UK bars RT, Sputnik from conference for ‘disinformation’

Vehicles of Russian state-controlled broadcaster Russia Today (RT) near Red Square, Moscow. (Reuters)
Updated 09 July 2019

UK bars RT, Sputnik from conference for ‘disinformation’

  • Foreign Office spokeswoman: We have not accredited RT or Sputnik because of their active role in spreading disinformation
  • Some 60 ministers and 1,000 journalists and members of civil society are expected to attend the conference

LONDON: Britain said Monday it had barred Russia’s RT and Sputnik news organizations from a global conference on media freedom in London because of their “active role in spreading disinformation.”
Some 60 ministers and 1,000 journalists and members of civil society are expected to attend the meeting on Wednesday and Thursday co-hosted with Canada.
“We have not accredited RT or Sputnik because of their active role in spreading disinformation,” a Foreign Office spokeswoman said.
“While it’s not possible to accommodate all requests for accreditation, journalists from across the world’s media are attending the conference, including from Russia.”
The Russian embassy previously condemned the decision relating to RT as “direct politically motivated discrimination” and said it had complained to the Foreign Office.
In a statement on Friday, it said RT had been told there was no space for its journalists at the conference.
After the Foreign Office comments on Monday, RT said in a statement: “It takes a particular brand of hypocrisy to advocate for freedom of press while banning inconvenient voices and slandering alternative media.”
In December, British media regulator Ofcom found RT had broken impartiality rules with several programs broadcast after the nerve agent attack in the English city of Salisbury.
Moscow has denied claims by London that it approved the attack on a former Russian double agent in March last year.
Organizers of the London conference say it is intended to increase international discussion and cooperation on the issue of media freedom, including fake news.
International human rights lawyer Amal Clooney will attend in her capacity as Britain’s special envoy on media freedom.
She will convene the first meeting of an independent panel of experts to look at how to strengthen national legislation to protect journalists.
The final guest list has yet to be published but officials said the only countries not invited to the conference are North Korea, Syria and Venezuela.
Ahead of the conference, Britain announced £18 million to counter disinformation across eastern Europe and to strengthen independent media in the western Balkans.
It is part of a £100 million, five-year commitment aimed at eastern Europe and central Asia.


Twitter plans to build ‘decentralized standard’ for social networks

Updated 12 December 2019

Twitter plans to build ‘decentralized standard’ for social networks

  • The system, or “standard,” would not be owned by any single private company, says Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey
  • He said Twitter will fund the project, which will take many years to complete, but will not direct it

Twitter Inc. plans to set up an independent research group to create an “open and decentralized” system for social networks, CEO Jack Dorsey said on Wednesday, which could relieve pressure on the company to appease critics of its content policies but also give rise to a new crop of competitors.
The system, or “standard,” would not be owned by any single private company, Dorsey said, and would enable individuals to use a variety of services to access the same network, just like they choose different email providers to see the same messages.
Policing speech on social media sites has required hefty investments while still failing to stem criticism from users who find the policies either too aggressive or too lax.
“Centralized enforcement of global policy to address abuse and misleading information is unlikely to scale over the long-term without placing far too much burden on people,” Dorsey tweeted.
He said the new approach would also allow Twitter to “focus our efforts on building open recommendation algorithms which promote healthy conversation, and will force us to be far more innovative than in the past.”

The idea, as outlined in articles Dorsey shared, is that developers could use their own algorithms to offer like-minded individuals targeted access to the same social media networks.
For instance, an individual could sign up with a provider that would aggressively filter out racist material, or another that would promote conversations over other types of content.
The open standard, however, could upend Twitter’s business model in the process, giving rise to competitor services that offer filters, content suggestions or other tools that prove more popular with consumers.
In an article that Dorsey shared called “Protocols, Not Platforms,” tech news site Techdirt founder Mike Masnick outlined how an open standard could give rise to a “competition for business models” among developers.
Some providers might collect less user data for ads, while others might abandon advertising altogether, instead charging users for access to premium services like filters or data storage, Masnick wrote.
Dorsey said Twitter’s chief technology officer, Parag Agrawal, will be in charge of hiring a lead for the research team, called BlueSky. Twitter will fund the project, which will take many years to complete, but will not direct it, he said.
He went on to suggest that blockchain technology might provide a model for decentralizing content hosting, oversight and even monetization of social media, without elaborating on possible alternatives to Twitter’s ads-driven business.