexable, something that is important for a service whose users produce an incredible number of tweets everyday. Twitter has already experimented in the past with ways to maximize the available characters in each tweet. In April, it added the “Retweet with comment” option to let users have the full 140 characters even when they want to reference another tweet, and began to automatically shorten the URL of web links to 22 characters to make more room. Re/Code notes that the company is reportedly also discussing further tweaks like this, such as removing user handles or links entirely from the character count.

Twitter dropped its 140-character limit on private messages in June, a move that spurred questions about the fate of the limit on tweets. But whatever form this tweet expansion takes, it’s not hard to see why the company is considering it. Its user growth has been flat for several quarters now, and, more importantly, it continues to struggle to explain to potential new users what it is. Removing the limit could be an easy way to convert folks who haven’t grasped why it’s there in the first place, or even just a desperate attempt to get new people to sign up. The company is also still on the hunt for a new CEO, with co-founder and current interim chief Jack Dorsey reportedly the frontrunner. He, Re/Code notes, is apparently in support of the character limit shift.

This article originally appeared on
© Time


While EU governments demur, refugees find a welcome on the Web

27/9/2015- With one million people expected to seek asylum in Europe this year and governments arguing over how to cope, thousands of volunteers are taking to the Internet to offer refugees shelter free of charge. In France, the Netherlands and other European countries, private individuals are proposing free lodging via Web-based platforms inspired by Airbnb, the home rental venture that has flourished with the rise of smartphones. Some fear private endeavors may complicate government efforts to direct the refugee flow, or simply prove too short-lived as the strains of sharing a home take their toll. "It's laudable symbolically but it's not the model favored by the state," said an official at the interior ministry of France, where arrivals are despatched to accommodation centers or state-paid hotel rooms.

But refugees, many of whom relied heavily on mobile phone maps and communications during their journey to Europe from Syria, Iraq or Africa, will find plenty of offers online. On one Irish website, more than 1,000 people "pledged a bed" for refugees within three hours. In Germany, "Refugees Welcome" offers a matching service to put people with lodgings in touch with refugees. One French venture, Singa, has registered 10,000 offers of free lodgings since it started up in June and now has 10 volunteers working full time to match refugees with hosts. "We're overwhelmed. We had no idea there would be such an enthusiastic response," said founder Nathanael Molle. So far, Singa has put 47 refugees in homes around Paris.

Civil servant Clara de Bort, 40, used to rent a spare room to paying tourists. Now she shares her home for free with Aicha, a woman who fled ethnic conflict and forced marriage in Chad and who has been through 14 different state-funded accommodation centers and hotels since she arrived two years ago. Aicha, 25, recently equipped with a book to help her learn French, hopes for a convivial living arrangement and eventual stability. "What I need now is to speak French properly, get a job and find a HLM (long-term social housing)," said the Arabic-speaker. She asked not to have her family name published. Dutch-based Refugee Hero, whose founders describe it as a "mobile-friendly website with similar functionality to Airbnb", says 50 refugees have made contact since it started a few days ago. It has yet to conclude a placement but already "we've got over a hundred listings from all over the world, from Portugal to Brazil, to Austria and the Netherlands," Ayoub Aouragh, one of three young co-founders, told Reuters.

Jurrien ten Brinke in the Dutch city of Apeldoorn aims to fill gaps in public housing and is linking up with non-governmental organizations to train volunteers to help refugees. More than 24,000 people have signed up to help and 6,000 of them are offering to house refugees if and when the authorities acknowledge they are stretched. Peter van der Weerd, an Apeldoorn volunteer, regularly hosts refugees for dinner at his home. "It's my duty to share something with them, not only food ... but to spend time with them," he said.  Yaman, a 24-year-old Syrian, arrived with his brother via Turkey, one of the main exit routes from the war in his homeland. "They told us they really liked us and want us to stay in Apeldoorn. They didn't treat us any differently than the people living here."

European Union governments this week adopted a plan to distribute 120,000 asylum-seekers across the 28-member bloc over two years, which, including a previous quota, takes to the number needing lodgings and assistance to 160,000. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development says however that a million people will request asylum this year and up to 450,000 of those will be eligible to stay in the EU. "You can't take a refugee into the home in the same way you take in someone for 48 hours when they are victims of flooding," said Pierre Henry, head of France Terre d'asile, one of the charities that deal with migrants. "It's a long-term welcome."
© Reuters


Merkel Confronts Facebook's Zuckerberg Over Policing Hate Posts

German Chancellor Angela Merkel confronted Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg on how his company is progressing in efforts to curtail racist posts, after her government complained the social network wasn’t doing enough to crack down on recent xenophobic outbursts

26/9/2015- Attending a luncheon on the sidelines of a United Nations development summit in New York on Saturday, Merkel and Zuckerberg were overheard on a live transmission broadcast on the UN website as participants took their seats. After Merkel briefly queried Zuckerberg about the hate-post affair, the Facebook CEO is heard responding that “we need to do some work” on the issue. “Are you working on this?” Merkel asked in English. “Yeah,” Zuckerberg responded, before the dialog was cut off by introductory remarks to those present. Earlier this month, Facebook said it would step up efforts to target racist content on its German website. The company said Sept. 14 it would join forces with a German Internet watchdog, a non-profit group called Voluntary Self-Monitoring of Multimedia Service Providers, to monitor suspected hate postings.

German authorities have been grappling with the country’s biggest refugee crisis since World War II, with as many as 1 million seeking refuge from war and poverty expected to enter the country this year. Even as many have rushed to welcome the newcomers, the surge has also spurred a spate of attacks on refugee centers and anti-foreigner sentiment. “We are committed to working closely with the German government on this important issue,” Debbie Frost, a spokeswoman for Menlo Park, California-based Facebook, said via e-mail. “We think the best solutions to dealing with people who make racist and xenophobic comments can be found when service providers, government and civil society all work together to address this common challenge.”
© Bloomberg


Russia: Apple could be in trouble for its same-sex emojis

Police officials in a region of Russia are investigating Apple on charges that the company is promoting “homosexual propaganda” with its emojis depicting same-sex couples and parents on iOS.

26/9/2015- Local police in Russia’s Kirov region opened their inquiry into the same-sex emojis after a lawyer complained that Apple was violating a 2013 law banning the promotion of homosexuality to minors, according to The Independent. If Apple were found guilty, it would face a fine of up to 1 million rubles, or about $15,260. A countrywide ban would be placed on Apple’s goods if the fine were to go unpaid. While this is the first word of police involvement, there has been grumbling about the emojis in question for a number of months now. In April, St. Petersburg representative Vitaly Milonov urged Russia’s consumer rights body to ban iOS 8 if Apple did not create an alternative version without the LGBT emojis or market them with advisory stickers. Milonov argued that Apple already does something similar for China. Last year, Milonov said Apple products should be banned in Russia because the company’s CEO, Tim Cook, is openly gay. Same-sex-couple emojis, which are part of the official Unicode Emoji Subcommittee-approved list, were introduced to Apple users in iOS 6. In iOS 8.3, Apple introduced emojis of families with same-sex parents.
© Digital Trends


Headlines September 2015

Australia: Charity takes aim at anti-Muslim sentiment on social media

A Melbourne-based charity has developed software to combat rising social media hate speech aimed at Muslims.

24/9/2015- Tackling the alarming rise in anti-Muslim abuse has become the focus of a progressive and determined Melbourne-based charity, the Online Hate Prevention Institute. It is urging all hate speech victims to report perpetrators through a recently launched online tool known as the Samih Project. The tool is aimed at making the process easier and more supportive. Examples of the anti-Muslim abuse are on the rise, but often victims are reluctant to come forward. Pakistan-born Greens Senator Dr Mehreen Faruqi decided to take a stand after being targeted by a troll. The exchange started in response to a message she posted on Twitter describing a peaceful winter evening in Queensland. "How beautiful is Brisbane River at night? Enjoying some quality time with my daughter," the tweet said. The response from Twitter user @wesi12 was prompt. "Before your husband blows it up,” the user tweeted.

Dr Faruqi said the message was confronting and deeply offensive. "It does feel pretty abusive to get messages like this which make you feel like you are not part of society - that you are not an Australian," said the mother-of-two, who emigrated to Australia in 1992, studied here and now serves in public office. Islamophobia on most social media platforms is on the rise, according to the founder of the Samih Project, Dr Andre Oboler. Dr Oboler believes it is largely driven by fears over unrest in the Middle East, the proliferation of the self-proclaimed Islamic State group, and the threat of terrorism. "You also end up with individual activists who send private messages to people [reading] 'I'm going to come slit your throat I'm going to slit the throat of your kids'," Dr Oboler said.

The charity offers a simple online process for victims to make reports, and also offers support. In some cases, the offending posts can be removed. Dr Oboler said the elaborate software was originally developed to tackle online anti-Semitism, and has now been modified to tackle a range of vilification, including anti-Muslim abuse. "Sadly it is as a result of the Holocaust that Jewish organisations have been very vigilant and have put in the time and resources and experts to tackle these problems,” he said. “We're bringing it to the broader community." He also believes social media companies like Facebook and Twitter should be held more accountable and subjected to litigation when serious cases cannot be resolved. "When there are assets available, the companies themselves will be under a lot more pressure to respect local law; and then in a country like Australia, where we believe hate-speech is unlawful, it won't happen," he said.

Dr Mehreen Faruqi said she will encourage others to take a similar stand, in an attempt to reduce hate speech. "I think what we need to do and what I did is to expose it," she said. "You can't let this level of toxicity poison our public debate and our multicultural society in Australia."
© SBS News


EU-US data sharing at risk

Future EU-US data sharing risks complications if the EU Court follows the opinion of Yves Bot, its attorney general, issued on Wednesday (23 September).

24/9/2015- He said the Safe Harbour treaty, a 15-year old accord on data transfers between EU firms and US companies, such as Google or Facebook, is “invalid”. He also said the European Commission has no power to prevent individual EU states from blocking data transfers to the US in order to protect their nationals’ privacy rights. The attorney general said Safe Harbour is defunct due to the mass snooping revelations of Edward Snowden, a US intelligence contractor. He said “the access enjoyed by the United States intelligence services to the transferred data constitutes an interference with the right to respect for private life” under parts of the EU treaty. He said EU nationals need judicial remedy in US courts if they believe their rights have been abused. He also said US security services hoover up EU nationals’ data “in a generalised manner, [concerning] all persons and all means of electronic communication, and all the data transferred (including the content of the commu-nications), [is used] without any differentiation, limitation, or exception”.

The EU Court case revolves around Max Schrems.
The 27-year old Austrian law student and privacy campaigner brought a case against Facebook in the Irish courts, which have jurisdiction on its EU activities. The Irish court then asked EU law chiefs to step in. The Yves Bot opinion is not binding, but the EU Court normally follows its attorney general’s advice, and the Irish courts are also likely to follow suit. “Yay! ... Safe Harbour is invalid”, Schrems Tweeted on Wednesday. He added that Ireland must now probe if Facebook gave his data to US intelligence. Facebook said in a statement: “We have repeatedly said that we do not provide ‘backdoor’ access to Facebook servers and data to intelligence agencies or governments”. For its part, the European Commission is due to file a proposal on an updated version of Safe Harbour in the coming weeks.

But Safe Harbour is just part of broader EU-US data regime talks. EU institutions are finalising a Data Protection Umbrella Agreement, part of which is to give EU nationals judicial redress in the US. They are in talks on an EU-US free trade pact, which has a digital market dimension. They are also finalising a treaty on sharing air passenger data for security reasons - the so called PNR agreement. Security aside, Bot’s opinion has caused alarm in the private sector. The Brussels-based digitial sector lobby, DigitalEurope, said in a statement that some 4,500 European companies need Safe Harbour “to transfer a wide range of commercial data such as payroll and customer data”. Wim Nauwelaerts, a partner at the Brussels-based law firm Hunton & Williams, told the Reuters news agency that Bot’s opinion casts a shadow on the other EU-US pacts. "If you question overall the validity of US law then what about these other legal mechanisms?,” he said.
© The EUobserver


Extremists in Bangladesh publish hit list of bloggers

Islamic extremists in Bangladesh appear to be taking their war on secular writers and bloggers beyond the South Asian country's borders.

24/9/2015- A hit list purporting to be from the militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team has been sent out threatening people in Europe and North America. "Let Bangladesh revoke the citizenship of these enemies of Islam," a statement accompanying the list says. "If not, we will hunt them down in whatever part of God's world we find them and kill them right there." The list contains nine people in the United Kingdom, eight in Germany, two in the United States, one in Canada and one in Sweden. CNN isn't reporting any of the names on the list.

'An unacceptable attack on freedom of expression'
The demand to revoke their Bangladeshi citizenship doesn't make sense in all the cases, as some of those mentioned don't have it. But the menacing language is deeply troubling in a year in which at least four bloggers have been hacked to death in Bangladesh after posting articles critical of Islam online. "This international threat to writers and bloggers is an unacceptable attack on freedom of expression," said Thomas Hughes, the executive director of Article 19, a group that defends bloggers' rights worldwide. "Such threats often have a chilling effect on expression, encouraging individuals and organizations to self-censor for fear of violent reprisal."

People on previous list attacked
Islamist militants in Bangladesh have posted a hit list of writers they view as opponents of Islam before -- and acted on it. Late last year, Reporters Without Borders said that a group calling itself Ansar al Islam Bangladesh published a list of writers it saw as opposing Islam. Months later, blogger Asif Mohiuddin, whose name was on the list, said that at least nine of those on it had been killed and many others attacked. Last month, police in Bangladesh arrested three suspected members of Ansarullah Bangla Team, one of them a British citizen, in connection with the killings of Avijit Roy and Anant Bijoy Das, two of the prominent bloggers attacked this year.

'One of the most active terror groups'
Dr. Ajit Kumar Singh, a research fellow at the South Asia Terror Portal in New Delhi, said last month that Ansarullah Bangla Team, more commonly known as Ansar Bangla, is a terrorist group that emerged recently. It is believed to be linked to al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, or AQIS, a branch of the international terrorist network that formed in recent years, he said. Ansar Bangla is "one of the most active terror groups in Bangladesh now," and has been officially banned by the govern-ment there, he added. "There is a battle going on in Bangladesh between fundamentalists and secularists," Singh said. "A blogger like Niloy Neel, the last one who was killed, was openly questioning fundamentalist thought. Organizations like Ansar Bangla wanted to shut him up -- and scare others into not talking." Imran Sarker, president of the Blogger and Online Activists' Network in Bangladesh, said the struggle between hardliners and free thinkers began in early 2013, "when the liberal bloggers got united and started a movement against radicalization of the society by the militant groups.

Four shocking killings
The brutal killings of the four bloggers this year have shocked many people in Bangladesh and beyond. In February, Roy, a Bangladesh-born American blogger, was killed with machetes and knives as he walked back from a book fair in Dhaka.A month later, Washiqur Rahman, 27, was savaged by two men with knives and meat cleavers just outside his house as he headed to work at a travel agency in the capital. Das, 32, was set upon with cleavers and machetes in May as he left his home on his way to work at a bank in northeastern Bangladesh. And less than two weeks ago, Neel was hacked to death in his Dhaka apartment. Activists have criticized the initial response from Bangladeshi authorities to the killings.
Opinion: Rule of law or not, bloggers are vulnerable


Czech Rep: Free wi-fi charity project helps homeless people in Prague

21/9/2015- People in Prague can connect to the Internet or recharge their phone or tablet battery in the street within the "live wi-fi network" project that employs a homeless man who should gradually be followed by others, weekly Tyden out Monday writes. The project is tested by the 56-year-old Radim who has been earning his living selling flowers at a metro (underground) station exit during the past five years. "A few people have made use of it, but it has not yet been widespread," Radim, wearing a T-shirt with an inscription reading "FREE WI-FI CHARITY," told Tyden. Radim may soon be followed by other people in a difficult life situation. "They will be equipped with a pocket router with a range of 20 metres," Lubos Bolecek, chairman of the WiFi 4 Life NGO chairman, said. "We want to pay for them [the people providing the free service] accommodation in a dormitory, clothing and food or give them some pocket money," Bolecek said.

The participating homeless people will have to be standing in a beforehand determined part of Prague, on Wenceslas Square or Old Town Square, for instance, for eight hours a day. The organising NGO hopes that its project will return order and regular working habits to its employees' lives, Tyden writes. It writes that sociologist Libor Prudky who has been participating in work on a concept of dealing with homelessness on Prague as well as national levels, said "every initiative that aims to help homeless people is good," but he added that he is sceptical about this particular project. He told Tyden that in working with the homeless, it is necessary to go more deeply and to help them seek ways out of their situation.   "It is work as any other," Radim, who has been homeless for 35 years, said.

He said for those who are in the street, every work or crown is good. "Who will employ me at my age and with arthrosis?" he asked. "Everything needs its time and homeless people would be interested in the project," Radim said. Bolecek said his organisation will not stop at the wi-fi project. "We will try to find them (the homeless) other jobs, depending on their education or previous work experience. We definitively do not want them to get stuck in our project for many years," he said. The NGO has for the time being been financing its project from its own pockets. It collects money within a crowdfunding project for its further activities, Tyden writes. The NGO is not the sole organisation trying to help homeless people. One of the well known is the charity organisation Nadeje (Hope). "In Prague alone, four to six thousands of people live in the street," sociologist Prudky said, adding that further tens of thousands of people are threatened with becoming homeless over accommodation debts or low incomes.

Prague has more than one million inhabitants.
© The Prague Daily Monitor


Germany/UK: T-shirt reading "WE KILL THE GYPSIES" for sale online by Zazzle

22/9/2015- At 15:12 CET today the Czech edition of news server reported that the German-language pages of the Zazzle online retailer were offering a T-shirt reading "GYPSY HUNTER BADGE - WE KILL THE GYPSIES". Zazzle is one of the biggest, must progressive firms in its field, offering customers the opportunity to create their own logos for placement on T-shirts or other items and then to sell their creations through the firm's online store. There are probably problems with controlling what turns up on the firm's website in terms of customer designs. News server sent questions to the media department of Zazzle about the T-shirt and their control process which have yet to be answered. Zazzle was established in 1999 and has won many awards. It has been invested in by John Doerr, a Google investor and member of a panel of independent experts who advises US President Barack Obama and by Ram Shriram, another Google investor and manager. At approximately 17:30 CET the T-shirt disappeared from the website. We do not know to what degree the questions sent to Zazzle by news server affected this because we have yet to receive a response from the retailer.
© Romea.


USA: Police looking for culprit of racist online school post

21/9/2015- Concerned about the well-being of students at Severn River Middle School, William Rowel wants to know why school officials didn't notify parents about a racist comment posted on the school's resource website. "I should know if there's a threat, a bomb threat or violence threatened, and that's an aspect of the post," said Rowel, a member of the Caucus of African American Leaders. County schools spokesman Bob Mosier said the school took the steps they believed were appropriate and responded to those who asked about the incident. The school system turned over information to appropriate agencies, including the police. He declined to comment on what other agencies received the information. "We dealt swiftly with this issue when it first arose in a matter of hours," Mosier said. "The fact that there was no schoolwide notification should no way be interpreted by anyone to mean that we do not take this issue seriously."

The school system is working with the Anne Arundel County Police Department to identify those responsible for those comments. County police are asking a judge to compel Internet companies to release information to identify the person or persons who posted the comments, according to spokesman Lt. Ryan Frashure. Last month, the school system shut down the Severn River Blackboard page after a parent alerted school officials to racist comments. School officials removed the content and blocked access to the page. Mosier said those responsible used a general user name and password to log in to the Blackboard website. While school staff members have individual log-in credentials, students and parents use the generic user name and password. It's unknown if students were involved.

Carl Snowden, an organizer at the Caucus of African American Leaders, posted a picture about a month ago of the now-blocked page on his Facebook page. The image featured a moon-like character and text that included the phrases "KKK fine," "white supremacy" and a racial epithet. The comments are lyrics to a song that's posted on YouTube labeled "Moonman — Notorious KKK (Rap Remix)." Frashure said the school system turned over information to the police because the department has experience using data from computers to obtain evidence. The Internet companies keep a "electronic footprint" of people who visited the Blackboard page, said Frashure. But he doesn't know when police will receive that information, he said. Frashure said he doesn't believe the comments pose a physical threat to the students.

Rowel's daughter, who goes to the Severn River Middle School, said students occassionally use racial slurs as a joke. Snowden, who also is a columnist for Capital Gazette, said the organization the organization met with State's Attorney Wes Adams and asked him to investigate the incident to determine if a hate crime was committed. Adams could not be reached for comment Monday.
© The Capital Gazette


USA: Neo-Nazi, radical feminist and violent jihadist - all at once

To some he was an Islamist extremist, to others a radical feminist, to others a neo-Nazi. These are all online identities that seem to have belonged to Joshua Goldberg - but in reality he was none of these things.

21/9/2015- They were simply online aliases used to whip up ideological hatred, with seemingly dangerous and even violent real-world consequences. In reality he lives in Florida, spent huge amounts of time online - and has now been arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). But if the allegations now being made against him are true, posing under these fake identities, he seems to have incited others to act abusively and in some cases, to take up arms. Among the alleged victims was Ben Garrison, an artist living in Montana. Around the time of the 2008 financial crisis he started drawing libertarian-themed political cartoons, lamenting what he saw as the rise of "big government." But he soon found that his work was attracting people he vehemently disagreed with - who seemed to be extremists and white supremacists.

"There was a page on Facebook using my photographs, and all my cartoons, but they were all vandalised with hate and anti-Semitism," he told BBC Trending radio. Fake accounts set up in Garrison's name posted racist messages, and his family was targeted as well. "When I went on there and saw what they were doing I was just abhorred." The lies about Garrison online spread out of control - a Google search of his name brings up pages of lies and misinformation, and his work as a commercial artist has dried up. The abuse led him to hire investigators from the Online Hate Prevention Institute who looked into the white supremacists spreading the hate against him online. And this is what they found: one of the key puppet masters who was rallying the extremists to bully Ben Garrison seemed to be a 20-year-old man living in his parents' house in Florida. His name was Joshua Goldberg.

Garland attacks
It seems Goldberg wasn't just posing as a racist neo-Nazi. Earlier this year an Australian journalist, Elise Potaka, discovered that someone was impersonating her, and one of her sources, online. Potaka enlisted the help of another journalist, Luke McMahon, and together they started chatting with Goldberg's online personalities. "It was immediately apparent to me that I was dealing with like a classic Internet troll, but one that was obviously quite sophisticated," McMahon says. "When I first started engaging with him… I thought I was dealing with a member of the far right. But as the conversation progressed and I worked out this wasn't about any kind of ideological crusade, but it was something much different."

One of Goldberg's alleged identities was called "Australi Witness" - a persona that claimed to be a supporter of the the so-called Islamic State, living in Australia. Improbably, "Australi Witness" also claimed to have worked for human rights organisations and to have links with liberal Muslim human rights activists. Australi Witness took online abuse even further than other aliases attributed to Goldberg, stoking up Islamic extremists and encouraging real-world violence. After two men were shot dead attacking a controversial "draw Muhammed" contest in Garland, Texas in May, it emerged that they had retweeted messages from the Australi Witness Twitter account. Goldberg hasn't been arrested or charged in connection with the attempted Garland attack, but the Australi Witness persona started to claim credit for it. And his statements started to get the attention of the FBI. Reality was about to descend.

'Socially isolated'
The footprint of these fake aliases is spread all over the internet. In late August, we here at the BBC Trending blog got an email from Australi Witness. "You might know me for inspiring the attack in Garland, Texas earlier this year," it read. "I would like you to know that, on September 11, a pressure cooker bomb is going to be detonated in a large Midwestern US city." The message contained ridiculous claims and unbelievable boasts - but was forwarded to the police regardless. It turned out that according to an affidavit filed by the FBI, Goldberg, posing as Australi Witness, had been making similar claims to an FBI informant posing as an Islamist militant - and going much further by providing the informant with detailed information about how to build a bomb. When he was arrested, the affidavit says, Goldberg admitted being behind the fake identity, but claimed he was hoping the Islamist militant he thought he was talking to would blow himself up in the process of building the bomb. Failing that, Goldberg told authorities, he would call police at the last minute, stop the attack, and be hailed as a hero.
© BBC Blog - Trending


UK: 'Refugees Welcome' supporters fight anti-migrant memes with satire

People have been making humorous memes starring some famous faces to make fun of the fake anti-refugee memes circulating online

18/9/2015- As fake and distorted images of refugees continue to circulate online, people have been making their own memes to demonstrate the “stupidity” of people believing everything they see. Viral images have wrongly claimed to show former Isis fighters arriving in Europe using the current crisis as cover, and asylum seekers attacking police with the flag of the so-called Islamic State. Right-wing groups across the continent have been making and spreading memes falsely purporting to picture migrants on steroids or “invading Europe”, using photos taken as far away as Australia and as long ago as 1991. But now social media users with a sense of humour are making their own versions, starring Sylvester Stallone, The Rock and Arnold Schwarzenegger, among other famous faces.

Meanwhile, Arnie is seen with a four-barrelled rocket launcher in the 1985 film Commando, with the caption: “Six months ago posing for Isis.” Members of the Refugees Welcome UK Facebook group were appreciating the humour, with one person writing that the satirical memes “summed up the stupidity of people who really do believe a photo on the internet must be true”. But even the comedy pictures seemed to fool some people. A picture claiming Ice Cube was an Isis fighter appeared to fool some members of far-right group the English Defence League (EDL) and Britain First after being shared using the logos of the two groups. It shows the rapper fishing in 2005 comedy Are We There Yet, with a photo of him holding a gun during his N.W.A days below. A caption, presumably written in jest, reads: “This Muslim convert Isis soldier is pictured here on a boat crossing from Syria into Greece on 23/08/2015.

“The second picture is the same Muslim convert Isis soldier pictures in a block of high rise flats in Balsall Heath, Birmingham on 13/0915. They’re here. Don’t say we didn't warn you! “Please Share To Help Stop This Happening!” Some people appeared to take the post seriously, with one man sharing it on Facebook writing : “This is a ‘refugee’ who is living in the UK now!!! #refugeesnotwelcome.”

As the debate continues, thousands of refugees seeking safety in the EU are attempting to divert through Croatia after Hungary closed its border with Serbia in an effort to keep asylum seekers out. The EU has called an emergency summit for next week in a fresh bid to urgently formulate a new strategy to tackle the crisis. This newspaper has started a campaign for the UK to welcome a fair share of refugees. Click here to sign The Independent's petition
© The Independent


Twitter racism epidemic fuelled by 6.7 MILLION slurs per day, study reveals

Mirror Online has been given exclusive access to research which poses serious questions about how technology is affecting the fabric of our multicultural society.

18/9/2015- Social media is in the grip of a worsening racism epidemic that threatens to impact on the future of race relations in real society, a jaw-dropping new study reveals. Mirror Online has been given exclusive access to research which demonstrates the horrifying extent of online racism and poses serious questions about how technology is affecting the fabric of our multicultural society. Among the findings revealed are the facts that:
@ There are more than 3 MILLION slurs per week on Twitter alone
@ There's been a 4,800% increase in racist tweets per day in the last two years
@ Racist terms are becoming endemic among the cultures they were once meant to offend
@ Experts fear social media could have a serious impact on race relations in the future

The study is conducted by the think tank Demos, which spent two weeks in September analysing every single racist tweet sent in the world, recording a massive 6,777,955 "slurs" during the course of the study. Researchers first performed a ground-breaking assessment of Twitter racism two years ago, when the top term of abuse was "whitey". But now Mirror Online can reveal the most popular race-related term is "nigga", which is commonly used by racists and non-bigots alike.

There has also been an increase in the sheer amount of abuse, which appears to be gaining a sort of respectability, with members of certain racial groups often using previously taboo terms to describe themselves. During the study two years ago, Demos recorded about 10,000 racist tweets a day, but that has now increased to 484,139 each day - an increase which appears to be largely driven by the surging popularity of the word "nigga". "Words which were previously being used to injure people have in many instances simply become part of the language for users on Twitter," said Josh Smith, an associate at the Demos Centre for the Analysis of Social Media. He said words which were once totally unacceptable are now being commonly used online, often in unexpected ways. "While in some cases these slurs are undoubtedly being used to injure or offend, their increased use over the last few years is likely to tell us more about the changing use and meaning of language," he continued.

Twitter allowed people to experiment with "taboo terms" away from the gaze of old-fashioned society, which can allow racists to spread their bile, but also allow groups to describe themselves using words which were once used to insult them. A Twitter search for the word "Paki", for instance, reveals young people using it to describe their own racial background, as well as a flurry of tweets from traditional bigots. One young girl, for instance, described herself as "your favourite Paki". The word "nigga" is often used quite differently from "nigger", with black people often using using the former in a friendly way and racists using the more traditional spelling to reflect some very backwards attitudes. We showed the figures to Fiyaz Mughal, head of Faith Matters and Tell Mama UK, which records cases of Islamophobia both online and in the real world. "Online racism is evident in the social media sphere and is quite open," he said.

"Sometimes, this is mixed in with anti-Asian, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim sentiment so people will be racially and religious bigoted in the same statement. "It seems that sitting behind a computer and being able to project a voice into cyberspace, makes people voice some of their deepest and darkest concerns and this is troubling given vulnerable young people out there who can believe such rhetoric." He said online racism could often fuel problems in society, suggesting the surge in hate speech which followed the murder of Lee Rigby prompted a "huge rise in anti-Muslim hate incidents and attacks" including assaults on mosques. "Some members of black and minority ethnic communities that we talk to say that it feels that decades of anti-racist work has fallen back and that terms being used were around in the 70’s and 80’s," he added. "This is extremely concerning and will have impacts for race and community relations in the future.

However, Demos had a more positive conclusion and suggested their research could indicate a sea change in the way society deals with racism. "By encouraging people to communicate in writing more frequently than ever before, with little or no censorship, it’s possible that social media helps speed up the evolution and redefinition of language," Josh Smith added." "We already know that the internet can change the way we speak to each other, because no-one ever said ‘lol’ in the Eighties. "Perhaps it can change the way we think, and speak, about race."
© The Mirror


Facebook will work with Germany to crack down on racist posts. What now?

Questions about the social media site's policies on hate speech remain as it announces it will work with German officials to curb posts directed at migrants

15/9/2015- As a debate rages in Europe over a growing tide of xenophobic social media posts directed at migrants – one key question emerges: Are users participating in an impassioned political debate about the refugee crisis, or simply expressing racist views? That distinction came into focus on Monday, when Facebook announced that it would work with the German Justice Ministry to crack down on racist and xenophobic posts on the social media site. In a joint news conference, executives from the site said they would form a joint task force to examine posts flagged by the site’s users as racist and xenophobic. The task force would determine whether such posts were protected as free speech or were violating local laws, which prohibit hate speech directed against a person or a group because of their ethnic or religious background. The offense is punishable by up to three years in prison. “The idea is to better identify content that is against the law and remove it faster from the Web,” German Justice Minister Heiko Maas said on Monday, according to the Wall Street Journal.

But the US-based Facebook said it didn’t plan on revising its existing policies on what types of posts are allowed on the site. Currently, the site’s community standards prohibit posts that attack a person’s religious affiliation; racial, ethnic, or national identity; sexual orientation; or disability. A key concern, the site says, is to ensure that its policies do not stifle political debates. Currently, Facebook allows the exchange of “satire, humor and social commentary” related to what users may consider hate speech, noting that one key goal of the site is to allow its users to “challenge ideas, institutions, and practices.” Because free speech laws differ drastically in Europe from those in the US – and even more so in countries such as China or Egypt – defining what constitutes a “political debate” on social media sites that are used all over the world is often difficult, observers say.

“This is a complex issue,” says Jillian York, director of international freedom of expression at the Electronic Freedom Foundation, in an e-mail to the Monitor. "Personally, I don't think that companies should be in the business of regulating speech." Ms. York says Facebook’s current standards are somewhat ill-defined. Using algorithms or similar automated technology to screen posts online has the potential to filter out legitimate speech, she notes. “In this case, I think Facebook's statements – though not necessarily their position – are wrong,” she adds. “Whether or not you think hate speech should be banned, there's no ‘legitimate debate’ that includes mocking and saying hateful things about refugees, full stop.” But exactly what types of posts should be removed, and how much responsibility falls to Facebook and other sites to remove speech that is flagged by users as racist or xenophobic is still an open question, as the Monitor previously reported in July.

During the meeting on Monday, Facebook executives argued they should not be responsible for removing posts that are not prohibited by either German law or Facebook’s own policies. The site currently has a team of German speakers that removes posts that are found to be in violation, the Wall Street Journal reported. The site must also balance free speech concerns with the urgency of Germany’s refugee crisis. The country is expected to receive 800,000 applications for asylum this year, with attacks on refugee centers and demonstrations also increasing dramatically. Officials said there were about 200 acts of violence directed against the migrants in the first six months of this year, more than all of last year, the Los Angeles Times reported in August.

“It’s not like Facebook can go and say there’s a definitive right answer, but can they innovate on their platform to focus on a particular country’s needs,” says Daniel Castro, vice president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a technology-focused think tank based in Washington. “I think it becomes less about regulating speech, and more about ensuring that the platforms are being used for good,” Mr. Castro says, noting that Facebook could introduce more specialized tools to hide comments that may be offensive or limit them to specific users instead of open to all. “The more control you give users, the more ambiguity and flexibility you allow, and I think that’s a good thing."

During Monday’s meeting in Berlin, executives from the site also announced that Facebook would provide financial support to groups that collect examples of online hate speech and begin a campaign to encourage anti-hate speech online, the Journal reported. But York of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who is based in Berlin, wondered about the ultimate impact of a collaboration between government and the private sector to curb racist posts online. “I think we need to be having a conversation about why we think corporations are best tasked with regulating speech,” she says by e-mail. “In Germany, it's particularly interesting – Facebook bans nudity (which you can see on any public street here) but fails to take down ‘hate speech’ that the government wants it to. What does that mean for a society?”
© The Christian Science Monitor


A German tabloid posts nude paintings to protest Facebook’s hate speech policy

The Berlin-based tabloid newspaper B.Z. has in recent weeks emerged as Germany's main media critic of a much bigger adversary: Facebook. B.Z. has repeatedly mobilized readers to go after the social media giant for not doing more to delete hate speech against refugees. Germany has experienced a wave of such comments in recent weeks.

15/9/2015- On Monday, the paper decided to raise awareness with a provocative initiative. On its Web site and Facebook page, the paper posted pictures of artworks depicting nude women, such as Amedeo Modigliani's 1917 painting "Reclining Nude" and Sandro Botticelli's "The Birth of Venus." The paper prominently displayed the paintings on Facebook for 24 hours to showcase the alleged ambivalence of the deletion policies. "The enterprise rigorously takes action against all content which has a sexual context. Facebook's explanation: Users could feel offended because of their religion. In other words: One cannot expect Muslims to look at a nude painting, but [it seems acceptable that Muslims] are exposed to hatred, smear campaigns and collective death threats. This is absurd!" the paper explained. "It's about hate messages, a smear campaign against foreigners and right-wing propaganda," B.Z. wrote in the commentary. "So far, Facebook has, apart from some individual cases, not reacted to the increasing public opinion (in Germany) which considers the company to be responsible for the content that's published on its site. We think that the same standards that are valid for media outlets should also apply to Facebook."

The campaign is reminiscent of another tabloid newspaper's decision to run an edition without any pictures a week ago. In a statement, Bild called the edition "a tribute to the power of images," and said it was a reaction to those who were upset that the paper published photos of the body of a Syrian child who drowned off the coast of Turkey. On Monday, the German justice minister, Heiko Maas, met with representatives of Facebook to discuss the company's approach toward hate speech. Following the meeting, Facebook said that it would collaborate with German organizations "to develop appropriate solutions to counter xenophobia and racism and to represent this online". The social media accounts and comments sections of German media outlets have been flooded with anti-refugee and xenophobic messages in recent months. At first, social media managers tried to react to the comments mainly by ridiculing them in public.

But some Germans have decided to sue users for the xenophobic comments. As a consequence, several commentators have been laid off or fired after their online activities were exposed. Many of the xenophobic posts are archived by a blog that publishes screenshots of the comments and provides information about their employers, if available. The blog's creators, who remain anonymous over fears of retribution, founded the site because they said they didn't think Facebook was doing enough to stop hate speech. "Something dramatic needs to happen for Facebook to react," the two founders told the German newspaper Die Welt.
© The Washington Post


Facebook Is Finally Making a ‘Dislike’ Button

After years of saying it wouldn't happen

15/9/2015- Brace yourselves: the Facebook “Dislike” button is coming. Despite previously saying the social network wasn’t planning to build a “dislike” button, CEO Mark Zuckerberg revealed during a Tuesday Q&A session that his company has indeed been working on one. “I think people have asked about the dislike button for many years,” Zuckerberg said. “Today is a special day because today is the day I can say we’re working on it and shipping it.” The exact form a “Dislike” button may take is still up in the air. “What [users] really want is the ability to express empathy,” Zuckerberg added. “Not every moment is a good moment.” Facebook has long shied away from building a “Dislike” button over concerns it would invite rampant negativity. “That isn’t what we’re here to build in the world,” Zuckerberg said.
© Time


Czech schoolchildren vulnerable to cybercrime

14/9/2015- One in ten children active on social networks are asked to post a nude photo of themselves on their Facebook profile, according to the results of an anonymous survey conducted among 1250 school-goers aged between 8 and 17. Thirty percent of those surveyed said they had be asked to go on a meeting with someone they did not know. The survey also showed that younger children very often readily give people they do not know friend-status. A third of respondents said they spend more than three hours a day online.
© Radio Prague


UK: Syrian refugees targeted for violence by far right

Hard line activists post vile images of dead Syrian child and call for refugees to be massacred

12/9/2015- Sick far-right extremists are plotting violence against Syrian refugees heading for sanctuary in Britain. Days after the Government said 20,000 migrants could come here, a trail of hate has been traced from Hungary to the groups across the UK. A source said: “These people eat, sleep and breathe racism. “To them, mass immigration on the scale David Cameron has signed up to is like a red rag to a bull. They are highly dangerous.” One group, Misanthropic Division, posted a digitally altered version of the shocking photo of Syrian toddler Aylan Kurdi washed up on a beach. Trawling vile websites, our investigators found a Europe-wide movement called Blood and Honour, an umbrella ­organisation for British racist groups such as the National Front and National Action. A source said: “They talk online and at meetings about killing non-whites. “The groups exists solely to promote hatred and violence towards them.”

Our investigators also tracked down a UK rock band with links to Blood and Honour. Redneck 28 have played at many of the group’s rallies and can be seen in photographs giving Nazi salutes. At one rally they were photographed with two people in Ku Klux Klan robes. Blood and Honour caused outrage last month when it staged an Adolf Hitler bus tour from Budapest in Hungary to his birthplace in Austria. One Hungarian-based activist, Tompos Von Wewelsburg, called for Syrians to be massacred. Alongside a mocked-up picture of a dinghy being fired on by a warship, he wrote: “Invaders are not welcome.” German expert Dr Fabian Virchow told a parliamentary inquiry Blood and Honour was linked to the notorious National Socialist Underground group. NSU’s last member is facing trial for killing 10 migrants.

Blood and Honour activists in the Czech Republic have been charged with attempted murder following arson attacks on ethnic minorities. There are now fears the group’s UK arm will focus its hatred on Syrians coming here. A UK intelligence source said: “To their friends these people may seem normal but they have a sinister side. Some seek out opportunities to victimise anyone they consider foreign.” Confirming their involvement in the far right, one Redneck 28 member said: “I’d be a fool to deny it, but I need my name left out of it. I need to keep myself protected.” Two other members refused to comment.
© The Daily Mirror


Germany moves to clamp down on Facebook racism

German officials say Facebook's commenting policy doesn't do enough to block racist comments online as concern grows about violence against migrants.

11/9/2015- As Europe’s refugee crisis continues to intensify, German officials are hoping to stem a growing tide of racism and hate speech directed against the migrants online. On Friday, German chancellor Angela Merkel said that social media sites such as Facebook bear some of the responsibility for the spread of racist and xenophobic posts. “When people stir up sedition on social networks using their real name, it's not only the state that has to act, but also Facebook as a company should do something against these slogans,” Ms. Merkel said in an interview with the newspaper Rheinische Post (Translation via Reuters.)

Now, the German government is trying to engage social media sites directly. Heiko Maas, the German justice minister, sent a letter last month to Facebook’s European office in Dublin arguing that the site was not doing enough to prevent racist comments posted online. He also requested a meeting with Facebook officials, set to take place in Berlin on Monday, according to Mr. Maas’ Twitter page. Many users were receiving notifications that comments they reported as abusive did not violate Facebook’s community standards, Maas wrote, according to the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. Facebook did not respond to requests for comment from the Monitor about how it moderates posts.

Noting that Facebook’s community standards were often strictly enforced for images of nudity, Maas called the company's response a “farce,” saying the site had a legal obligation to delete posts that incite hatred, a criminal offense in Germany. His requests to delete offensive posts did not violate freedom of speech, Maas wrote, because “the Internet is not a lawless space where racist abuse and illegal posts can be allowed to flourish." Racism and hate speech often flourish online because of the physical distance – and relative anonymity – provided by many websites and social platforms, researchers say. “There’s something about typing something to someone, rather than saying it to their face, that creates a certain kind of hate speech,” says Jessie Daniels, a professor at the City University of New York's School of Public Health who has studied racism and white supremacist movements online.

Differing views of what constitutes free speech internationally may also play a role in Germany’s efforts to limit hate speech online. In Germany, professor Daniels says, debates about free speech intermingle with concern about the fate of migrants coming to the nation’s borders, often fleeing violent conflicts in their home countries. By contrast, in the US, she notes, violent or threatening speech is often seen as protected by the First Amendment. But what is most concerning in both regions, she says, is that racist and xenophobic posts can quickly turn into action. Mr. Roof reportedly scoured white supremacist websites before committing the murders.

In the interview with Rheinische Post, Merkel voiced similar concerns, saying Facebook has some policies in place to prevent hate speech, but is not doing enough to enforce them. But her own stances on immigration have also been criticized. Some Germans view her as insufficiently concerned about the large numbers of migrants – particularly from Syria – currently seeking shelter in Germany. Over the past several days, hashtags expressing that sentiment, including #Merkelschweight (which translates as “Merkel is silent,”) and “Social media makes racist speech much more available, much more accessible,” she adds, referencing Dylann Roof, the white South Carolina man accused of killing nine people at a church in Charleston who were black. #Merkelsagwas (“Merkel, say something”) have been trending on Twitter.

In 2010, she faced a backlash after saying that a multicultural society, with different immigrant groups who “live side-by-side and enjoy each other,” had “utterly failed” in Germany. Other European leaders, including then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron, also made similar statements at the time. In the US, responses to racism and xenophobia are also flourishing online, Daniels says. She singles out the Black Lives Matter movement, founded to raise awareness about the killings of unarmed young black people by police. But while anti-racist activism has gained increasing prominence through social media, it’s not the whole story. “That shift from the one to the many is significant, but it’s not the tools that are driving the change, it’s the people, it’s the social movement and that’s what makes me hopeful,” she says.

Will a crusade against Facebook’s commenting policy also curb xenophobia against refugees in Europe? It’s difficult to tell, but Merkel appears to have taken up the cause. Perhaps in response to the #Merkelschweight label, she is now speaking out more freely against xenophobic attacks – including a number of arson attempts at refugee centers, the Washington Post reports. “It is repulsive how far-right extremists and neo-Nazis are trying to herald dumb messages of hate,” Merkel said at a refugee center in the eastern city of Heidenau, according to the Post. “Germany is a country which respects the dignity of every single individual. This is what it says in our constitution, and this applies to everyone staying in our country.”
© The Christian Science Monitor


Facebook Censors Refugee Photographs

by Nicholas D Mirzoeff

1/9/2015- On August 28, 2015, a boat filled with Palestinian and Syrian refugees sank off the coast of Libya. As many as 150 were drowned. On August 29, Syrian artist Khaled Barakeh posted an album of seven photographs to Facebook, entitled Multicultural Graveyard. Six photographs showed drowned children and youths from the shipwreck, while one depicted a pile of orange body bags. He did not indicate their source. The photographs are elegiac, mournful and devastating. They were shared over 100,000 times, reaching me on August 30 via an Indian friend living in the U.K. I was moved to write a blog post “The Drowned and the Sacred” that has been read and shared thousands of times.

However, on August 31 many of the Facebook community, who had shared and discussed the photographs and my post, noticed that the link to Barakeh’s album had disappeared from their timelines and activity logs, including myself. In the screenshots below, I have obscured names other than my own and Barakeh’s because, even though these were public posts, this seems right: I am happy to undelete on request. Here’s a typical thread (below):

Barakeh censored

I confirmed with the artist that his album had been deleted by the app. None of us received any notification or explanation from Facebook as to why they had all been deleted, as this thread (below) indicates:

Thread on deleted Barakeh

It is the case that in some threads, a few commenters had questioned why the photographs were being shown (see below).

Far more comments, however, expressed gratitude at being able to view them, while being shocked and saddened at their content. And even more were shocked at their censorship (below):

No messages were received to explain the removals. Facebook’s posted standards explain only: “We remove graphic images when they are shared for sadistic pleasure or to celebrate or glorify violence.” In this case, the images are graphic only insofar as we know that they depict death. No injury or blood is visible, nor are the bodies exposed in ways that might be found “graphic.” Certainly, there can be no question of sadism, glorifying or celebrating violence.

Barakeh is a well-known and widely exhibited artist. There is no justification in Facebook’s own rubric for this arbitrary and unexplained action. It was applied inconsistently and some have since reported that the photographs have been restored, following extensive outrage on Facebook itself and Twitter. Here Facebook has often done more harm than good. In restoring a screen shot of the album to Barakeh’s timeline, the title of the album, Multicultural Graveyard, has been deleted. That title indicates that the intent of the image sharing was to provoke reflection on what has happened to multiculturalism, as well as a mourning for the tragedy of lost young lives. Without it, a viewer might have more reason for concern.

In recent days, people have also seen posts on Australian refugee camps, the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and Johannesburg street art disappear. What is Facebook doing? Is it a cock-up or a conspiracy? Either way, we should be concerned. Adrian Chen reported last year that Filipina/o workers are paid about $300 a month to delete content that they find inappropriate for “companies like Facebook and Twitter.” Facebook wouldn’t share anything more with him about how this happens. But if he’s right, what’s happening here is not a tweak of the algorithm but a low-paid, albeit often highly skilled, tech drone swiping left. These are the categories Chen says are used to delete posts at Whisper: “pornography, gore, minors, sexual solicitation, sexual body parts/images, racism.” So my guess is that the simple depiction of three children, whose torsos (not genitalia) were partly exposed led to a quick decision to remove the photographs.

With close to one billion users, Facebook is, like it or not, the public square in this fraught moment of globalization. In particular, it is being used extensively by refugees themselves and by those seeking to help them. We now need to find ways to hold them to appropriate standards for this vital resource and to agitate to make sure such censorship is not happening elsewhere.
© How To See The World


China: 197 punished for spreading 'rumors' about stock market, Tianjin blast

30/8/2015- A total of 197 people have been punished in a special campaign by Chinese police targeting online rumors about China's stock market, the recent fatal explosions in Tianjin or other key events. A statement issued by the Ministry of Public Security on Sunday said that 165 online accounts were closed for relevant violations. The statement said people punished in the campaign expressed repentance over their misconduct that have "caused panic, misled the public and resulted in disorders in stock market or society." According to the statement, these people are punished for circulating rumors such as "man jumped to death in Beijing due to stock market slump," "at least 1,300 people were killed in Tianjin blasts" and some seditious rumors about China's upcoming commemorations of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. The ministry statement pledged strict measures to enforce rule of law and punish violations on the Internet and called on Internet operators to strengthen management to ensure cyberspace order.
© Chinese State Press Agency Xinhua


Headlines August 2015

Twitter promises to hire more women while fighting gender discrimination suit

28/8/2015- Twitter is setting modest goals to diversify its workforce while it fights a proposed class-action lawsuit that says the online messaging service discriminates against its female employees. The hiring targets were released Friday along with data showing that Twitter primarily employs white and Asian men in high-paying technology jobs, like most of its industry peers. Twitter is aiming to fill 16 per cent of its technology jobs with a woman next year, up from 13 per cent currently. The San Francisco company also wants women to make up 25 per cent of its leadership roles, from 22 per cent now, and is promising to hire more blacks and Hispanics. Former Twitter engineer Tina Huang filed a lawsuit in March attacking the company's treatment of women. The complaint says Twitter has a history of bypassing qualified women for promotions. Twitter has denied the allegations.

Based on a total workforce of about 4,100 people, Twitter currently employs about 1,400 women, or 34 per cent of its total payroll. The company wants 35 per cent of its total workforce to be comprised of women next year. "We're holding ourselves accountable to these measurable goals, as should you," Twitter executive Janet Van Huysse wrote in a blog post. Other major technology companies, including Google, Facebook and Apple, also are trying to lessen their long-time dependence on white and Asian men to fill programming jobs that typically pay $100,000 to $300,000.

Unlike Twitter, not all tech companies have established a concrete number of women, blacks and Hispanics that they are hoping to employ, nor when their workforce might look more like the overall population. The composition of most big tech employers didn't significantly change in the first year since they began acknowledging their diversity problems under pressure from a coalition led by civil rights leader Jesse Jackson.

Twitter has other pressing issues besides addressing a lack of worker diversity. The company still isn't making money more than nine years since its first tweet was sent and is still looking for a new CEO to accelerate its user growth. Co-founder Jack Dorsey has been serving as interim CEO since Dick Costolo stepped down from the top job in July. Meanwhile, Twitter's stock has shed nearly half its value during the past four months as investors have lost faith in the company. The shares gained 37 cents Friday to close at $26.83, slightly above its initial public offering price of $26 in November 2013.
© The Associated Press


Germany: Facebook to meet government on Internet hate-mongering

27/8/2015- Facebook on Thursday accepted an invitation from Germany's justice minister to discuss doing more to purge the social network of racist posts after widespread complaints from users. In a letter to Facebook's European subsidiaries, Justice Minister Heiko Maas suggested a meeting with company executives on September 14 to talk about "improving the effectiveness and transparency of your community standards". Facebook's German unit agreed to meet Maas, saying in an email sent to AFP it "takes his concerns very seriously". "We are very interested in an exchange of views with Minister Maas about what society, companies and politicians can do together against xenophobia spreading in Germany," the email said. The Internet giant "works hard every day to protect people on Facebook against abuse, hate speech and bullying", the company spokesman said.

"Racism has no place on Facebook."
As Germany faces a record influx of refugees and a backlash from the far right, social media like Facebook have seen an upsurge of hateful, xenophobic commentary. Many users say that when they complain to the company about offensive posts, Facebook often responds that after a review the post does not violate its community standards, Maas said, even in "obvious cases". And users also accuse the company of double standards for cracking down swifter and harder on nudity and sexual content than on hate-mongering. Maas said Facebook was required to delete posts in violation of German laws against incitement of racial hatred. Facebook users in Berlin and the southern state of Bavaria have been slapped with large fines this year for hate speech.

Last month Germany's most popular film star, Til Schweiger, blasted fans who left dozens of anti-immigrant comments on his Facebook page after he appealed for donations for a refugee charity. And a German TV journalist's impassioned appeal this month for an "uprising of decent people" against racism and attacks on asylum-seekers was viewed more than five million times via Facebook alone within 48 hours, drawing an outpouring of both support and scorn. Facebook said in April it would not allow the social network to be used to promote hate speech or terrorism as it unveiled a wide-ranging update of its global community standards.


Austrian found guilty of Nazi Facebook post

A 28-year-old Austrian man who called for Jews to be gassed in a Facebook post was sentenced to eight months in prison on Tuesday by Wels Provincial Court.

26/8/2015- The defendant, who was found guilty of incitement, posted a message on Facebook last September referring to the conflict in Gaza that read: “Show no photos of our dead brothers, children, women. Show only photos of their women and children...”. He is also said to have written: “Death to the Jews, I would gas them”, “Hitler showed the world that he was right, Sieg Heil!”. A second defendant, a 26-year-old man who commented on the post with the words “Sieg Heil! Adolf Hitler”, was acquitted by the court. Both men were born in Turkey but have Austrian citizenship and live in the city of Wels. They both held previous convictions for unrelated offences and neither is thought to have connections to right wing scenes. The message was posted on Facebook while the 28-year-old was living in a drug treatment clinic in Carinthia last year. Both men confessed to the postings during the investigation and the 26-year-old told the court that his comment had been “stupid” and added: “I'm sorry. I did not really mean it.”

Although the 28-year-old initially told police he had posted the “fun” statement, in court he claimed it had been written by his roommate, whom he said was a schizophrenic patient whose family followed Nazi ideology. In his closing remarks, however, the defendant said: “I would like to apologise. It doesn't matter who wrote it, I am simply sorry.” His lawyer stressed that his client suffered from “massive cognitive deficiencies” and the post was made as a result of “rashness”. The prosecutor, however, showed the court another Facebook post from the 28-year-old, which was not subject to the proceedings, that read: “The day will come when only the Aryans will be among each other. Blue eyes, blond hair, our leader is wonderful.” The sentence follows the conviction earlier in August of a 38-year-old father from Styria for making donations to a neo-Nazi website and writing posts that denied the holocaust happened and incited hate against Muslims.

The Styrian had registered on the website, which hosted different forums as well as selling Nazi memorabilia, with the name 'NS friend' and was active on the site between April 2009 and June 2012. Prosecutor Johannes Winklhofer told the accused that he had previously lied in court, in 2011. He said: “You said that you would have nothing more to do with this scene but it was not true, you made contributions to this website and were also registered on it.”
© The Local - Austria


Dutch Man Offers $11K Bounty for Murder of 'Devilish' Jewish Neighbor

Source: JTA
24/8/2015- A Dutch man offered on Facebook to pay 10,000 euros, or about or $11,500, to anyone willing to kill his Jewish neighbor. The man posted the message 
 recently, along with anti-Semitic statements, in connection with his long quarrel with his apartment building neighbor, Gabriela Hirschberg, and her partner, The De Telegraaf daily reported. The report did not name the man. “I have one desire in my life: To tear out this nest of devils,” he wrote in reference to Hirschberg’s apartment. Naming his neighbors, he added: “Each head is worth 10,000 euros to me.”Telegraaf did not specify the anti-Semitic statements that the paper reported he attached to that message.

The neighbor also wrote: “Anyone may come along as long as I have the pleasure of punching the lights out.” Facebook followers offered to come and help find “a final solution” to the problem — language that echoes Nazi rhetoric about Jews during the Holocaust.The two neighbors have been in conflict since 2009, when Hirschberg complained to police about the neighbor for excessive noise, Telegraaf reported. They have since filed multiple complaints against each other, including for destruction of property.

Hirschberg told the paper she sometimes sleeps away from her apartment out of fear of her neighbors, adding that the conflict has cost her one job and has caused her so much stress that it is creating medical complications. The neighbor said she is “turning it around” and that he suspects she hacked his family’s email account. A police detective is investigating the Facebook message, a spokesperson told De Telegraaf.
© The Forward


Google required to remove old crime links from search results

21/8/2015- The European information watchdog has told Google to take further steps to wipe any mention of a link between a person’s name and a minor criminal offence committed more than ten years ago from its search engine. In May 2014 the European Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) instructed Google to remove certain results for an individual’s name, which linked that person to a minor criminal offence committed over ten years ago. Now, the ICO has insisted that any coverage of the fact that Google had removed the links should also be removed within the next 35 days. Whilst Google is able to reject an application for removal based on the story being in the public interest, it may find it difficult to ignore this instruction, although there seems to be nothing to stop it from leaving the links extant on US “Google was right, in its original decision, to accept that search results relating to the complainant’s historic conviction were no longer relevant and were having a negative impact on privacy,” said deputy commissioner David Smith. “It is wrong of them to now refuse to remove newer links that reveal the same details and have the same negative impact.”
© Euro Weekly News


Czech Rep: Hate Free Culture project working to combat xenophobia

19/8/2015- On Tuesday, around thirty members of various religious denominations – including Muslims, Jews and Christians – sat down for a joint breakfast event in Studio Alta in Prague’s Holešovice district. The event, attended by community representatives, the South African and Kuwaiti ambassadors to the Czech Republic, and many ordinary members of the public, was organized by the Hate Free Culture Project. The breakfast is part of a wider effort by this organisation to foster greater understanding in the Czech Republic amidst heightened tensions over the current migrant crisis. I spoke with project coordinator Lukáš Houdek and began by asking him to describe Hate Free Culture’s work:

“It’s actually a part of the Office of the Government’s Social Exclusion agency. So we are all employees of the government. And it is 80 percent funded via Norwegian Grants [Norway Grants – EEA Grants].”

Has it taken on new momentum in recent months because of the migrant crisis?
“Certainly, because the project was designed a few years ago to mostly fight hatred targeted against the Roma population. But last year it changed into mostly fear and hate against Muslims, and now in recent months it has changed in the direction of migrants and refugees.”

Your most recent event was a harmony breakfast held in Prague. So are these the kind of events that your organization uses to foster harmony, understanding – what is the overall intention?
“We are undertaking many activities. We are proving hoaxes false – this is something we are doing quite intensively right now – but we also organize events including stand-up comedy, or the event you mentioned inviting different religious and ethnic groups to show that we can sit down, eat together and understand each other. But we also try to communicate the issue of human rights, or specifically combating hate and intolerance, in different ways. One example is through arts. Right now there are several exhibitions all over public spaces across the Czech Republic. We have posters that deal with the topics of our campaigns. So we are trying to utilize different media to communicate certain issues. We also want to ensure we are active not just in Prague but also in regions across the country.”

You mentioned that you dispel hoaxes. I noticed your website was just dealing with one regarding Czech Muslims supposedly being against the recent Prague Pride festival. You also have another section on the site which discusses the conflict in Teplice regarding Arab visitors supposedly making a mess in parks and lashing out at local dogs. Do you believe that there are major levels of misunderstanding between Czechs and Czech Muslims or Muslim migrants?
“It’s really hard in this kind of a situation when people are afraid – let’s say logically so, because something is coming that they have little experience of, as we aren’t very used to different cultural groups in the Czech Republic. So it is very easy for people to believe hoaxes or everything they read in social media. And there are so many hoaxes, or news articles that are ultimately untrue. We think it is very important to have a critical eye towards what they read and see and not simply believe everything. And of course it is also caused by a lack of information, because the discussion about refugees and Muslims in the Czech Republic is led by people who are not experts in this subject, but rather ‘instant experts’ that have just appeared in recent months.”
© Radio Prague


Canada: Racist comments appear on website for Winnipeg's anti-racism summit

One day after Mayor Brian Bowman announced details for an anti-racism summit in Winnipeg, racist comments appeared on a website dedicated to the announcement.
19/8/2015- “Young aboriginals need to be discouraged from having children until they are secure (educated & employed),” reads one anonymous comment on “I get frustrated over seeing intoxicated aboriginals stumbling around downtown ... It is not justified to say I am racist.”  “I have lived in Wpg. all my life and have not felt the racism against the white people like you get from the Pilipino people (sic),” reads another. “We welcomed them to our country with open arms and they refuse to speak the English language even the ones born here.”  Bowman announced the summit, slated to happen September 17-18, at the CMHR on Tuesday, and acknowledged the site would likely attract these kinds of comments. “But that’s why (the summit) is important, to start this discussion.” Plenty of ideas have also popped up on the site.

One aboriginal man suggested a day a few times a year where people of all races could gather to talk about their backgrounds. “It would be a day where you could bring your family and friends to get to know people of all other ethnic groups and learn about their way of life.” “A small thing we can teach our children, both at home and at school, is not to laugh at racist jokes,” reads another. “I would raise awareness by adding culturally based advertising, which is rarely seen in our city, holding a Pro-Acceptance forum, and staging a One Winnipeg convention annually,” said a third.
© Metro News Canada


Canada: Calgary Liberal candidate pulls out after old offensive Twitter postings surface

A Liberal candidate in Calgary who landed in hot water over a series of offensive Twitter postings she wrote in the past has pulled out of the federal election.

19/8/2015- Ala Buzreba, who has been the Liberal standard bearer in Calgary Nose Hill, wrote on her Facebook page that she was stepping down as a candidate while again apologizing “without reservation, for posting comments that do not accurately reflect my views and who I am.” “I have posted a lot of content on social media over the years, and like many teenagers, I did so without really taking the time to think through my words and weigh the implications,” she wrote. “The discussion shouldn’t be focused on me and my tweets, but rather it should be about what’s best for Canadians.” Earlier in the day, a spokesman for the federal Liberal party would not answer definitively whether Buzreba would remain as the party’s candidate but Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau had defended her and noted her apology.

“It’s important to point out that she was a teenager and we all make mistakes, but I’m glad to see she has unreservedly apologized,” Trudeau told reporters at a campaign stop in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. Screenshots of Buzreba’s years-old tweets circulated on social media after they were discovered by Sheila Gunn Reid, a self-described staunch conservative, among other tweeters. In one screenshot of the Liberal candidate’s Twitter account from June 2011, Buzreba wrote, “Just got my hair cut, I look like a flipping lesbian!!:‘(”  In another screenshot, Buzreba is seen telling another tweeter to “Go blow your brains out you waste of sperm,” with the hashtags #racist and #bigot.

After a pro-Israel account tweeted in April 2011 that support for Palestine and Islam would “come back & kick u in the arse!” Buzreba responded. “Your mother should have used that coat hanger,” she wrote, according to screenshots now circulating on Twitter. The 21-year-old Buzreba, who had been trying to unseat Conservative Michelle Rempel, initially responded to the backlash by tweeting she was young at the time that she wrote the offending messages and has since “learned a lot of lessons about social media.”  Three hours later, after news reports were published online and the backlash escalated on social media, Buzreba formally apologized. Rempel, who was first elected in 2011 in the previous Calgary Centre-North riding which has since been redrawn, said the Liberals should explain the offensive comments. “It’s up to (Trudeau) to explain to the Canadian public why he’s defending those comments for her,” Rempel said.

Lori Williams, a political scientist at Mount Royal University, said even before the tweets emerged Buzreba was not expected to unseat Rempel, who remains popular and unscathed by controversy. Buzreba’s offending tweets are also unlikely to deliver a death blow to Liberal chances in Alberta ridings where they are expected to be competitive, though the “tremendously offensive” comments won’t help, Williams said. “For those who have questions about the Liberal Party or who are wondering if they want to give the Liberal Party a chance for the first time in decades, this isn’t going to help in that direction,” she said. “But in the ridings where there are really strong Liberal candidates or, conversely, weak Conservative candidates, this I don’t think is going to make the big of a difference.”

The case follows a controversy that embroiled NDP MLA Deborah Drever, who appeared in a series of offending images, including a heavy metal album cover in which a man appears poised to assault her with a bottle. “More and more of the foolish things that people say and do without thinking of how problematic it is … are going to come to light; it’s going to be part of our new political reality,” Williams said. “Whether we’re talking about Deborah Drever or this candidate, we’re in the early stages of trying to figure out how to handle a world where one’s youthful mistakes or thoughtless meanderings end up on a permanent record.”
© The National Post


Dane arrested for praising arson attack

A Danish Facebook group has been shut down by the social media site on the grounds of "glorifying" Sunday's arson attack against the Islamic Society centre in Copenhagen, leading to one of its members being arrested while others are currently under investigation.

19/8/2015- The Danish Facebook group ‘No to mosques – sincerely’ (Nej til moskéer – oprigtigt) was closed down by Facebook on Tuesday, and a man affiliated with the group has since been arrested on charges of inciting crime. Shortly after the recent arson attack on an Islamic centre, many of the group’s fans posted comments on the page that “glorified” the act, according to the social media site. “An arson attack against a mosque is a despicable crime, and comments glorifying it do not belong on Facebook,” the company’s regional director for public policy, Thomas Myrup Kristensen, told TV2. Besides reporting the comments to Facebook, a number of people also took screenshots of them before the page was shut down. “I’m happy to donate a can of gasoline,” wrote one commenter. “Good. Respect. Burn down that camel shit,” wrote another commenter, who has since been charged by the police for inciting crime.

The man was also interviewed by Radio24syv, where he told the station that he intended to “go to Poland and pick up my Kalashnikov and shoot all the Muslims.” The people behind the group have also been reported to the police. The group was already back on Facebook on Wednesday however, writing in a post that “We welcome you back after a minor bump on the road towards a Fatherland free of mosques and Islam.” Another Facebook group is currently organizing a so-called “peace ring” event, inviting people to an event on Saturday to join hands and form a circle around the Copenhagen mosque located on Dorotheavej in what is intended to be a call for unity. “I was very affected by all the hateful comments I read on Facebook following the arson attack,” Rosa Naghizadeh, one of the organizers, told Politiken.

1,100 people have already confirmed that they will attend the event, which is set to take place on Saturday August 22.  Shortly after the arson attack on Sunday, a 34-year old man voluntarily turned himself into custody. The man, who suffers from schizophrenia, is reported to be from the same Nordvest district as the Islamic Society’s complex.  He is expected to appear in court once his mental state allows it. Although he willingly turned himself in, prosecutors said that he turned violent while in the psychiatric unit and is now being held against his will. The suspect attempted to set fire to a building belonging to the Islamic Society at a time when some 40 people, including children, were inside. The complex also includes a mosque where society members worship.

Since February, when Omar El-Hussein, a young Dane of Palestinian origin, shot dead a filmmaker and an unarmed Jewish security guard outside a synagogue, Denmark's Muslim community has feared being viewed with suspicion. Those concerns were amplified after more than 50 graves were destroyed at the Muslim cemetery in the Copenhagen suburb of Brøndby in June. Out of Denmark's population of 5.7 million, nine percent are foreign-born, of whom some 296,000 originate from "non-Western" countries, official statistics show.
© The Local - Denmark


The ISIS Twitter census: Defining and describing the population of ISIS supporters on Twitter

Although much ink has been spilled on ISIS’s activity on Twitter, very basic questions about the group’s social media strategy remain unanswered. In a new analysis paper, J.M. Berger and Jonathon Morgan answer fundamental questions about how many Twitter users support ISIS, who and where they are, and how they participate in its highly organized online activities.

31/3/2015- Previous analyses of ISIS’s Twitter reach have relied on limited segments of the overall ISIS social network. The small, cellular nature of that network—and the focus on particular subsets within the network such as foreign fighters—may create misleading conclusions. This information vacuum extends to discussions of how the West should respond to the group’s online campaigns. Berger and Morgan present a demographic snapshot of ISIS supporters on Twitter by analyzing a sample of 20,000 ISIS-supporting Twitter accounts. Using a sophisticated and innovative methodology, the authors map the locations, preferred languages, and the number and type of followers of these accounts.

Among the key findings:
• From September through December 2014, the authors estimate that at least 46,000 Twitter accounts were used by ISIS supporters, although not all of them were active at the same time.
• Typical ISIS supporters were located within the organization’s territories in Syria and Iraq, as well as in regions contested by ISIS. Hundreds of ISIS-supporting accounts sent tweets with location metadata embedded. 
• Almost one in five ISIS supporters selected English as their primary language when using Twitter. Three quarters selected Arabic.
• ISIS-supporting accounts had an average of about 1,000 followers each, considerably higher than an ordinary Twitter user. ISIS-supporting accounts were also considerably more active than non-supporting users.
• A minimum of 1,000 ISIS-supporting accounts were suspended by Twitter between September and December 2014. Accounts that tweeted most often and had the most followers were most likely to be suspended.
• Much of ISIS’s social media success can be attributed to a relatively small group of hyperactive users, numbering between 500 and 2,000 accounts, which tweet in concentrated bursts of high volume.

Based on their key findings, the authors recommend social media companies and the U.S government work together to devise appropriate responses to extremism on social media. Approaches to the problem of extremist use of social media, Berger and Morgan contend, are most likely to succeed when they are mainstreamed into wider dialogues among the broad range of community, private, and public stakeholders. The ISIS Twitter census: Defining and describing the population of ISIS supporters on Twitter
© Brookings


Brilliant Comic Is a Devastating Look at Online Hate Mobs

12/8/2015- There’s a saying that writing about music is like dancing about architecture, a poetic way of noting that it’s difficult, perhaps even ill-advised, to translate an auditory medium to a silent page. But that’s exactly what writer Kieron Gillen and artist Jamie McKelvie have been doing in the world of comic books for nearly a decade, with music-themed series like Phonogram, a cult favorite comic about music as magic, and The Wicked and the Divine, a title where pop stars are literal gods. “We quite like making things hard for ourselves,” says Gillen. “Especially when we started, we were arrogant: ‘This is impossible to do, let’s try it.'” It seems to have worked; The Wicked and the Divine not only earned three Eisner Award nominations last year, but attracted the attention of Hollywood, where it was recently optioned for television.

But the most recent issue of the series takes on a challenge just as daunting: detailing the horrors of online harassment, and how misogyny circumscribes the lives of women in the public eye, whether they’re walking down the street or performing in front of millions. The comic, which recently published its second volume, follows a pantheon of 12 gods who take human form every 90 years and transform their teenage hosts into charismatic icons with the power to change the world who burn bright but die two years later. In the modern era that means that deities like Amaterasu, Lucifer, and Baal have become pop stars, many of whom evoke shades of Rihanna, Björk, and Florence Welch. Most of the characters in the comic are women, and the most recent issue focuses on Tara, a masked character whom we know almost nothing about. She’s one of the modern-day gods, but the primary detail attached to her is the knee-jerk catchphrase tossed off at her by the other characters and the public at large: “Fucking Tara.”

In the latest issue, we get a glimpse of what this sort of casual cruelty looks like when directed en masse at a visible woman online—and it’s an ugly thing to behold. There’s a devastating two-page spread designed to look like an iPad rotated on its side, displaying a Twitter feed of Tara’s mentions. This is what Tara sees, a cumulative look at what the world tells her about herself, and it’s an ugly thing to behold. By design, the only thing that the audience has learned about Tara until this moment is that she is to be dismissed and mocked; like so many women in media and online, she is a target, a catchphrase, and a hashtag—not a person. “In a real way, by this point people have been talked into a hate mob against a character they don’t know anything about,” says Gillen. “Many WicDiv fans are complicit with the hate mob, and that’s kind of the point: It’s very easy to make people join hate mobs.”

Drawing From Real World Harassment
It’s a phenomenon that has been elevated into the public eye often over the last year, particularly within the world of videogames. Gillen, who worked as a videogame critic before his shift into comic book writing, knows many of the targets of recent harassment campaigns against women online and has spent a lot of time reading the horrible social media attacks hurled at them. “I had to sit down and spend an entire afternoon [with] those things, and I researched them,” says Gillen. “I let that poison into my head because I wanted to be aware of what people were going through. Digging into that pit is not fun to do. I know that’s nothing compared to experiencing it, but it was hard. It was a traumatic issue to do.” The comic also doesn’t depict harassment as a problem exclusive to famous women. In another scene, for example, we see Tara walking down the street at age 11 as a car of men shouts sexual obscenities at her. “There are multiple statements in that issue,” says Gillen. “Many of the works of art I love are saying several things simultaneously. And that is what life is like: if you boll anything down to a message on a card, it’s not really saying anything.”

Multiple meanings come up a lot when Gillen talks about Phonogram as well, his first collaboration with McKelvie and the book that helped make his name in the comics industry. First published in 2006, it imagined a world where music was quite literally magic, and fans called “phonomancers” used Britpop songs from the ’90s as conduits for supernatural powers. It was, as Gillen says, “a weird fucking book,” and while it never achieved mainstream popularity, it became a cult hit with a devoted following. It’s often been observed that Gillen looks a bit like Phonogram’s protagonist David Kohl, and he readily admits that there are clear autobiographical elements in both Phonogram and the The Wicked and the Divine. For years, he was an prominent critic who wrote about music and videogames—even coining the term “new games journalism“—before shifting into comic books, where he started creating entertainment of his own and made his way from cult indie titles to scripting flagship books like Uncanny X-Men for Marvel.

“Phonogram is about my 20s; it’s about the consumption of art and how that changes you. It’s aggressively not interested in musicians,” says Gillen. “But The Wicked and the Divine is about my 30s. It’s about that happened to me since Phonogram came out—that transition from somebody who is both a fan and a critic to a creator. And how you adapt when you get in that space. And why the hell would anyone want to be a writer or artist or musician in any way whatsoever?” The newest volume of Phonogram hits shelves today, nearly six years after the last one, and almost a decade after the original book debuted. It’s a bit odd now for Gillen and McKelvie to look back at their earlier work for reference, in part because so much time has passed. “If you ask me and Jamie to sign a copy of Phonogram, we do this great thing where we start flipping through it and mocking ourselves,” laughs Gillen. “‘Oh, isn’t that a nice big caption!'”

They’ve changed personally as well as creatively; the first issue of Phonogram dropped when Gillen was 31, and now he’s rounding the bend to 40. An earlier issue featured a character named Emily Aster declaring that “nostalgia is an emotion for people with no future.” The new volume, The Immaterial Girl, not only casts a glance back at the classic MTV era of music videos, but returns to find Aster growing older and feeling the nostalgia she once derided in others starting to creep in.

Cosplay for Gods That Don’t Exist
There are aspects of The Wicked and the Divine that measure the passage of time as well, though a bit more quietly. Gillen notes that most of the parents we meet in the book are now closer to his age, and he describes his 17-year-old protagonist Laura—who worships the pop star pantheon and would do almost anything to become one of them—as being both a bit like his child, and a bit like someone he used to be. “She’s a fan who wants to move from one world to the other,” says Gillen. And now that Gillen has completed his own transformation from fan to successful creator, the stories he tells about fandom do something strangely recursive and almost magical: They inspire fandoms of their own, simply by being told.

“The fan culture around each book is a pretty intense mirroring of what the book itself is,” says Gillen. Where Phonogram developed a small but tight-knit scene of fans, the audience for The Wicked and the Divine is appropriately bigger and brighter, demonstrating their love with everything from tattoos and cosplay. Gillen says they’ve explicitly told readers to imagine the god they would become in the pantheon, and now some fans show up at conventions cosplaying as those personalized deities. “We’re almost trying to coach people into thinking about themselves a bit like Laura,” says Gillen. “I love that people have started to cosplay these gods that don’t exist.”

There’s something almost parental in the way Gillen describes The Wicked and the Divine. He speaks of it as a combination of his and McKelvie’s sensibilities, but also a way of expressing all the things they’ve experienced over the last decade. It may even be a way of teaching a bit about what they’ve learned. “By the time we get to the end, I would hope that I’ll have imparted whatever wisdom the last 40 years has taught me,” says Gillen. “And I hope there’s some 17-year-old who’s going to read it all, and come out the other end and create [something] awesome.”
© Wired


G is for Google

10/8/2015- As Sergey and I wrote in the original founders letter 11 years ago, “Google is not a conventional company. We do not intend to become one.” As part of that, we also said that you could expect us to make “smaller bets in areas that might seem very speculative or even strange when compared to our current businesses.” From the start, we’ve always strived to do more, and to do important and meaningful things with the resources we have. We did a lot of things that seemed crazy at the time. Many of those crazy things now have over a billion users, like Google Maps, YouTube, Chrome, and Android. And we haven’t stopped there. We are still trying to do things other people think are crazy but we are super excited about.

We’ve long believed that over time companies tend to get comfortable doing the same thing, just making incremental changes. But in the technology industry, where revolutionary ideas drive the next big growth areas, you need to be a bit uncomfortable to stay relevant. Our company is operating well today, but we think we can make it cleaner and more accountable. So we are creating a new company, called Alphabet ( I am really excited to be running Alphabet as CEO with help from my capable partner, Sergey, as President.

What is Alphabet? Alphabet is mostly a collection of companies. The largest of which, of course, is Google. This newer Google is a bit slimmed down, with the companies that are pretty far afield of our main Internet products contained in Alphabet instead. What do we mean by far afield? Good examples are our health efforts: Life Sciences (that works on the glucose-sensing contact lens), and Calico (focused on longevity). Fundamentally, we believe this allows us more management scale, as we can run things independently that aren’t very related. Alphabet is about businesses prospering through strong leaders and independence. In general, our model is to have a strong CEO who runs each business, with Sergey and me in service to them as needed. We will rigorously handle capital allocation and work to make sure each business is executing well. We'll also make sure we have a great CEO for each business, and we’ll determine their compensation. In addition, with this new structure we plan to implement segment reporting for our Q4 results, where Google financials will be provided separately than those for the rest of Alphabet businesses as a whole.

This new structure will allow us to keep tremendous focus on the extraordinary opportunities we have inside of Google. A key part of this is Sundar Pichai. Sundar has been saying the things I would have said (and sometimes better!) for quite some time now, and I’ve been tremendously enjoying our work together. He has really stepped up since October of last year, when he took on product and engineering responsibility for our Internet businesses. Sergey and I have been super excited about his progress and dedication to the company. And it is clear to us and our board that it is time for Sundar to be CEO of Google. I feel very fortunate to have someone as talented as he is to run the slightly slimmed down Google and this frees up time for me to continue to scale our aspirations. I have been spending quite a bit of time with Sundar, helping him and the company in any way I can, and I will of course continue to do that. Google itself is also making all sorts of new products, and I know Sundar will always be focused on innovation -- continuing to stretch boundaries. I know he deeply cares that we can continue to make big strides on our core mission to organize the world's information. Recent launches like Google Photos and Google Now using machine learning are amazing progress. Google also has some services that are run with their own identity, like YouTube. Susan is doing a great job as CEO, running a strong brand and driving incredible growth.

Sergey and I are seriously in the business of starting new things. Alphabet will also include our X lab, which incubates new efforts like Wing, our drone delivery effort. We are also stoked about growing our investment arms, Ventures and Capital, as part of this new structure.

Alphabet Inc. will replace Google Inc. as the publicly-traded entity and all shares of Google will automatically convert into the same number of shares of Alphabet, with all of the same rights. Google will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of Alphabet. Our two classes of shares will continue to trade on Nasdaq as GOOGL and GOOG. For Sergey and me this is a very exciting new chapter in the life of Google -- the birth of Alphabet. We liked the name Alphabet because it means a collection of letters that represent language, one of humanity's most important innovations, and is the core of how we index with Google search! We also like that it means alpha-bet (Alpha is investment return above benchmark), which we strive for! I should add that we are not intending for this to be a big consumer brand with related products--the whole point is that Alphabet companies should have independence and develop their own brands.

We are excited about…
Getting more ambitious things done.
Taking the long-term view.
Empowering great entrepreneurs and companies to flourish.
Investing at the scale of the opportunities and resources we see.
Improving the transparency and oversight of what we’re doing.
Making Google even better through greater focus.
And a result of all this, improving the lives of as many people as we can.
What could be better? No wonder we are excited to get to work with everyone in the Alphabet family. Don’t worry, we’re still getting used to the name too!
Posted by Larry Page, CEO
© Official Google Blog


Facebook, Google and Twitter block 'hash list' of child porn images

Some of the world's biggest internet companies are joining forces to crack down on the sharing of child abuse images.

10/8/2015- Internet giants including Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo are stepping up the fight against paedophiles, with a new system that automatically blocks images of child sexual abuse. The companies have started using a database of thousands of known child sex abuse images compiled by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), known as a "hash list", to identify and block these images. Each of the images has been assessed by a highly-trained analyst and assigned a "digital fingerprint" (also known as a hash value) – a unique code created by running the image through an algorithm. Any copies of the file that are made will produce the same hash value when analysed, so if anyone tries to share the image on Facebook, Microsoft, Google, Twitter or Yahoo, these companies will automatically detect the hash value and block the image.

The hashing technology that the tech companies will use to identify known child abuse images has been developed by Google, and is now being shared with the wider industry. The IWF said that all eligible members will soon be offered access to the hash list. A similar system is already used by Dropbox, Google and other companies to prevent users from sharing copyright-protected files with other users. “The IWF hash list could be a game-changer and really steps up the fight against child sexual abuse images online," said Susie Hargreaves, chief executive of the Internet Watch Foundation. “It means victims’ images can be identified and removed more quickly, and we can prevent known child sexual abuse images from being uploaded to the internet in the first place.”

The IWF said many internet companies can make use of the hash list, including those that provide services such as the upload, storage or search of images, filtering services, hosting services, social media and chat services, data centres and connectivity services. The hash list is constantly growing, and has the potential to reach millions of hashes of images. The IWF claims to remove around 500 web addresses containing child sexual abuse material every day, with one web address containing up to thousands of images. However, Professor Will Stewart from the Institution of Engineering and Technology has previously warned that these measures are not a silver bullet. The internet was designed to provide adaptable routing, and makes even well-intentioned censorship difficult.

The digital fingerprinting system also only blocks child sex abuse images that have been identified by the Internet Watch Foundation and subsequently added the to database. It is also possible to change the hash value by altering the image in some way. "There is no quick technical fix that will protect victims – the most effective approaches use education, responsible parenting and more resources for enforcing the law," he said. The initiative comes after David Cameron announced tougher measures to combat online child sexual abuse material in November 2014. As well as technical solutions to prevent paedophiles from sharing explicit images online, the Prime Minister announced the creation of a new criminal offence of "sexual communication with a child", to close a loophole in the law.

The offence was introduced in an effort to stop paedophiles asking for explicit photos from children on mobiles or online – even if it cannot be proved that they have received an illegal image. David Cameron said the new offence would carry a sentence of up to two years in prison and allow police and prosecutors to pursue those who attempt to groom children online regardless of the outcome of their behaviour.
© The Telegraph


FBI: When It Comes To @ISIS Terror, Retweets = Endorsements

Which makes Twitter one of the bureau's best informants.

7/8/2015- The FBI's best informant has played a role in dozens of terrorism cases over the past several years and provided endless intelligence on extremists across the United States. The informant is young, rich, well-connected, easily distracted and really into reality television. The informant's name? Twitter. The social network is an "extraordinarily effective way to sell shoes, or vacations, or terrorism," and it puts propaganda in the pocket of kids and those with troubled minds, FBI Director James Comey said recently. "It's buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz, buzz. It's the constant feed ... the devil on your shoulder all day long, saying, 'Kill, kill, kill.'"

FBI agents have cited suspects' tweets in a slew of recent terrorism cases. Federal prosecutors have charged several Twitter users who allegedly support the Islamic State with lying to federal agents about their Twitter activity. In other cases, the FBI has pointed to Twitter activity -- including retweets -- as probable cause for terrorism charges. In one case, a 17-year-old pleaded guilty to providing "material support" to a designated foreign terrorist organization by tweeting out links. Law enforcement officials are ramping up their monitoring of Twitter. The company received 2,879 information requests from federal, state and local law enforcement authorities within the U.S. in 2014 -- a 66 percent increase from the 1,735 it received in 2013, according to its transparency report. Overall, there was a 72 percent jump in the number of accounts affected by such requests in the second half of 2014. The requests could be seeking additional user information, IP addresses and even the content of direct messages sent through the network.

Twitter's report does not specify how many requests came from the federal government in particular. But it's notable that FBI agents investigating terrorism are likely based in some of the locations with the highest number of Twitter requests in the second half of 2014. There were 195 requests made in Virginia, 170 requests out of New York state, and 125 requests that originated in the nation's capital. Among the recent terrorism cases that pointed to Twitter, the feds brought criminal charges against Ali Shukri Amin, a 17-year-old from Virginia who operated the Twitter account @AmreekiWitness, simply for sending certain tweets. The government -- which in press releases alternatively referred to Amin as a "Manassas Man" and a "Virginia Teen" -- focused on Amin's tweets about ways to use Bitcoin to financially support the Islamic State, also known as ISIL and ISIS. Amin has pleaded guilty and, in a statement of facts, agreed that he had operated the Twitter account, which "boasted over 4,000 followers," as a "pro-ISIL platform during the course of over 7,000 'tweets.'"

After the teen pleaded guilty in June, Dana Boente, the top federal prosecutor in the Eastern District of Virginia, said the case "demonstrated that those who use social media as a tool to provide support and resources to ISIL will be identified and prosecuted with no less vigilance than those who travel to take up arms with ISIL." Hamza Ahmed, 19, was indicted earlier this year for lying to federal agents about his travel plans and about how well he knew someone who had traveled to Syria. While Ahmed said he knew the person only "vaguely" from high school, the FBI pointed to a series of tweets between the pair in which Ahmed said, "Lol my bro I love you."

Bilal Abood, 37, was arrested in May and charged with making a false statement to the FBI, in part about his Twitter activity. A review of his computer revealed that he "had been on the internet viewing ISIS atrocities such as beheadings and using his twitter account to tweet and retweet information" on Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, and had reportedly used his Twitter account to "pledge obedience" to Baghdadi, according to the indictment. Abood allegedly denied pledging obedience. An affidavit from an FBI agent said that particular post "was retweeted by others." 

Arafat Nagi, a 44-year-old from Lackawanna, New York, arrested last week, made statements to federal law enforcement that were "inconsistent with his statements on the Twitter account that has been linked to him," according to an affidavit from an FBI agent. One tweet from April 2014, the agent wrote, demonstrates that Nagi was "promoting ISIL and their cause on Twitter." Agents also did an extensive review of Nagi's Twitter account, noting that 140 of the 278 Twitter handles he followed "featured profile pictures of ISIL flags, photos of al-Baghdadi or Osama bin Laden, photos of weapons or of individuals in military fatigues, photos of recent beheadings or other images which could reasonably be described as violent or terrorism-related in nature." Of Nagi's own 412 followers, the FBI said, approximately 187 "showed images that could reasonably be described as violent or terrorism-related in nature."

Keonna Thomas, a 30-year-old from Philadelphia who went by @YoungLioness on Twitter, was charged in April with attempting to provide material support for the Islamic State. In an affidavit in support of probable cause, an FBI agent pointed to tweets that Thomas "re-posted on Twitter" supporting the militant group. Comey, the FBI director, maintains that Americans still have protection against the government going after them for simple speech because the feds know they'll have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a suspect purposefully engaged in illegal conduct. "Knowing it was wrong, you provided material support for a terrorist organization or some other offense," Comey said, explaining how the FBI sees these suspects in response to Huffington Post questions during a meeting with reporters last month. "That is the bulwark against prosecuting someone for having an idea or having an interest. You have to manifest a criminal intent to further the aims prohibited by the statute."

Asked if reposting materials alone would cross the line, Comey said the answer would be different based on the individual circumstances. "It would depend upon what your mental state is in doing it," the FBI director said. "I can imagine an academic sharing something with someone as part of research would have a very different mental intent than someone who is sharing that in order to try and get others to join an organization or engage in an act of violence. So it's hard to answer in the abstract like that." But Comey said it was "pretty darn clear" where the line was. "The government is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you acted with a criminal intent to violate the statute. That is how we know people don't stumble, fall into, accidentally end up with a criminal violation," Comey said. "We're required to prove you knew what you were doing, you knew it was wrong, and you did it anyway. That's why I'm a big, big believer that that's a very important burden on the government."

That may sound cautious in theory, but Lee Rowland wants to be sure the government isn't sweeping too broadly in practice. The senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union's Speech, Privacy & Technology Project said that pure speech, even unpopular speech, should be protected. "The First Amendment prohibits the government from making it a crime to engage in speech, including hearing or agreeing with controversial or unpopular ideas," Rowland said. "So if someone is being charged with a crime simply for retweeting the content of a terrorist group, that would violate the First Amendment, full stop." "Of course there's also the question of intent there: repeating speech is not automatically an endorsement. … There are viral anti-terrorism activists who have reposted or retweeted speech or images by ISIS, for example, to highlight the group's cruelty," said Rowland. "So a RT alone is certainly not an endorsement and in many situations may be a criticism of the original speaker, and that's particularly true with terrorism, because I believe many people may believe terrorism is self-evidently immoral."

Robert Chesney, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said he suspects the government may, in fact, resist bringing cases that are purely about social media activity. "If you're the prosecutor, it's all well and good to say we're going to prosecute, as material support, a retweet or what have you, but nobody wants to go into court with that as the entire basis -- or even the grand jury with that as the whole basis," Chesney said. "Any good investigator would say, all right, now we have a person of interest. Let's make sure we get that person in contact with the cooperating witness or confidential informant. Then we'll get them talking much more substantively and we'll flesh this out." Chesney compared deciding when to intervene with a person tweeting extremist views to the "old 'Minority Report' problem," a reference to the short story and movie in which people got busted pre-crime.

"The positive way to spin that story is that they're not going after people just for dumb retweets, that they get in there and they find out through a cooperator what the person is really focused on, how serious they are. And if it turns out to be something big, the case is brought on that basis," Chesney said. "The negative way to describe it is that it's entrapment, that these are people who do these dumb things and then they get led down the treacherous path." He suggested prosecutions based on tweets might be viewed differently depending on whether the ultimate target is what Americans see as a "domestic" cause -- say, an ultra-conservative anti-government group or a radical environmental organization -- or a "foreign" cause -- like Islamic terrorism.

It's "clearly true," Chesney said, that people will be more concerned about law enforcement efforts "that are perceived as involving homegrown or domestic institutions or individuals, versus that which is perceived as 'the other' or foreign." Charging someone for social media activity alone might not be as politically viable in the former situation. "RTs do not equal endorsements, I think should go without saying," Chesney said. "But it gets interesting if you're retweeting really nasty beheading videos and stuff," he added. "Really, that's not endorsement? What does it mean to retweet something?"
© The Huffington Post


German media frenzy after journalist slams online hate speech against refugees

German journalist Anja Reschke has caused a stir across German social media after condemning the rise of hate comments against asylum seekers online. She has called for an "uprising of all decent people." 

6/8/2015- The huge debate in Germany comes amid the ever-increasing number of asylum seekers arriving in the country. In July alone, the German Federal Office for Migrants and Refugees (BAMF) reported a "record" monthly influx of 79,000 refugees - most of whom had arrived from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Current figures estimate that Germany will receive as many as 600,000 asylum applications in 2015. As the number of refugees has increased, there has also been a simultaneous rise in xenophobic sentiment, which has taken a particularly strong hold of Germany's social media. In the past, racism and xenophobia were often attributed to right-wing groups, but hidden behind their computer screens, it has become difficult to determine exactly who the perpetrators are. On Wednesday evening's edition of public broadcaster ARD's "Tagesthemen," one of Germany's most widely watched news programs, Munich-born journalist Anja Reschke denounced the increasing xenophobia and called on Germans to take a stand.

'Flood of hate comments'
"When I publicly say, Germany should take in economic refugees - what do you think will happen then?" Reschke began. "It's just an opinion which I can freely express. It would be nice if it were discussed objectively. But that's not how it would go. I'd receive a flood of hate comments." The presenter and previous winner of the Axel Springer Prize for young journalists, said the xenophobic commentators had until recently hidden behind pseudonyms. "But in the meantime they're being published under their real names. Apparently that's not embarrassing anymore," she said. Reschke went on to praise the small number of blogs and social media sites, such as "Perlen aus Freital" (Pearls from Freital), which already work to mock the hate comments. Among the comments are calls for refugees be "set on fire" or "left to drown in the sea." Spokesperson for civil rights charity "Amadeu Antonio Stiftung," Robert Lüdecke, supported Reschke, saying that the internet had become "a part of everyday life" and that people are as responsible to react to racism online as they would in real life.

Growing number of attacks
Continuing her attack on the hate inciters, Reschke warned the German public to not underestimate the power of the comments posted online. "We can say: 'Yeah, well, there are always idiots - best to ignore them.' But they're not just words. They already exist - the arson attacks on refugee shelters." Beyond the social media platforms, Germany has also seen an alarming increase of right-wing extremist violence in recent months. Officials recorded 202 attacks in the first six months of this year alone - the same amount as there were in the entirety of 2014. Just last week, a planned refugee home in Lunzenau near the eastern German city of Chemnitz was attacked with Molotov cocktails.

'Stand up and open your mouth'
Although law enforcement against hate crimes is growing, Reschke said that alone, this is not enough. "The hate-writers must understand that this is not tolerated in society. Therefore, if you don't think that all refugees are parasites that should be chased away, burned or gassed, then you must clearly make it known." "Stand up against it and open your mouth. Take a stance, publicly name and shame them." "The last 'uprising of all decent people' was 15 years ago. I think it's time again," the journalist said, referring to a similar call from German Chancellor at the time, Gerhard Schröder (SPD), following an arson attack on a synagogue in Düsseldorf.

Strong support
Reschke's plea to German public was met with much applause from like-minded viewers. The video has since been viewed over 3.7 million times, with many supporters expressing their support on social media. "The woman is fantastic!" one Facebook user wrote. "The best commentary I've seen for a long time. Applause!" another wrote. "Resist by sharing this commentary on your own timeline!" another Facebook user wrote, expressing an idea shared by more than 105,000 users who did exactly that.

Against freedom of expression
As Reschke predicted, however, she also received her fair share of negative retorts. Writing on the "Tagesthemen" website, one user, named only as "gman," criticized Reschke's commentary for preventing freedom of opinion. "This isn't the freedom of expression and free democratic basic order that the fathers of our constitution had in mind," he wrote. Another, who named themselves "DiePositiveBratwurst," lamented that fact that Reschke had allegedly "branded every worried citizen as a hateful citizen." Asking the question on many a confused German's lips at the moment, however, was user "Tralafit" who asked: "On the one hand we're a free country, on the other we don't want incitement. How are we to find the right balance?" As Germany plays tug of war between preventing a rise in xenophobia and trying to help those most in need, the country is grappling to find an answer - one that hopes to be found sooner rather than later.
© The Deutsche Welle.


Headlines July 2015

Google has own idea of what 'right to be forgotten' means

31/7/2015- Since a landmark ruling on the so-called 'right to be forgotten' by the Court of Justice of the European Union, Google has received requests to remove over a million website links from its search results in Europe. Of those 1,057,561 uniform resource locators (URLs), it deleted 370,112, or 41.3 percent, Google says. The court had ruled in May 2014 that if an internet search into an EU citizen's name yielded results which were “inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant”, that citizen may request the search engine to have those removed from the list of results. For example, Google complied with a request from a Belgian whose conviction of a crime was quashed on appeal to remove an article about them. It also removed an article about a rape victim in Germany.

However, it did so only for the European versions of its search engine. That means the articles can still be found by those using This has come to the attention of the French data protection authority. It sent Google a formal notice in June, saying “delisting must be carried out on all extensions of the search engine”. On Thursday, the US company asked the French data watchdog to withdraw the notice. It interprets the court ruling as obliging Google only to apply the ‘right to be forgotten’ on its European versions of Google Search. “While the ‘right to be forgotten’ may now be the law in Europe, it is not the law globally”, Google's global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer wrote in a blog post.

However, in its ruling the EU court did not differentiate between the worldwide and national versions of the search engine. Google, in its blogpost, also noted that the French order “is disproportionate and unnecessary, given that the overwhelming majority of French internet users—currently around 97%—access a European version of Google’s search engine like, rather than or any other version of Google”. But this statement is misleading at best. Many people don't use a national variant of Google instead of the global one, but in addition to it. is indeed the most visited web domain in France, according to internet traffic pollster Alexa. But is ranked third, between and According estimates, Facebook has about 26 million users, and Youtube around 22 million, in France. While calculation methods may vary, this means that is used by, roughly, between 22 and 26 million French internet users – or along the lines of between 40 and 47 percent. The picture is similar all over Europe, where the national version of Google is the most popular website, and the international version ranks as high as number two in the UK, Spain and the Netherlands, number three in Poland. Google did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.

Free speech
Fleischer also argued that if the French data protection authority CNIL had its way, this would affect internet users in the rest of the world. “If the CNIL’s proposed approach were to be embraced as the standard for Internet regulation, we would find ourselves in a race to the bottom. In the end, the Internet would only be as free as the world’s least free place,” he wrote. Google warned of a risk of “serious chilling effects on the web”, noting examples of content that is illegal in one country but which is legal in others. “Thailand criminalises some speech that is critical of its King, Turkey criminalises some speech that is critical of Ataturk, and Russia outlaws some speech that is deemed to be “gay propaganda."”, he wrote. But Fleischer is overstating the effect a national – or in the EU case regional – court order has on the wider development of the Internet.

In 2002, there were similar fears after a ruling in an Australian libel case against American company Dow Jones over the publication of an online article from its business magazine Barron's. The highest Australian court decided that because the article was available in Australia, the subject could sue for defamation there. Following the decision, the New York Times wrote in an editorial the case “could strike a devastating blow to free speech online”. But the conclusion of authors Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu in their 2006 book “Who controls the Internet?, Illusions of a Borderless World”, that the predicted devastation has been held off, is still valid today. Moreover, they criticised the US-centrism that is present among Internet freedom activists as much as in the rhetoric of American companies like Google.

Goldsmith and Wu wrote that “the First Amendment does not reflect universal values … and they are certainly not written into the Internet's architecture”. However, some of the most used websites worldwide are American, and they inherently carry some of those American values, which slightly differ from European values, where privacy is generally regarded as much more important. Google said it disagreed with the French data protection authority “as a matter of principle”.

Principle or also profit?
But it could well be that part of the company's motivation comes from the costs that would be involved with extending the right to be forgotten to its other domain names. Technically, it is not impossible for Google to do it. But it may reduce the public company's profit margin. As Goldberg and Wu noted, “national Internet laws are no more burdensome than the scores of conflicting national laws that multinational firms typically face”. In return, companies gain access to an enormous market. Having to adhere to different laws when providing services around the world, is part of the deal for running a global company. Even online.
© The EUobserver


Reddit needs to stop pretending racism is valuable debate (opinion)

Free speech doesn't mean you have to take something seriously.
By Adi Robertson

29/7/2015- Reddit's executives are still walking a thin, shaky tightrope as they update the site's content policy. Today, CEO and co-founder Steve Huffman posted a small update on Reddit's new moderator tools and rules for policing the site's worst communities — which could spell one of the biggest shifts in the site's history. He stayed to chat about what the changes would mean. And the inevitable question came up: "How do you feel about hosting what may soon be the biggest white supremacist forum on the internet?" Horrible, actually, but I don't think you can win an argument by simply silencing the opposition. Another user pointed out a seven-year-old comment in which Huffman said that "we've always banned hate speech, and we always will." Huffman followed up: While my personal views towards bigotry haven't changed, my opinion of what Reddit should do about it has. I don't think we should silence people just because their viewpoints are something we disagree with. There is value in the conversation, and we as a society need to confront these issues. This is an incredibly complex topic, and I'm sure our thinking will continue to evolve.

This is a problem.
The problem isn't necessarily with allowing hate speech on Reddit. Policing large communities is an extremely complex topic — just look at the fight over showing breastfeeding on Facebook for an example of heavier moderation backfiring. As in real life, good (or okay) speech can easily become collateral damage when you take down bad speech, especially when automation or large networks of moderators come into play. Whether or not this applies to Reddit is up for discussion. The problem is that Huffman doesn't frame the debate this way, and neither do many other people. By some very common logic, networks like the racist "Chimpire" aren't bugs in the system. They're valuable dissenting opinions that will help us settle important issues. So allowing r/CoonTown to exist isn't just a principled decision, it's one with practical benefits. That's not only dead wrong, it's fundamentally antithetical to valuable debate.

There's a place for confronting issues head-on. Social progress happens when people are willing to accept scrutiny of beliefs they took for granted — dismantling religious arguments against gay marriage was an incredibly valuable exercise. But to turn those conversations into real change, there has to be a point at which we consider the question settled and move on. Climate change is real. Vaccines do not cause autism. Dark skin does not make someone literally subhuman. At some point, "debate" isn't a good-faith act, it's a stalling tactic to protect the status quo.

And unfortunately, no question is ever settled on the internet. Its sheer size guarantees that however ludicrous or harmful a belief, there's probably a community that will foster it. The internet has democratized all kinds of opinions, making a single person's blog as accessible as a New York Times editorial. There's no way to conclusively "win" an argument with 3 billion people. This is okay when you're talking about, say, the best way to board an airplane or the four-corner simultaneous 24-hour day. The evidence comes down on one side, but keeping the debate open is relatively harmless — at best, an interesting thought experiment. Nobody makes you hear the opposition out before you set your one-corner alarm clock. But when the issue is whether one gender, sexual orientation, or race is inherently inferior to another, it's not an abstract question. Calling for an "argument" or a "conversation" means demanding that women or queer people or people of color defend their own humanity. Whether or not they do it successfully, it's a draining and demoralizing exercise, dragging a centuries-old struggle back to its starting point. Is that energy really worth deploying against the "official chimpout advisory guide" and r/WatchNiggersDie?

To be clear, we are rarely talking about rigorous scientific research into health and intelligence, or CDC surveys about black communities, or any of the other standard slippery slopes. We're talking about forums that argue from the assumption that the vast majority of black people are halfwits or violent criminals attempting to exterminate the white race. They add nothing to our understanding of race, crime, or social organization. Their main function is to shift the Overton Window far enough that non-murderous racism seems moderate. Committing to absolute, hands-off openness will eventually mean defending speech that is truly worthless and harmful. Not a "dissenting viewpoint" or "opposition." Not vulgar speech that creates something new. Speech that you are willing to accept even though the world would probably be better off if it were silenced. It's fine to decide that this is worth the cost. It's ridiculous to pretend we should be grateful it exists.
© The Verge


Germany: Facebook Ordered by Hamburg Regulator to Allow Pseudonyms

Facebook Inc. was ordered by a German privacy watchdog to allow users to have accounts under pseudonyms on the social network.

28/7/2015- Facebook may not unilaterally change such accounts to the real names of users and may not block them, Johannes Caspar, Hamburg’s data regulator, said in an e-mailed statement. The company, whose European headquarters are in Ireland, can’t argue it’s only subject to that country’s law, he said. “Anyone who stands on our pitch also has to play our game,” said Caspar. “The arbitrary change of the user name blatantly violates” privacy rights. Caspar and other German regulators have been fighting with Facebook for years over the implementation of European data-protection rules. The U.S. company has argued that the Irish regulator has jurisdiction over its compliance with EU privacy law.

Facebook said it was disappointed its name policy is being revisited after it won disputes over the issue. “The use of authentic names on Facebook protects people’s privacy and safety by ensuring people know who they’re sharing and connecting with,” the company said in an e-mailed statement. Tuesday’s order is based on a complaint by a user who’d sought to prevent her private Facebook account from being used by people wishing to contact her about business matters. Facebook changed the profile to her real name against her will and asked for a digital copy of her identity card or passport, said Caspar.

The Irish privacy regulator in 2011 audited Facebook and found its name policy was in line with Irish law. The social network in 2013 was able to fend off an attack by another German regulator by convincing national courts that only the Irish authority has jurisdiction over the issue. Caspar now argues that a ruling last year by Europe’s top court on Google Inc.’s search engine results changed the situation and allows him to regulate Facebook.
© Bloomberg


UK: MPs call for 'anti-Muslim paramilitary manual' website to be investigated

Far-right Gates of Vienna website is also promoting upcoming London exhibition of Muhammad cartoons which it is feared is intended to incite Islamist violence.

27/7/2015- A group of MPs have called for an investigation into a far-right website described as a training manual for anti-Muslim paramilitaries – amid fears that an upcoming exhibition of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in London is designed to incite Islamist violence. The Gates of Vienna website has been heavily promoting the exhibition, which is understood to feature the same drawings shown in Texas in May when two gunmen attempted to storm the event and were killed by police. It has been organised by the former Ukip parliamentary candidate Anne-Marie Waters and is set to take place at a location in central London on 18 September with tickets priced at £35. Organisers say among those attending will be Geert Wilders, the Dutch rightwing politician who has espoused controversial views on Islam.

In a report on the so-called British counter-jihadist movement, published on Monday, the anti-fascist group Hope Not Hate called for the exhibition to be banned. Nick Lowles, Hope Not Hate’s chief executive, said: “Our concern is that the event is intended to provoke a reaction from British Muslims. It is not about freedom of speech, it is about incitement. The authorities cannot allow this event to go ahead. Communities shouldn’t rise to their bait, we must stand together as a show of strength.” Lowles also said he had serious concerns about material published on the Gates of Vienna website. The site – the name of which refers to a 1683 battle between European forces and the Ottoman empire – contains detailed descriptions of how anti-Muslim paramilitary groups could operate during a conflict with European Muslims. One entry is a fictionalised account of a predicted race war, described as “a hard look at the near future in Britain”, with a section entitled “A guide to amateur bomb-making”. Waters is a contributor to the site and has written a lengthy post about the London exhibition.

Lowles said he believed the site was hosted on British servers. “If a Muslim had a similar website, which includes bomb manuals and details about assassinations and establishing paramilitary groups, then you can be sure action would be taken,” he added. The Labour MPs Ian Austin, Ruth Smeeth, Imran Hussain, Paula Sherriff, Wes Streeting and John Cryer have written to the director of public prosecutions, Alison Saunders, asking her to consider if the site’s owners are breaching the law. The letter reads: “It is clear that these are the ideas that inspired Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik and as such it is deeply troubling that they are available to inspire others. We would urge you to investigate the Gates of Vienna website and take appropriate action if anyone involved is deemed to be promoting terrorism and civil disorder.”

Austin told the Guardian he would also be raising the issue with Theresa May. “I am shocked that the Gates of Vienna website can publish articles promoting a strategy for civil war,” he said. “At a time when we should all be concerned about terrorism it is imperative that the police investigate this website and those behind the calls for civil war and I’ll be raising this with the home secretary.” He added that the exhibition of Muhammad cartoons was “clearly [intended] to provoke a reaction from British Muslims and we must all ensure this does not happen”. Wilders was also present at the exhibition of the cartoons in Texas, which was run by the anti-Islam American Freedom Defense Initiative and hosted by the group’s co-founder, Pamela Geller, a US blogger and speaker who is banned from entering the UK over her anti-Muslim views.

Vive Charlie, an online magazine set up after the attacks by Islamist extremists on the offices of the satirical publication Charlie Hebdo in Paris, is co-hosting the exhibition along with Waters’ website Sharia Watch and the fringe far-right party Liberty GB. The magazine, which has no connection to the French title, is calling for artwork submissions. Waters said in a statement on Sharia Watch: “It is vital, in this era of censorship and fear, that we stand together in defiance and demand our right to free expression … We will not, and cannot, succumb to violent threats. The outlook for our democracy depends on the actions we take today.” A spokesman for the Metropolitan police said an appropriate policing plan would be put in place for the event but would not comment further.
© The Guardian


USA: Recruitment now is through websites not hate groups

Angela King became a neo-Nazi skinhead the old-fashioned way. She was raised in a prejudiced and homophobic household. As a child she was bullied, and later members of the hate group offered her acceptance.

23/7/2015- “One day I decided to fight back,” King said. “From that point on I decided that I would never be humiliated again and that I would be the one to instigate. ... I actually became violent even before I found the far right.” King hasn’t been affiliated with the hate group for decades. Now, she works for a nonprofit that helps extremists recover from a life driven by radicalism, but she still recalls how the indoctrination process began when she was in high school. King tried becoming friends with many different groups before she was accepted by the skinheads. “Through them I met older skinheads who had indoctrinated the younger ones,” King said. “When I started hanging out with them was when I started receiving the propaganda that goes around. It has stereotypes about every other race and religion that wasn’t like us.”

Pete Simi, a criminology professor at the University of Nebraska who has studied and embedded white supremacist groups for 18 years, said that propaganda becomes a powerful mechanism for getting people more committed to the cause. “Part of this indoctrination is the idea that (members) are one of the select few,” Simi said. “They have special insight about how the world really operates, but most of us are blinded to it. You know something that most others don’t know. And so that becomes very seductive.” But as technology has changed since King was a skinhead, so has the process of indoctrination. As far as anyone knows, Dylann Roof, the alleged Charleston, South Carolina, shooter, had no direct contact with organized hate groups.

Hate groups are in decline, but influence new terrorists
“He encountered this whole world of white nationalism through the Internet entirely,” said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center and one of the nation’s leading experts on extremism. Potok said more and more extremists are leaving organized hate groups for the Internet. “Of course someone could have made that argument 15 years ago,” Potok said. “The Internet was already a big thing by the late ’90s, but it’s become much more pervasive today. For a guy like Dylann Roof who’s 21 years old, that’s the language he speaks. He gets all this information from the Internet and social media.” Another reason extremists have left organized groups is that the cost of being outed as a member of one has risen, causing people to lose their jobs or sometimes spouses. “So more and more people are going off into the anonymity and safety of the Internet and that world is increasingly producing lone wolves like Dylann Roof,” Potok said.

And though the means of indoctrination may have evolved, the force behind it has remained the same. “Most of these groups are propelled by fear,” King said. “As human beings, we learn to fear the things that we don’t know. That fear can morph into hate, and in that there is a continuous struggle.”
© Montgomery Advertizer


On last day as ADL chief, Foxman says Internet biggest factor in rising anti-Semitism

After 50 years with the ADL, Abraham Foxman talks to 'The Jerusalem Post' about what's next for world Jewry and for himself.

21/7/2015- On Monday, Abraham Foxman ended his 28-year tenure as national director of the Anti-Defamation League and spoke with The Jerusalem Post about the future of world Jewry, the rise of anti-Semitism and what's next for the man who has been part of the organization in various capacities for the past 50 years. When asked about the state of world Jewry, Foxman said simply that "it's not the best of times," taking into account the dramatic rise of anti-Semitism and the Iran deal that just garnered approval in the United Nations on Monday. "If the world left us alone, we'd be fine," he said. Foxman said that the biggest factor contributing to the dramatic rise in anti-Semitism in the past 15 years has been the Internet, where it has had a rebirth. On this new platform, he said, people have the ability to quickly and anonymously voice their opinion without having to back it up with any facts.

He says that despite all the good that the Internet does, it is also used as a "superhighway for bigotry." He says another huge factor is that "we never developed an antidote" to anti-Semitism. "Many of us believed that after Auschwitz was laid bare to the world to see what hatred, bigotry, prejudice, racism and anti-Semitism could do ... [we] Jews thought the world would come together ." Foxman said that "anti-Semitism has not been taken out of the bloodstream of society," which has caused the Jews around the world and especially in Europe to question if they should leave their homes." He also sharply criticized the fact that "Israel is still being treated as a Jew amongst the nations." He gave the example that most countries in the world do not recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

"Every country in the world decides what their capital is and 200 countries respect it. Israel is still the only country in the world where you've decided Jerusalem, Yerushalayim, is the capital and yet most, if not almost all the countries in the world don't respect that." Foxman said that after he ends his position with the ADL, he will not retire, but rather "rewire" following a bit of vacation. He is looking to stay involved with the Jewish community and Jewish issues. "I hope to continue to have a voice ... not as director but as director emeritus. Unfortunately, there will be a lot of issues that need perspective and voice."
© The Jerusalem Post


Italian judge indicts 25 far-right suspects

20/7/2015- An Italian judge has indicted 25 suspected members of the extreme-right movement Stormfront on charges of racial hatred and making threats following posts on the group's website against migrants, Jews and officials. The news agency ANSA reported Monday that the indictment stems from posts on the group's website in 2011 and 2012. A judge in Rome set the opening date of the trial for Dec. 15. Among those targeted by the group were the anti-Mafia writer Roberto Saviano and Mayor Giusi Nicolini of the southern Sicilian island of Lampedusa, where thousands of migrants fleeing conflict, persecution and poverty in Africa have arrived in recent years seeking a new life in Europe.
© The Associated Press


Germany: Far-right extremists turn to social media to spread their ideas

20/7/2015- Neo-Nazis and far-right groups are rebranding themselves to appeal to a digital generation of potential sympathizers. @dwnews explores how extreme ideas are being shared via memes, hashtags and even online cooking shows.

Large online presence
Right-wing extremists in Germany are increasingly using social media to spread their ideas. In fact, according to a German youth protection agency, there are some 5,507 websites controlled by right-wing groups. About 70 percent of them are on social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Tumblr.

Social media messaging
Social media is becoming the most popular way for Germany’s far right to reach out to potential new sympathizers. But the content shared on many of these accounts isn’t what you might expect. There are no pictures of Adolf Hitler, no Swastikas and no overt violence. Instead, many of these accounts are taking a more subtle approach, camouflaging extreme ideas with sexy pictures, memes or funny videos. 

Extreme memes
Social media gives anyone - even neo-Nazi organizations - the opportunity to share their message far and wide. But it can be dificult to make outwardly hateful content go viral. So how do these groups spread their extreme views to the general public? One way is by masking them in memes. Nationalistic, anti-immigrant and anti-Islamic ideas are being repackaged into memes (images that have made their way into popular culture) and distributed on social media. The toned-down messages and familiar images make these "extreme memes" more acceptable for an average social media user to share.

Hijacking hashtags
Social media is no stranger to discussions of controversial topics with strong opinions on both left and right. And often these discussions take the form of a Twitter hashtag, a way of organizing many different tweets related to the same topic. Well, it seems far-right groups have begun hijacking hashtags and overwhelming the discussion with far-right views. Take the anti-racism hashtag #schauhin for example. "Schau hin" essentially means "look closely." The hashtag and the Twitter account above are meant to raise awareness about everyday racism in Germany. But a far right group created their own Twitter account with a similar name and logo. They then encouraged their followers to use that same #schauhin hashtag to discuss the "overwhelming infiltration of immigrants" into Germany. 

Targeting young people
Social media is an effective way to spread extreme messages and it’s also a great way to target young people. Platforms like Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter tend to have plenty of young users. And now with the rise of smartphones, kids can easily access social media without adult supervision. Germany’s extreme right-wing groups have figured this out and are now directing their messages directly at young people. One group even created a Twitter account featuring the Sesame Street character "Cookie Monster" (Krümelmonster in Germany) to attract young people to the right-wing scene. The account is linked to various extreme right-wing groups and tweets in support of right-wing activities. For exam-ple, praising PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West), a group that at its peak earlier this year marched every Monday against the perceived "Islamization of Germany."

The "Cookie Monster" even took his recruitment efforts offline. A man who was later identified as a neo-Nazi was arrested at a school in eastern Germany last year after being caught handing out flyers to kids wearing a cookie monster outfit. The flyers contained far-right material. Pictures of the "right-wing muppet" pamphleting another school were posted on the account last month. And there are similar online videos too. This comes from the Krümelmonster Twitter account and shows the "Cookie Monster" mocking news reports, warning the public about it. Germany's far-right political parties have big online followings. Despite their lack of success in Germany's parliament, the country's two most popular right-wing parties have huge online followings. The AfD (Alternative for Germany) party, which advocates for Germany's exit from the European Union, and the NPD (National Democratic Party of Germany) currently have no seats in the German Bundestag. However, the two parties have far and away more Facebook followers than any other German political party.


By now most of us have heard of "hipsters." But what's a "nipster?" It's a combination between a Nazi and a hipster and these young and "cool" neo-Nazis have a prominent online presence. This photo comes from a far-right group called Balaclava Küche (küche means kitchen and a balaclava is the black face mask) Images like these combine elements that are popular with Germany's youth. Club Mate is an energy drink that hipsters in Berlin love to drink. And veganism is a calling card of many young German activists. So seeing young people with far-right ideas but who eat, drink and dress in a cool way can send a powerful message. Balaclava Küche even has its own vegan cooking program on YouTube. In this episope the cooks are mocking FEMEN, a radical feminist group.

Experts weigh-in
Christina Dinar is an expert on Germany's extreme right. Her work with helps educate young people about the far right's online activities. Dinar says the extreme right wing in Germany uses many of the same social media techniques as everyone else to get their message out.

Sex Appeal
As the saying goes, "sex sells." And it seems Germany's far-right extremist groups have figured that out too. Rather than sharing frightening or intimidating images on social media (think Swastikas or Adolf Hitler tributes) now they are frequently using sex appeal. Anti-immigrant and pro-Europe messages have been repackaged. At first glance, they resemble shampoo advertisements.

Does online activity have offline consequences?
Memes, tweets and Facebook pages might help recruit new people to far-right circles but it's hard to link them to any offline violence. However, a Google map that surfaced last week suggests that extreme groups might be using the Internet to encourage action against asylum seekers in Germany. The map, which has since been taken down, showed the locations of hundreds of shelters for asylum seekers in Germany. The map's title? "No refugee center in my backyard." It appeared to have been created by a German neo-Nazi group called "The Third Way." There were no explicit calls for violence but the map gave exact addresses of many of the asylum centers, which could be used to plan attacks.

Attacks on refugee housing
There has been a string of arson attacks on refugee housing in Germany this year - at least 13 so far - an average of nearly two per month. The fires were mostly set to empty buildings being prepared to house refugees but the attacks have taken place all over the country. In the first half of this year nearly 180,000 people applied for asylum in Germany while anti-immigration sentiments are on the rise.

Finding and reporting extreme content
So what should you do if you find extreme content on social media? Well, the first challenge is correctly identifying it, which can be difficult given how skilled far right groups have become at disguising their messages. If you do encounter racist, violent or offensive content, our experts say: report it. Christina Dinar from told us there are established methods for asking Twitter or Facebook for removing content.

© The Deutsche Welle.


UK: Twitter unveils new 'safety centre' to help report anti-Semitism online

21/7/2015- Twitter has unveiled a new ‘safety centre’ to help users report anti-Semitic tweets on the social media platform. Tuesday’s announcement comes just hours after Prime Minister David Cameron criticised internet giants for not doing enough to stop the spread of extremism and hatred online. The new service will help users keep accounts secure, control what others can see and report tweets that violate Twitter’s rules. It follows consultation with Jewish group Community Security Trust (CST), which reported a 118 percent rise in anti-Semitism online last year. Twitter’s Head of Safety, Patricia Cartes, said: “What is really important for us is to continue to engage with CST to really understand what is happening in the offline world and make sure that our mechanisms are prepared to cope with the increase of reports. “It’s the insight that groups like CST have that empowers us to make changes and take action.”
© Jewish News UK


UK: Islamic Network charity website called for the slaughter of gay people

Islamic Network, a Muslim charity, leant its name to articles calling for the murder of homosexuals and encouraging the killing of Muslims, an inquiry has found.

20/7/2015- An investigation by the Charity Commission has found posts on the Islamic Network's website "encouraged violence and denigrated particular faiths". The Charity Commission has said in a statement on its findings:"The charity's website had hosted historic material from 2004 that legitimised the killing of gay people and encouraged the killing of Muslims in certain circumstances." The investigation concluded it was inappropriate for the charity to host the information in its name on the website, although Islamic Network's current trustees had "acted quickly to take the website offline when the material in question came to their attention". The current heads of the charity were not in place when the information was published. The domain name which hosted the articles was inherited by the charity. The inquiry focused on two articles, one called "The prohibition of the blood of a Muslim and the reasons for shedding it" and the other "Homosexuality".

The former made reference to the circumstances when under an interpretation of Islamic law it was permissible to "spill the blood of a Muslim". The instances included adultery, murder and apostacy. The article "Homosexuality" claimed that homosexuality was a "perverted sexual behaviour", a "sick disease" and an "evil and filthy practice". It advocated that gay people should be "destroyed by fire", "executed by being thrown from a great height" and "stoned to death". Michelle Russell, director of investigations, monitoring and enforcement at the Charity Commission, said: "Trustees carry ultimate responsibility for the operation and activities of the charity, including for the content of their charity's website and social media. "Trustees are responsible for ensuring steps are taken to remove clearly inappropriate content posted on their website straight away. In cases of illegality such as hate crime or terrorist-related material, they must report the matter to the police," she added.

Islamic Network's aims include increasing awareness of the tenets of the Islamic faith among Muslims and non-Muslims through educational media and seminars. The charity has said in a statement to IBTimes UK that "As previously stated this was an historical website we had inherited over a decade ago with thousands of articles which, like the ones in question, had been posted by unknown third parties overseas without our knowledge. "We accept we had not completed the process of reviewing the articles as quickly as we should have done. However as soon as we were made aware of the existence of those articles the trustees removed the website with immediate effect. "The trustees recognized these articles were offensive and hateful, and did not reflect our views and were against our own anti-extremism policies."
© The International Business Times - UK


UK: Police face racism probe after secret online FB page is discovered

Britain’s largest police force has launched an investigation into allegations that its officers used a “secret” Facebook group to air racist views about ethnic minorities.

19/7/2015- The Metropolitan Police is examining allegations that serving officers used a closed group on the social network to post racist comments about Gypsies and Travellers. Both groups are officially recognised as ethnic minorities, and discriminating against them is illegal. Police officers could be prosecuted if they are found to have broken the law, and will also face professional misconduct inquiries, Scotland Yard said. But the force was urged to launch a wider review amid claims that racism against both groups has become “endemic” and “part of police culture”. The Met was first alerted to the Facebook group in April after concerns were raised by one of its members. Named “I’ve Met the Met”, it has around 3,000 participants, and serves as an unofficial online forum for serving and retired officers, but is managed on an invite-only basis and cannot be viewed by the public.

Some of the comments were made during a discussion in March about the BBC Trust’s decision to clear Jeremy Clarkson and other Top Gear presenters of wrongdoing for their use of the word “pikey”, a derogatory term for Travellers. Others dated back further. “I never knew a pikey could be offended,” read one comment. “I thought they were devoid of all normal feelings and thoughts … just my opinion based on many years of dealing with these despicable people.” Another said: “There is not a small minority of criminals from the GT [Gypsy and Traveller] community – to all intents and purposes they all depend on crime.” The comments suggest that a “canteen culture of racism towards Gypsies and Travellers” exists within the Met, according to a formal complaint sent to Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe by the Traveller Movement charity at the end of last month.

It also claimed that some police forces “categorise Gypsies and Travellers as criminals”, and that entire operations were sometimes conducted based purely on “ethnic and family name profiling”. The allegations will come as a blow for the Met, which has been working to repair its reputation since Sir William Macpherson’s 1999 report into the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence found that it was institutionally racist. In a statement, the force confirmed that officials at its internal watchdog, the Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS), had been investigating comments made on the Facebook group for three months. It urged members of the public to come forward if they had concerns about the online behaviour of any officers. “We can confirm that concerns were raised in April 2015 with the DPS regarding comments made by some members of a group on Facebook,” it said. “The group administrators have set the privacy settings as ‘secret’ but we understand it to include former and serving MPS officers among its members.

“DPS is assessing the information to determine whether any serving MPS officer or staff may have committed any acts of misconduct and will also look to see if any criminal offences may have been committed. Should either be disclosed they will be fully investigated.” A spokesman for the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Government’s human rights watchdog, said it had received a similar complaint about the Facebook group and was “in discussion” with the Met over what action to take. If it believes there is enough evidence of wrongdoing, it has the power to order a full investigation into racism within the British police service.

Yvonne MacNamara, CEO of the Traveller Movement, said the Facebook comments were “shocking”. She added: “The fact that they are potentially made by serving and retired police officers gives us no confidence at all in the Metropolitan Police’s ability to both police these communities and to attract and protect its own staff who are from Gypsy and Traveller backgrounds. “We believe that the Met must set up an internal review to look into the all too common assumptions that all Gypsies and Travellers are criminals, and they do not deserve the same quality of service and policing as any other member of our society.” Jim Davies, chair of the Gypsy Roma Traveller Police Association (GRTPA), said the allegations were a “sad indictment of the police service”, adding that racism against both groups was prevalent in forces across the country, not just in London.

“Racism towards Gypsies and Travellers is endemic and is part of police culture,” he said. “It has been allowed to fester and spread unchallenged for years and the effect on the lives of Gypsies and Travellers in the police service is disastrous. “Members of the GRTPA report having to endure this sort of behaviour on a regular basis, and in order to survive such a hostile environment develop coping mechanisms which include hiding their ethnicity to all but their most trusted friends.”

What the posts say:
# “I never knew a pikey could be offended. I thought they were devoid of all normal feelings and thoughts … just my opinion based on many years of dealing with these despicable people.”
# “I fucking hate Pikeys.”
# “The Policing Diversity book reliably informed us we should ‘remove your footwear when entering a travellers caravan …’
[Reply]: “Ha ha ha that’s only so they can nick them easier.”
# “Pikey is just a word used by many to refer to the low life gypsies in this world. Using it does not mean that you hate all gypsies. Same applies to the ‘n’ word, Paki etc etc”
# “If you don’t live in a caravan, claim dole, have four aliases, convictions for theft of scrap metal, and are an artisan driveway landscaper then sorry chap, you’re not proper Pikey no matter how many teas you’ve had from a baked bean can.”
© The Independent


Dutch police phone taps now automatically include internet

16/7/2015- Dutch police now automatically intercept internet traffic when setting up a telephone tap, online magazine Computerworld reports on Thursday. The news was buried in the justice ministry’s annual report which was published in May and has only now been made public, the website states. In the report, the ministry says officials placed more than 25,181 taps last year, down around 1,000 on 2013. However, the ministry says in a report footnote that it no longer gives separate figures for internet taps because they are now ‘technically and procedurally standard’. In 2013, investigators placed 17,800 taps on IP addresses. Privacy group Bits of Freedom (BoF) said the change breaks government pledges to improve transparency. In addition, tapping internet connections is much more privacy-sensitive than a phone, spokesman Rejo Zenger told the website. The Netherlands is said to carry out more phone taps than any other country in the world. Last year, home affairs minister Ronald Plasterk refused to reveal how many taps are placed by the Dutch security services AIVD and MIVD.
© The Dutch News


South Korea: Samsung Removes Online Cartoons After Anti-Semitism Row

15/7/2015- A Samsung company on Wednesday removed online cartoons attacking a U.S. hedge fund's founder as a ravenous, big-beaked vulture after Jewish organiza-tions protested similar smears in South Korea's media. The hedge fund, Elliott, is opposing a takeover deal between two Samsung companies that critics say will ensure the current generation of Samsung's founding family retains control over South Korea's biggest conglomerate. Samsung C&T, one of the Samsung firms involved in the takeover, posted cartoons online that depicted Elliott's founder Paul Singer as a vulture-like figure. In one scene, Singer is depicted hiding an axe behind his back while taking money from a man in ragged clothes.

The cartoons were displayed for several weeks on a website set up by Samsung C&T to argue the merits of the takeover deal. Samsung C&T said the cartoons were a sensitive issue and asked The Associated Press not to publish a story before a crucial shareholder meeting. It later issued a statement saying offense was unintentional. "We categorically denounce anti-Semitism in all its forms, and we are committed to respect for all individuals," the statement said. Jewish organizations last week called on Samsung and South Korea's government to denounce anti-Semitic stereotypes in local media. A local business news website withdrew a column in which it called Elliott "Jewish money" and "ruthless and merciless."

The takeover will be put to a shareholder vote on Friday. Samsung needs support from at least two third of shareholders. The vote is likely to be a close contest. Elliott, the third-largest shareholder in Samsung C&T, is not alone in criticizing the deal as unfair to minority shareholders. Pension funds in the Netherlands and Canada as well as thousands of minority shareholders in South Korea said they will oppose the takeover. Samsung says the deal is crucial for the future of the two companies. Meanwhile, South Korea's national pension fund, which is the largest shareholder in C&T, has reportedly decided to side with Samsung.
© The Associated Press


UK: How is this Not Inflammatory? Posts on Britain First's Facebook Page

12/7/2015- How many times has the extremist group Britain First skirted right to the edge of the legal limit? How many times have its ‘supporters’ and those anti-Muslim bigots gone over the line and made assertions of violence against Islamic institutions. The link between extremist propaganda and violent ‘calls for action’ can be best summarised here:

Extremist group, Britain First post this article on their Facebook page. The resultant responses are akin to incitement and will be reported to the relevant police authority:

Roger Dyer: “Never mind the noise,can you imagine the stench coming from it? the obvious solution is a bonfire.”

Jason Bailey, from Well, SomersetIt’s made of wood. Petrol + matches = no more noise.”

Graham Martin: “Napalm it.”

Cain Pinnock, (from London): “petrol station near by is there”

Grant Hawley, from Milton, Cambridgeshire: “50p on a box of matches. A sound investment.”

John and Vicky McNeil, who works in Senior Sales in Debenhams: “Torch it.”

Mark Whale said: “About time it was blown up (and lists lots of flames).”

Roy Holmes from Walthamstow: “Set it alight while they are all inside praying. B.b.q muslim!”

© Tell Mama

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 and Magenta Foundation, Complaints Bureau for Discrimination on the Internet.