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
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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.


Unspeakable grief: A husband, wife and three children wiped out in Sri Lanka

Updated 23 April 2019
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Unspeakable grief: A husband, wife and three children wiped out in Sri Lanka

  • The Gomez family gather for funeral of a husband and wife and their three sons
  • They were brutally killed as they attended Easter Sunday Mass at Colombo’s St. Joseph’s Shrine

COLOMBO: The dark wooden coffins, sitting side by side, attested to one family’s unspeakable grief.
The Gomez family gathered Tuesday to say a final farewell to five loved ones — a son, a daughter-in-law and three young grandsons — brutally killed as they attended Easter Sunday Mass at Colombo’s St. Joseph’s Shrine.
“All family, all generation, is lost,” said Joseph Gomez, the family patriarch, as tears welled in his eyes. Dozens of family members and neighbors were gathered in his simple home, where the sound of hymns sung by mourners gently wafted in the background and candles flickered beside three coffins. The bodies of two grandsons have yet to be recovered.
Across Sri Lanka, Tuesday was a national day of mourning as families began to lay to rest the more than 320 victims of the bomb blasts that struck a half-dozen churches and hotels in the island nation.
For the Gomez family, the loss was unfathomable: A 33-year-old son, Berlington Joseph, the young man’s 31-year-old wife Chandrika Arumugam, and their three boys, 9-year-old Bevon, 6-year-old Clavon and baby Avon, who would have turned 1 next week. A funeral card with a photo of the family clutched in his hands, the elder Gomez wailed: “I can’t bear this on me, I can’t bear this.”
“My eldest son, my eldest son,” he sobbed as he laid bouquets of red roses and brightly colored daisies on the largest coffin. Next to it was a tiny coffin, a photo of little Avon tucked into a wooden frame nearby.
The coffins, draped with long white tassels, were then carried to a Colombo cemetery and lowered into side-by-side graves.
At St. Joseph’s Shrine, dozens of mourners gathered outside, lighting candles and praying in unison for the victims of Sunday’s blasts as heavily armed soldiers stood guard.
At St. Sebastian Church in Negombo, a funeral service was held Tuesday for victims killed there as they worshipped, led by Cardinal Malcom Ranjith. The church was heavily guarded by hundreds of army, air force and police troops, and soldiers were deployed every 15 feet along the streets of the city some 20 miles north of Colombo.
Throughout the country, people observed a three-minute silence for the victims of the near-simultaneous attacks at three churches and three luxury hotels, and three other related blasts, the deadliest violence to strike Sri Lanka in a decade.
The Sri Lankan government has blamed the attack on National Towheed Jamaar, a little-known local extremist group, and on Tuesday, the Daesh group also claimed responsibility, though it provided no proof it was involved and has made unsubstantiated claims in the past.