US set to appeal UK refusal to extradite WikiLeaks’ Assange

US set to appeal UK refusal to extradite WikiLeaks’ Assange
US prosecutors indicted Julian Assange on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of leaked military and diplomatic documents. (AP)
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Updated 27 October 2021

US set to appeal UK refusal to extradite WikiLeaks’ Assange

US set to appeal UK refusal to extradite WikiLeaks’ Assange
  • In January, a lower court judge refused an American request to extradite Assange on spying charges
  • US prosecutors have indicted Assange on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse

LONDON: The US government is scheduled to ask Britain’s High Court on Wednesday to overturn a judge’s decision that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange should not be sent to the United States to face espionage charges.
In January, a lower court judge refused an American request to extradite Assange on spying charges over WikiLeaks’ publication of secret military documents a decade ago.
District Judge Vanessa Baraitser denied extradition on health grounds, saying Assange was likely to kill himself if held under harsh US prison conditions. But she rejected defense arguments that Assange faces a politically motivated American prosecution that would override free-speech protections, and she said the US judicial system would give him a fair trial.
Lawyers for US authorities have been granted permission to appeal. At an earlier hearing they questioned the psychiatric evidence in the case and argued that Assange does not meet the threshold of being “so ill” that he cannot resist harming himself.
Several dozen pro-Assange protesters rallied outside London’s Royal Courts of Justice before the hearing, which is scheduled to last two days.
Assange, who is being held at London’s high-security Belmarsh Prison, had been expected to attend by video link, but he was not present as the hearing began. His lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald, said Assange “doesn’t feel able to attend the proceedings.”
Assange’s partner, Stella Moris, said outside court that she was “very concerned for Julian’s health. I saw him on Saturday. He’s very thin.”
“It is completely unthinkable that the UK courts could agree to this,” Moris said. “I hope the courts will end this nightmare, that Julian is able to come home soon and that wise heads prevail.”
The two justices hearing the appeal — who include England’s most senior judge, Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett — are not expected to give their ruling for several weeks.
The High Court’s ruling will likely not end the epic legal saga, however, since the losing side can seek to appeal to the UK Supreme Court.
US prosecutors have indicted Assange on 17 espionage charges and one charge of computer misuse over WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of leaked military and diplomatic documents. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.
The prosecutors say Assange unlawfully helped US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning steal classified diplomatic cables and military files that WikiLeaks later published. Lawyers for Assange argue that he was acting as a journalist and is entitled to First Amendment freedom of speech protections for publishing documents that exposed US military wrongdoing in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Assange, 50, has been in prison since he was arrested in April 2019 for skipping bail during a separate legal battle. Before that he spent seven years holed up inside Ecuador’s London embassy, where he fled in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault.
Sweden dropped the sex crimes investigations in November 2019 because so much time had elapsed, but Assange remains in prison. The judge who blocked extradition in January ordered that he must stay in custody during any US appeal, ruling that the Australian citizen “has an incentive to abscond” if he is freed.
WikiLeaks supporters say testimony from witnesses during the extradition hearing that Assange was spied on while in the embassy by a Spanish security firm at the behest of the CIA — and that there was even talk of abducting or killing him — undermines US claims he will be treated fairly.
Journalism organizations and human rights groups have urged President Joe Biden to drop the prosecution launched under his predecessor, Donald Trump.
Amnesty International Secretary-General Agnes Callamard said the charges were politically motivated and should be dropped.
“It is a damning indictment that nearly 20 years on, virtually no one responsible for alleged US war crimes committed in the course of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars has been held accountable, let alone prosecuted, and yet a publisher who exposed such crimes is potentially facing a lifetime in jail,” she said.


CNN fires Chris Cuomo over help he gave to governor brother

CNN fires Chris Cuomo over help he gave to governor brother
Updated 05 December 2021

CNN fires Chris Cuomo over help he gave to governor brother

CNN fires Chris Cuomo over help he gave to governor brother

WASHINGTON: CNN fired veteran anchor and correspondent Chris Cuomo, the cable news channel said Saturday, during an investigation into his involvement with helping defend his brother, former New York governor Andrew Cuomo, against sexual misconduct allegations.
Chris Cuomo had been suspended from CNN over the matter just days before his termination.
“We retained a respected law firm to conduct the review, and have terminated him, effective immediately,” a statement posted to CNN’s official communications Twitter account said.
“While in the process of that review, additional information has come to light.”
The termination comes after documents surfaced showing that Cuomo, who anchored the 9:00 p.m. news slot, offered advice to his politician brother that was deemed too close for comfort by his employer.
“The documents, which we were not privy to before their public release, raise serious questions,” a CNN spokesperson said Tuesday, adding they “point to a greater level of involvement in his brother’s efforts than we previously knew.”
“He’s my brother. And if I can help my brother, I do. If he wants me to hear something, I will. If he wants me to weigh in on something, I’ll try,” Chris Cuomo, 51, told investigators in July when asked about the counsel he had offered.
“He’s my brother, and I love him to death no matter what.”
Democrat Andrew Cuomo was elected governor three times before resigning in August after New York’s attorney general said an investigation concluded he had sexually harassed at least 11 women.
In October, the former governor — whose father Mario Cuomo had also been governor of New York — was charged with a misdemeanor sex crime for forcible touching.
At the start of the pandemic, the Cuomo brothers soared to new heights of popularity: Andrew, 63, earned praise for his frank daily briefings as the coronavirus ravaged New York, and his live exchanges with Chris on CNN were peppered with banter.
The investigation into Chris Cuomo’s conduct remains ongoing, CNN said.


Report: Google profited from sale of T-shirts praising Hamas

Report: Google profited from sale of T-shirts praising Hamas
Updated 04 December 2021

Report: Google profited from sale of T-shirts praising Hamas

Report: Google profited from sale of T-shirts praising Hamas
  • The Independent report found that Google has been displaying adverts for T-shirts bearing a picture of a Hamas fighter with the message “HAMAS ARMY”

LONDON: A report by the Independent revealed on Saturday that Google has been profiting from the sale of T-shirts glorifying Hamas, days after the UK government designated their political arm a terrorist organization.

Last Friday, Home Secretary Priti Patel made the move in a bid to crack down on anti-semitism, making it a criminal offence to be a member of Hamas or even wear clothing suggesting affiliation.

Nevertheless, the Independent report found that Google has been displaying adverts for T-shirts bearing a picture of a Hamas fighter with the message “HAMAS ARMY” ever since Patel’s designation.

Google had been advertising the £9.93 ($13.14) shirts, to be sold via another website, at the top of the shopping section of its search engine. One advert even highlighted a price drop, showing that the T-shirt was previously sold for £19.26.

Shortly after the Independent published its report, Google removed the adverts.

“We prohibit ads or products that are made by or in support of terrorist groups. In this case, we removed the ads and listings from our platform. We enforce our policies vigorously and take action when they are breached,” a Google spokesperson said.

Teepublic, the website selling the T-shirts, removed the adverts after being contacted by the Independent.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We expect tech companies to tackle terrorist content on their platforms and respond to emerging threats quickly. We are pleased Google acted so swiftly here, and we will continue to work with companies to ensure it remains a priority.”


Facebook whistleblower says transparency needed to fix social media ills

Haugen said the company should be required to disclose which languages are supported by its tech safety systems. (AFP)
Haugen said the company should be required to disclose which languages are supported by its tech safety systems. (AFP)
Updated 04 December 2021

Facebook whistleblower says transparency needed to fix social media ills

Haugen said the company should be required to disclose which languages are supported by its tech safety systems. (AFP)
  • Facebook whistleblower says the degree to which Facebook is harmful in languages other than English will leave people “even more shocked”

LONDON: A deeper investigation into Facebook’s lack of controls to prevent misinformation and abuse in languages other than English is likely to leave people “even more shocked” about the potential harms caused by the social media firm, whistleblower Frances Haugen told Reuters.
Haugen, a former product manager at Meta Platforms Inc’s Facebook, spoke at the Reuters Next conference on Friday.
She left the company in May with thousands of internal documents which she leaked to the Wall Street Journal. That led to a series of articles in September detailing how the company knew its apps helped spread divisive content and harmed the mental health of some young users.
Facebook also knew it had too few workers with the necessary language skills to identify objectionable posts from users in a number of developing countries, according to the internal documents and Reuters interviews with former employees.
People who use the platform in languages other than English are using a “raw, dangerous version of Facebook,” Haugen said.
Facebook has consistently said it disagrees with Haugen’s characterization of the internal research and that it is proud of the work it has done to stop abuse on the platform.
Haugen said the company should be required to disclose which languages are supported by its tech safety systems, otherwise “Facebook will do ... the bare minimum to minimize PR risk,” she said.
The internal Facebook documents made public by Haugen have also raised fresh concerns about how it may have failed to take actions to prevent the spread of misleading information.
Haugen said the social media company knew it could introduce “strategic friction” to make users slow down before resharing posts, such as requiring users to click a link before they were able to share the content. But she said the company avoided taking such actions in order to preserve profit.
Such measures to prompt users to reconsider sharing certain content could be helpful given that allowing tech platforms or governments to determine what information is true poses many risks, according to Internet and legal experts who spoke during a separate panel at the Reuters Next conference on Friday.
“In regulating speech, you’re handing states the power to manipulate speech for their own purposes,” said David Greene, civil liberties director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
The documents made public by Haugen have led to a series of US congressional hearings. Adam Mosseri, head of Meta Platforms’ Instagram app, will testify next week on the app’s effect on young people.
Asked what she would say to Mosseri given the opportunity, Haugen said she would question why the company has not released more of its internal research.
“We have evidence now that Facebook has known for years that it was harming kids,” she said. “How are we supposed to trust you going forward?“


Twitter admits policy ‘errors’ after far-right abuse

Twitter launched new rules Tuesday blocking users from sharing private images of other people without their consent. (File/AFP)
Twitter launched new rules Tuesday blocking users from sharing private images of other people without their consent. (File/AFP)
Updated 04 December 2021

Twitter admits policy ‘errors’ after far-right abuse

Twitter launched new rules Tuesday blocking users from sharing private images of other people without their consent. (File/AFP)
  • Twitter admitted policy errors which say anyone can ask Twitter to take down images of themselves posted without their consent
  • This comes after a screenshot of a far-right call-to-action circulated on Telegram claiming things now “work more in our favor.”

WASHINGTON: Twitter’s new picture permission policy was aimed at combating online abuse, but US activists and researchers said Friday that far-right backers have employed it to protect themselves from scrutiny and to harass opponents.
Even the social network admitted the roll out of the rules, which say anyone can ask Twitter to take down images of themselves posted without their consent, was marred by malicious reports and its teams’ own errors.
It was just the kind of trouble anti-racism advocates worried was coming after the policy was announced this week.
Their concerns were quickly validated, with anti-extremism researcher Kristofer Goldsmith tweeting a screenshot of a far-right call-to-action circulating on Telegram: “Due to the new privacy policy at Twitter, things now unexpectedly work more in our favor.”
“Anyone with a Twitter account should be reporting doxxing posts from the following accounts,” the message said, with a list of dozens of Twitter handles.
Gwen Snyder, an organizer and researcher in Philadelphia, said her account was blocked this week after a report to Twitter about a series of 2019 photos she said showed a local political candidate at a march organized by extreme-right group Proud Boys.
Rather than go through an appeal with Twitter she opted to delete the images and alert others to what was happening.
“Twitter moving to eliminate (my) work from their platform is incredibly dangerous and is going to enable and embolden fascists,” she told AFP.
In announcing the privacy policy on Tuesday, Twitter noted that “sharing personal media, such as images or videos, can potentially violate a person’s privacy, and may lead to emotional or physical harm.”
But the rules don’t apply to “public figures or individuals when media and accompanying Tweets are shared in the public interest or add value to public discourse.”
By Friday, Twitter noted the roll out had been rough: “We became aware of a significant amount of coordinated and malicious reports, and unfortunately, our enforcement teams made several errors.”
“We’ve corrected those errors and are undergoing an internal review to make certain that this policy is used as intended,” the firm added.


However, Los Angeles-based activist and researcher Chad Loder said their account was permanently blocked after reports to Twitter over publicly-recorded images from an anti-vaccine rally and a confrontation outside the home of a former Vice journalist.
“Twitter is saying I must delete my tweets featuring photographs of people at newsworthy public events that did indeed get news coverage, or I will never get my account back,” Loder told AFP, adding it was the third report of their account to Twitter in 48 hours.
“The current mass-reporting actions by the far-right are just the latest salvo in an ongoing, concerted effort to memory-hole evidence of their crimes and misdeeds,” Loder added, using a term popularized by George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984.
Experts noted that Twitter’s new rules sound like a well-intentioned idea but are incredibly thorny to enforce.
One reason is that the platform has become a key forum for identifying people involved in far-right and hate groups, with Internet sleuths posting their names or other identifying information.
The practice of so-called “doxxing” has cost the targets their jobs, set them up for intense public ridicule and even criminal prosecution, while the activists who post the information have faced threats or harassment themselves.
A major example was the online effort to track down people involved in the violence at the US Capitol, which was stormed in January by Donald Trump supporters seeking to block the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.
Even the US Federal Bureau of Investigation regularly posts images on its feed of as-yet unnamed people it is seeking in connection with the violence.
“Twitter has given extremists a new weapon to bring harm to those in the greatest need of protection and those shining a light on danger,” said Michael Breen, president and CEO of advocacy group Human Rights First, which called on Twitter to halt the policy.
The new rules, announced just a day after Parag Agrawal took over from co-founder Jack Dorsey as boss, wander into issues that may be beyond the platform’s control.
“It gets complicated fast, but these are issues that are going to be resolved probably in our courts,” said Betsy Page Sigman, a professor emeritus at Georgetown University. “I’m not optimistic about Twitter’s changes.”


Twitter’s design, engineering heads to step down in management rejig

The moves come just days after co-founder Jack Dorsey stepped down as chief executive officer. (File/AFP)
The moves come just days after co-founder Jack Dorsey stepped down as chief executive officer. (File/AFP)
Updated 04 December 2021

Twitter’s design, engineering heads to step down in management rejig

The moves come just days after co-founder Jack Dorsey stepped down as chief executive officer. (File/AFP)
  • Twitter's design and engineering heads will step down from their roles as part of a management restructuring campaign

LONDON: Twitter Inc. said on Friday its engineering head Michael Montano and design chief Dantley Davis would step down from their roles by the end of this month, as part of a broader management restructuring at the social networking site.
The moves come just days after co-founder Jack Dorsey stepped down as chief executive officer and handed over the reins to Chief Technology Officer Parag Agrawal.
Twitter said Agrawal, in his newly assumed role, has decided to reorganize the leadership structure at the company and shift to a general manager model for consumer, revenue and core tech that would oversee all core teams across engineering, product management, design and research.
Product lead Kayvon Beykpour, revenue product lead Bruce Falck and Vice President of Engineering Nick Caldwell will now lead the three units respectively, the company said.
Twitter added Lindsey Iannucci, a senior operations and strategy executive at the company, would be the chief of staff.