Assange’s fiancée urges Biden to free WikiLeaks founder to show US has changed

English lawyer and partner of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, Stella Morris wearing a facemask reading:
English lawyer and partner of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, Stella Morris wearing a facemask reading: "Free Assange." (AFP)
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Updated 25 June 2021

Assange’s fiancée urges Biden to free WikiLeaks founder to show US has changed

English lawyer and partner of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, Stella Morris wearing a facemask reading: "Free Assange." (AFP)
  • Julien Assange's fiancee urges US president Joe Biden to free WikiLeaks founder to reflect the US's commitment to free press.
  • he US Justice Department said it plans to continue seeking the extradition for Assange to face hacking conspiracy charges.

LONDON: President Joe Biden must let Julian Assange go free if he wants the United States to become a beacon for a free press once again and put the legacy of Donald Trump behind it, the fiancée of the WikiLeaks founder told Reuters.
Washington has sought the extradition of Assange over his role in one of the biggest ever leaks of classified information, accusing him of putting lives in danger by releasing vast troves of confidential US military records and diplomatic cables.
He has now spent nine years in jail or self-incarceration in Britain, and both Assange’s fiancée Stella Moris and the British judge overseeing the extradition request have warned he may not survive a process to send him across the Atlantic.
“If Biden really wants to break with the Trump legacy, then he has to drop the case,” Moris told Reuters in an interview. “They can’t maintain this prosecution against Julian while saying that they defend a global press freedom.”
When Barack Obama served as president and Biden was his vice president, the US decided not to seek Assange’s extradition on the grounds that what WikiLeaks did was similar to journalistic activities protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution.
Weeks after taking office Trump administration officials stepped up public criticism of Assange and later filed a series of criminal charges accusing him of participating in a hacking conspiracy.
The US Justice Department said in February it planned to continue to seek the extradition for Assange to face hacking conspiracy charges.
Moris said the couple were planning to marry soon at the top-security Belmarsh prison where he is being held.
US prosecutors and Western security officials regard Assange as a reckless enemy of the state whose actions threatened the lives of agents named in the leaked material.
Supporters pit him as an anti-establishment hero who exposed US wrongdoing in Afghanistan and Iraq and say his prosecution is a politically-motivated assault on journalism that gives a free pass to oppressive regimes around the world.
WikiLeaks came to prominence when it published a US military video in 2010 showing a 2007 attack by Apache helicopters in Baghdad that killed a dozen people, including two Reuters news staff.
An effort to extradite him was launched in 2019 after he was detained in London after taking refuge in Ecuador’s embassy in the British capital for seven years to avoid being extradited to Sweden.
British judge Vanessa Baraitser said in January that although she accepted the US legal arguments in the case, she said Assange’s mental health issues meant he would be at risk of suicide if extradited, leading to her rejecting the request.
Moris, who has two young boys with the Australian-born Assange, said the 49-year-old was very low but still fighting. She likened his treatment as akin to the way some journalists are treated in China and Saudi Arabia.
“I think there’s no doubt that Julian wouldn’t survive an extradition,” she said.
She argued that any robust democracy had to accommodate internal dissent. “A superpower that has a free press is very different in nature from one that does not.”
She said she is hopeful that the case will be viewed differently under a Biden administration, but refused to say if his legal team had held talks with US officials.
Despite that hope, she said the couple were planning to marry soon inside Belmarsh, once the paperwork is done, rather than wait to hear his fate.
She said Assange had been given a huge lift recently when she was allowed to take their two sons to visit, allowing him to touch his children for the first time in over a year.
“He was happy to see us, but he’s struggling,” she said. “He’s very low but he’s fighting. He has the hope that this will end soon.”


Study: Social media platforms ‘fail to remove 80% of antisemitic content’

More than 80 percent of antisemitic posts on social media platforms stay online despite being reported, a report has found. (AFP/File Photo)
More than 80 percent of antisemitic posts on social media platforms stay online despite being reported, a report has found. (AFP/File Photo)
Updated 02 August 2021

Study: Social media platforms ‘fail to remove 80% of antisemitic content’

More than 80 percent of antisemitic posts on social media platforms stay online despite being reported, a report has found. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Results show Facebook, Twitter and more are ‘safe spaces for racists,’ official says

LONDON: More than 80 percent of antisemitic posts on social media platforms stay online despite being reported, a large-scale study by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) has found.

The social media posts reported included holocaust denial content, incitement of violence against Jews and other conspiracy theories. Despite being flagged to content moderators, the large majority of posts remained online.

The study, published on Aug. 1, took place over a period between May 28 and June 29 this year.

It identified 714 antisemitic posts across major platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok, and subsequently reported the content to the respective sites. These 714 posts were viewed at least 7.3 million times.

Six weeks later, the study found that more than 80 percent of the reported posts remained on the platforms. On Facebook and Twitter, 90 percent of antisemitic posts were not taken down.

The most significant finding of the study was that platforms failed to remove 89 percent of antisemitic conspiracies, with just 5 percent of posts blaming Jewish people for the coronavirus pandemic being removed by moderators.

Twitter hashtags that remained online ranged from “#holohoax” to “#killthejews,” while TikTok continued to allow hashtags that organized and promoted conspiracies, such as “#synagogueofsatan,” “#rothschildfamily” and “#soros.” These posts gained a total of 25.1 million views on the platform.

CEO of CCDH Imran Ahmed said that the findings of the study prove that social media is a “safe space for racists to normalize their conspiracies and hateful rhetoric without fear of consequences.”

The findings come in light of the UK government’s Online Safety Bill, which aims to regulate social media. The legislation will make it a legal requirement for social media companies to protect users from harm, including misinformation, abuse and hatred.

The bill will also force tech giants to impose age checks to prevent underage children from accessing their services.

“These reports do not account for the fact that we have taken action on 15 times the amount of hate speech since 2017,” a Facebook spokesperson said. “The prevalence of hate speech is decreasing on our platform and, of the hate speech we remove, 97 percent was found before someone reported it.”

Meanwhile, Twitter was more forthcoming about taking responsibility and recognized that there was more work to be done. “We strongly condemn antisemitism,” a Twitter spokesperson said. “We’re working to make Twitter a safer place, and improving the speed and scale of our rule enforcement is a top priority.”

TikTok released a similar statement and condemned antisemitism.


Pro-Trump social media platform hosting terrorist propaganda

Launched on July 1, Gettr is a Twitter-style platform set up by Trump’s former senior adviser Jason Miller. (Shutterstock)
Launched on July 1, Gettr is a Twitter-style platform set up by Trump’s former senior adviser Jason Miller. (Shutterstock)
Updated 02 August 2021

Pro-Trump social media platform hosting terrorist propaganda

Launched on July 1, Gettr is a Twitter-style platform set up by Trump’s former senior adviser Jason Miller. (Shutterstock)
  • Politico reported that at least 250 accounts on the Gettr platform were regularly posting extremist material

LONDON: A pro-Trump social media platform has been inundated with terrorist propaganda spread by Daesh supporters, a political news website reported on Monday.

According to Politico, Gettr features extremist-related content, including graphic videos of Daesh beheadings, mainstream images that incite violence against the West, and even memes of an extremist executing former US President Donald Trump in an orange jumpsuit.

Launched on July 1, Gettr is a Twitter-style platform set up by Trump’s former senior adviser Jason Miller.

Politico reported that at least 250 accounts on the platform were regularly posting extremist material since it was launched, many of which followed each other.

It also said that Gettr did not respond when asked to comment about the abundance of Daesh-related material on the site.

After Gettr’s launch, Daesh supporters urged their followers on other social networks to switch to it. One account, bearing a profile photo of the Daesh flag, asked: “Is Daesh here?” and was met with confirmation from others on the platform.

While Gettr has taken steps to remove harmful content, as of Aug. 2 most of it was still live.

Companies like Facebook and Twitter have signed up to the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism, although Gettr is yet to join.

The forum is a nonprofit organization that brings together the technology industry, governments, and civil society to counter terrorist and violent extremist activity online.


Zoom to settle US privacy lawsuit for $85 mn

Use of video platforms including Zoom, Slack, Microsoft, and Google increased significantly due to the coronavirus pandemic. (File/AFP)
Use of video platforms including Zoom, Slack, Microsoft, and Google increased significantly due to the coronavirus pandemic. (File/AFP)
Updated 02 August 2021

Zoom to settle US privacy lawsuit for $85 mn

Use of video platforms including Zoom, Slack, Microsoft, and Google increased significantly due to the coronavirus pandemic. (File/AFP)
  • Zoom agrees to settle a US privacy lawsuit for $85 million whereby Zoom was charged with breaching privacy of users
  • Zoom will also improve its security practices despite denying wrongdoing

SAN FRANCISCO: Zoom, the videoconferencing firm, has agreed to settle a class-action US privacy lawsuit for $85 million, it said Sunday.
The suit charged that Zoom’s sharing of users’ personal data with Facebook, Google and LinkedIn was a breach of privacy for millions.
While Zoom denied wrongdoing, it did agree to improve its security practices.
The settlement needs to be approved by US District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California.
A Zoom spokesman told AFP: “The privacy and security of our users are top priorities for Zoom, and we take seriously the trust our users place in us.
“We are proud of the advancements we have made to our platform, and look forward to continuing to innovate with privacy and security at the forefront.”
The settlement will set up a “non-reversionary cash fund of $85 million to pay valid claims, notice and administration costs, Service Payments to Class Representatives, and any attorneys’ fees and costs awarded by the Court,” according to the preliminary settlement.
All class members are eligible for payment, it said.
Those who paid for an account can receive 15 percent of the money they paid to Zoom for their core subscription during that time or $25, whichever is greater; while those who did not pay for a subscription can make a claim for $15.
As the coronavirus pandemic closed offices due to health risks and companies shifted to working online, use of video and collaboration platforms hosted by companies including Zoom, Slack, Microsoft, and Google rocketed.
But Zoom’s rapid growth came with pressure to deal with security and privacy as the platform faced scrutiny from rising usage.


Twitter launches competition to find biases in its image-cropping algorithm

The winners will receive cash prizes ranging from $500 to $3,500 and will be invited to present their work at a workshop. (File/AFP)
The winners will receive cash prizes ranging from $500 to $3,500 and will be invited to present their work at a workshop. (File/AFP)
Updated 02 August 2021

Twitter launches competition to find biases in its image-cropping algorithm

The winners will receive cash prizes ranging from $500 to $3,500 and will be invited to present their work at a workshop. (File/AFP)
  • Twitter launches competition for computer researchers and hackers to identify biases in its image-cropping algorithm
  • The competition is part of a wider effort across the tech industry to ensure artificial intelligence technologies act ethically

LONDON: Twitter Inc. said on Friday it will launch a competition for computer researchers and hackers to identify biases in its image-cropping algorithm, after a group of researchers previously found the algorithm tended to exclude Black people and men.
The competition is part of a wider effort across the tech industry to ensure artificial intelligence technologies act ethically.
The social networking company said in a blog post that the bounty competition was aimed at identifying “potential harms of this algorithm beyond what we identified ourselves.”
Following criticism last year about image previews in posts excluding Black people’s faces, the company said in May a study by three of its machine learning researchers found an 8 percent difference from demographic parity in favor of women, and a 4 percent favor toward white individuals.
Twitter released publicly the computer code that decides how images are cropped in the Twitter feed, and said on Friday participants are asked to find how the algorithm could cause harm, such as stereotyping or denigrating any group of people.
The winners will receive cash prizes ranging from $500 to $3,500 and will be invited to present their work at a workshop hosted by Twitter at DEF CON in August, one of largest hacker conferences held annually in Las Vegas.


Russia opens case against WhatsApp for violating personal data law

A day earlier, a Russian court fined Google 3 million roubles for violating personal data legislation. (File/AFP)
A day earlier, a Russian court fined Google 3 million roubles for violating personal data legislation. (File/AFP)
Updated 02 August 2021

Russia opens case against WhatsApp for violating personal data law

A day earlier, a Russian court fined Google 3 million roubles for violating personal data legislation. (File/AFP)
  • Russia launches lawsuit against Whatsapp for violating personal data law and failing to localize data of Russian users

MOSCOW: Russia on Friday launched administrative proceedings against Facebook’s WhatsApp for what it said was a failure to localize data of Russian users on Russian territory, the Interfax news agency reported.
There was no immediate comment from Facebook.
A day earlier, a Russian court fined Alphabet Inc.’s Google 3 million roubles for violating personal data legislation and registered administrative proceedings against Facebook and Twitter for the same offense.
The cases are part of a wider spat between Russia and Big Tech, with Moscow routinely fining social media giants for failing to remove banned content and seeking to compel foreign tech firms to open offices in Russia.
WhatsApp could be fined between 1 million and 6 million roubles ($13,700 to $82,250), Interfax reported, citing court documents. A court date has not yet been set.