False news of the Vegas attack spread on Google, Facebook

Police form a perimeter around the road leading to the Mandalay Hotel (background) after a gunman killed at least 50 people and wounded more than 200 others when he opened fire on a country music concert in Las Vegas, Nevada on Monday. (AFP)
Updated 03 October 2017
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False news of the Vegas attack spread on Google, Facebook

MENLO PARK, California: False news that erroneously named a suspect in the deadly Las Vegas mass shooting on Sunday spread on Google and Facebook before the services removed the posts in question, the two companies acknowledged Monday.
Erroneous posts on both services — one highlighted by Google’s “Top Stories” search results, the other circulated by Facebook users — falsely identified the shooter as an apparently uninvolved person.
Las Vegas police say Stephen Craig Paddock, of Mesquite, Nevada, fired down on concertgoers from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay casino hotel, killing at least 59 people and wounding more than 500 in the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history. Paddock killed himself as authorities closed in.
But a story by the pro-Trump political website “The Gateway Pundit” named a different person as the shooter, citing a Facebook page to claim the individual was “a far left loon” and “a Democrat who liked (MSNBC host) Rachel Maddow.” Posters on the anonymous, anarchic 4chan.org forum likewise trumpeted supposed findings that the same individual was both the shooter and a “social democrat.” BuzzFeed saved screenshots of the stories, which no longer turn up on either Gateway Pundit or 4chan.
Google said in a statement that it highlighted 4chan’s “Politically Incorrect” message board, where the incorrect posts appeared, for several hours before its search algorithm replaced it with more relevant results. The 4chan result only appeared if users entered the erroneous name as a query, Google said. The listing did not appear in Google News.
“This should not have appeared for any queries,” a Google spokesperson said, adding that the company would aim to prevent it from happening again.
Facebook said its security team removed Gateway Pundit results and other similar posts from its social network, some within minutes. But because that removal was “delayed,” the company said, images of the incorrect story were captured and circulated online.
“We are working to fix the issue that allowed this to happen in the first place and deeply regret the confusion this caused,” a Facebook spokesman said in a statement.
Both companies are under fire from lawmakers for promoting false stories in the lead-up to last year’s election, and have been invited to testify at a congressional investigation into Russian meddling in the race.


Vietnam says controversial cybersecurity law aims to protect online rights

Updated 19 July 2018
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Vietnam says controversial cybersecurity law aims to protect online rights

HANOI: Vietnam’s new cybersecurity law is designed to protect online rights and create a “safe and healthy cyberspace,” the foreign ministry said on Thursday, although critics have warned it gives the Communist-ruled state more power to crack down on dissent.
Seventeen US lawmakers wrote to the chief executives of Facebook and Google on Wednesday, urging them to resist changes wrought by the new law that require foreign tech firms to store locally personal data on users in Vietnam and open offices there.
“As in any other country, the activities of foreign businesses and investors should comply with the laws of the host country,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang told Reuters in a comment on Wednesday’s letter.
“The ratification of the cybersecurity law is aimed at creating a safe and healthy cyberspace,” Hang said in a written statement in response to a request for comment.
That would protect the legitimate rights and interests of organizations and individuals online, and ensure national security as well as social order and safety, she added.
Despite sweeping economic reforms and growing openness to social change, Vietnam’s Communist Party tolerates little dissent.
Global technology firms have pushed back against the requirement to store user data locally, but have not taken the same tough stance on the parts of the law that bolster the government’s crackdown on online political activism.
In particular, the new law gives more direct control over online censorship to the Ministry of Public Security, which is tasked with crushing dissent.
Foreign ministry spokeswoman Hang did not directly address those accusations, as outlined in Wednesday’s letter from US lawmakers, but said freedom of speech was a right enshrined in Vietnamese law.
“The state of Vietnam always respects and facilitates the rights of its citizens to exercise freedom and democracy but is resolutely against the abuse of those rights to commit illegal activities,” Hang added.
Approved by Vietnamese legislators last month, the law takes effect on January 1 next year.