Internet giants find more Russia-linked election meddling

Russian state-owned television station RT logo is seen at the window of the company's office in Moscow, Russia, in this Oct. 27, 2017 photo. (AP)
Updated 31 October 2017

Internet giants find more Russia-linked election meddling

SAN FRANCISCO: Internet giants were expected to tell Congress this week that Russian-backed content aimed at manipulating US politics during last year’s election was more extensive than first thought.
Facebook, Google and Twitter were slated to share what they have learned so far from digging into possible connections between Russian entities and posts, ads, and even videos shared on YouTube.
Facebook will tell Congress that some 126 million US users, a potentially large portion of the voting public here, may have seen stories, posts or other content from Russian sources, according to tech news site Recode, the Wall Street Journal and other US media.
The reach is far broader than had originally been estimated by the world’s leading social network.
Facebook did not respond to AFP requests for comment.
Google found that two accounts linked to the Internet Research Agency spent $4,700 on search and display ads during last year’s US election cycle, Google general counsel Kent Walker and director of information security Richard Salgado said in a blog post.
The ads were not targeted based on which states people lived in or their apparent political leanings, the men said.
“Like other Internet platforms, we have found some evidence of efforts to misuse our platforms during the 2016 US election by actors linked to the Internet Research Agency in Russia,” Walker and Salgado said.
“While we have found only limited activity on our services, we will continue to work to prevent all of it, because there is no amount of interference that is acceptable.”
There were 18 channels at YouTube “likely associated” with the campaign that made English language videos available that appeared to have politically-oriented clips in the mix of offerings.
A total of 1,108 such videos were uploaded, totaling 43 hours of content, and racked up 309,000 views in the 18 months leading up to the election won by US President Donald Trump.
The channels had relatively low view counts, with only about three percent of them logging more than 5,000 views. The channels identified have been suspended, according to Walker and Salgado.
There was no evident that RT, a reference to a state-run Russian television network, manipulated YouTube or violated its policies, the men said.
A source familiar with Twitter’s testimony for Congress said the one-to-many messaging service identified 36,746 accounts that “generate automated, election-related content” during the three months leading up to the election and appeared linked to a Russian account.
Those accounts generated approximately 1.4 million automated, election-related Tweets, which collectively received approximately 288 million impressions, meaning responses or other engagement by readers.
Moscow has denied any attempt to manipulate the US election.


Jakarta literary festival aims to give a voice to the voiceless

Updated 1 min 39 sec ago

Jakarta literary festival aims to give a voice to the voiceless

  • The four-day festival features authors from the Middle East and Africa
  • The festival unites international authors with dozens of fellow writers from Indonesia

JAKARTA: The inaugural Jakarta International Literary Festival commenced on Tuesday evening with a focus on bringing together writers and literary works from the Global South. 

Festival Director Yusi Avianto Pareanom said that the organizer, the Literary Committee of the Jakarta Arts Council, wanted to emphasize the importance of creating balance in a discourse that has been dominated by work from the Global North.

The four-day festival features authors from the Middle East and Africa, such as Legodle Seganabeng from Botswana, Adania Shibli from Palestine, Bejan Matur from Turkey, Zainab Priya Dala from South Africa, Shenaz Patel from Mauritius, Momtaza Mehri from Somalia and many authors from Southeast Asian countries.

The festival unites international authors with dozens of fellow writers from Indonesia at the Taman Ismail Marzuki arts and cultural center in Jakarta between Aug. 20 and 24.  

“Our theme ‘Fence’ highlights that we want to unlock and deconstruct the barriers that separate us, so that these writers can get to know each other,” Yusi told Arab News. 

“From authors like Adania Shibli, we can enrich our knowledge about Palestine and its literary scene. There are plenty of ways to portray a situation. Through Shibli, we can get understand Palestine through its literary side.

“By featuring Bejan Matur, we know that there is another prominent Turk author apart from the world-renowned Orhan Pamuk,” he added. 

Shibli delivered her keynote speech titled “I am not to speak my language” at the opening of the festival, in which she described how the Israeli occupation has silenced Arabic-speaking Palestinians.

“The phenomenon of Palestinians taking refuge in silence whenever they are around Hebrew speakers in Palestine or Israel is not unfamiliar,” Shibli said.

She added that decades of military occupation had made speaking in Arabic a fraught experience. 

“Colonialism, however, does not only show contempt toward the colonized, their history and their culture by silencing them, but also toward their language,” she said.  

Shibli described how the nationality law, which the Israeli government passed in July 2018, strips Arabic of its designation as an official language and downgrades it to a special status. 

“Arabic was downgraded from a language into a threat a long time ago,” she added. 

Yusi said that what Shibli described in her speech is relevant to similar situations in other countries, including Indonesia. 

Multilingual Indonesia has more than 700 actively spoken local dialects, with 652 of them verified by the Ministry of Education and Culture. Many of the remaining dialects are in danger of dying out due to diminishing speakers, especially among the younger generation.