Social media platform X blocked in Pakistan over national security, ministry says

The interior ministry mentioned the shutdown in a written submission to Islamabad High Court on Wednesday. (AFP/File)
The interior ministry mentioned the shutdown in a written submission to Islamabad High Court on Wednesday. (AFP/File)
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Updated 17 April 2024
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Social media platform X blocked in Pakistan over national security, ministry says

Social media platform X blocked in Pakistan over national security, ministry says
  • Ministry accuses X of failing to address its concerns, says ban was in ‘interest of upholding national security’
  • X has been blocked since country election in February, with activities critizing ban aims to stifle democratic accountability

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s interior ministry said on Wednesday it had blocked access to social media platform X around the time of February’s election on national security concerns, confirming a long-suspected shutdown.
Users in Pakistan have reported problems using X, formerly known as Twitter, since mid-February, but the government had made no official announcement on the matter until now.
The interior ministry mentioned the shutdown in a written submission to Islamabad High Court on Wednesday. Another court has told the government to reconsider the ban within a week, said Abdul Moiz Jafri, a petitioner and advocate.
“It is very pertinent to mention here that the failure of Twitter/X to adhere to the lawful directives of the government of Pakistan and address concerns regarding the misuse of its platform necessitated the imposition of a ban,” the ministry said in its court submission, which was seen by Reuters.
It said X had been reluctant to resolve the issue. X did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment on Wednesday.
“The decision to impose a ban on Twitter/X in Pakistan was made in the interest of upholding national security, maintaining public order, and preserving the integrity of our nation,” the ministry report said.
Access to X has remained limited since the Feb. 8 national election, which the party of jailed former prime minister Imran Khan says was rigged.

KHAN’S PARTY IS BIG USER OF X
Among Pakistan’s political parties, Khan’s party is the most prolific user of social media platforms, particularly after the country’s traditional media began censoring news about the ex-cricket star and his party ahead of the polls. Khan has over 20 million followers on X, making him the most followed Pakistani.
Khan says Pakistan’s military was behind his ouster as prime minister in 2022 and that it helped his opponents form the current government, despite candidates backed by his party winning most seats in February’s election. The military denies this charge.
He remains in jail on a number of convictions, most of which came days before the election.
Many government officials in Pakistan, notably Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, continue to use X — most likely through VPN software that bypasses the blocks.
The decision to temporarily block X was taken after considering confidential reports from Pakistan’s intelligence and security agencies, the ministry report said.
It said “hostile elements operating on Twitter/X have nefarious intentions to create an environment of chaos and instability, with the ultimate goal of destabilising the country and plunging it into some form of anarchy.”
Rights groups and marketing advertisers have raised concerns.
Digital rights activist Usama Khilji said the block on X seemed designed to hinder the democratic accountability which he said a platform with instant updates of real-time information enables, especially amid the allegations and evidence of rigging which surfaced following the election.
Marketing consultant Saif Ali said: “It has become nearly impossible to convince Pakistani advertisers to invest in Twitter for brand communications, due to the platform being throttled by governmental authorities.”


EU bans 4 more Russian media outlets from broadcasting in the bloc, citing disinformation

EU bans 4 more Russian media outlets from broadcasting in the bloc, citing disinformation
Updated 18 May 2024
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EU bans 4 more Russian media outlets from broadcasting in the bloc, citing disinformation

EU bans 4 more Russian media outlets from broadcasting in the bloc, citing disinformation
  • The EU has already suspended Russia Today and Sputnik among several other outlets since February 2022

BRUSSELS: The European Union on Friday banned four more Russian media outlets from broadcasting in the 27-nation bloc for what it calls the spread of propaganda about the invasion of Ukraine and disinformation as the EU heads into parliamentary elections in three weeks.
The latest batch of broadcasters consists of Voice of Europe, RIA Novosti, Izvestia and Rossiyskaya Gazeta, which the EU claims are all under control of the Kremlin. It said in a statement that the four are in particular targeting “European political parties, especially during election periods.”
Belgium already last month opened an investigation into suspected Russian interference in June’s Europe-wide elections, saying its country’s intelligence service has confirmed the existence of a network trying to undermine support for Ukraine.
The Czech government has imposed sanctions on a number of people after a pro-Russian influence operation was uncovered there. They are alleged to have approached members of the European Parliament and offered them money to promote Russian propaganda.
Since the war started in February 2022, the EU has already suspended Russia Today and Sputnik among several other outlets.

 

 


Israeli soldiers post abusive videos despite army’s pledge to act: BBC analysis

Israeli soldiers post abusive videos despite army’s pledge to act: BBC analysis
Updated 17 May 2024
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Israeli soldiers post abusive videos despite army’s pledge to act: BBC analysis

Israeli soldiers post abusive videos despite army’s pledge to act: BBC analysis
  • The BBC analyzed 45 photos and videos posted online by Israeli soldiers that showed Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank being abused and humiliated

LONDON: Israeli soldiers continue to post videos of abuse against Palestinian detainees despite a military pledge to take action against the perpetrators, analysis by the BBC has found.

The broadcaster said it had analyzed 45 photos and videos posted online by Israeli soldiers that showed Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank being abused and humiliated. Some were draped in Israeli flags. 

Experts say the footage and images, which showed Palestinians being stripped, beaten and blindfolded, could breach international law and amount to a war crime.

The Israel Defense Forces said some soldiers had been disciplined or suspended for “unacceptable behavior” but did not comment on the individual cases identified by the BBC.

The most recent investigation into social media misconduct by Israeli soldiers follows a previous inquiry in which BBC Verify confirmed Israeli soldiers had filmed Gazan detainees while beating them and then posted the material on social platforms.

The Israeli military has carried out arbitrary arrests across Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since the Hamas attack on Oct. 7. The number of Palestinian prisoners in the West Bank has since risen to more than 7,060 according to the Commission of Detainees’ Affairs and the Palestinian Prisoner Society.

Ori Givati, spokesperson for Breaking the Silence, a non-governmental organization for Israeli veterans working to expose wrongdoing in the IDF, told the BBC he was “far from shocked” to hear the misconduct was ongoing.

Blaming “current far-right political rhetoric in the country” for further encouraging the abuse, he added: “There are no repercussions. They [Israeli soldiers] get encouraged and supported by the highest ministers of the government.”

He said this played into a mindset already subscribed to by the military: “The culture in the military, when it comes to Palestinians, is that they are only targets. They are not human beings. This is how the military teaches you to behave.”

The BBC’s analysis found that the videos and photos it examined were posted by 11 soldiers of the Kfir Brigade, the largest infantry brigade in the IDF. None of them hid their identity.

The IDF did not respond when the BBC asked about the actions of the individual soldiers and whether they had been disciplined.

The BBC also attempted to contact the soldiers on social media. The organization was blocked by one, while none of the others responded.

Mark Ellis, executive director of the International Bar Association, urged an investigation into the incidents shown in the footage and called for the IDF to discipline those involved.

In response to the BBC’s investigation, the IDF said: “The IDF holds its soldiers to a professional standard … and investigates when behavior is not in line with the IDF’s values. In the event of unacceptable behavior, soldiers were disciplined and even suspended from reserve duty.

“Additionally, soldiers are instructed to avoid uploading footage of operational activities to social media networks.”

However, it did not acknowledge its pledge to act on BBC Verify’s earlier findings in Gaza, according to the broadcaster.


4 journalists killed in Gaza as death toll climbs above 100

4 journalists killed in Gaza as death toll climbs above 100
Updated 17 May 2024
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4 journalists killed in Gaza as death toll climbs above 100

4 journalists killed in Gaza as death toll climbs above 100
  • 104 Palestinian media workers reported dead, along with 3 Lebanese and 2 Israelis

LONDON: The Gaza Media Authority on Thursday said that four journalists had been killed in an Israeli airstrike, bringing the total number of journalists killed in the conflict to more than 100.

The victims were identified as Hail Al-Najjar, a video editor at the Al-Aqsa Media Network; Mahmoud Jahjouh, a photojournalist at the Palestine Post website; Moath Mustafa Al-Ghefari, a photojournalist at the Kanaan Land website and Palestinian Media Foundation; and Amina Mahmoud Hameed, a program presenter and editor at several media outlets, according to the Anadolu Agency.

The Gaza Media Office said the four were killed in an Israeli airstrike, but did not provide additional details on the circumstances surrounding their deaths.

A total of 104 Palestinian journalists have been killed since the conflict began on Oct. 7. Two Israeli and three Lebanese media workers also have been killed.

The latest loss adds to the already heavy toll on media workers, with the Committee to Protect Journalists saying the Gaza conflict is the deadliest for journalists and media workers since it began keeping records.

Israel is continuing its offensive on Gaza despite a UN Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire.

On Thursday, South Africa, which has brought a case accusing Israel of genocide to the International Court of Justice, urged the court to order Israel to halt its assault on Rafah.

According to Gaza medical authorities, more than 35,200 Palestinians have been killed, mostly women and children, and over 79,200 have been injured since early October when Israel launched its offensive following an attack by Hamas.


Russia outlaws SOTA opposition news outlet

Russia outlaws SOTA opposition news outlet
Updated 17 May 2024
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Russia outlaws SOTA opposition news outlet

Russia outlaws SOTA opposition news outlet
  • Authorities said outlet tries to destabilize the socio-political situation in Russia
  • Move could criminalize SOTA content and puts its reporters at risk of arrest

LONDON: Russia declared opposition media outlet SOTA “undesirable” on Thursday, a move that could criminalize the sharing of its content and put its reporters at risk of arrest.
Authorities in Russia have declared dozens of news outlets, think tanks and non-profit organizations “undesirable” since 2015, a label rights groups say is designed to deter dissent.
In a statement, Russia’s Prosecutor General accused SOTA of “frank attempts to destabilize the socio-political situation in Russia” and “create tension and irritation in society.”
“Such activities, obviously encouraged by so-called Western inspirers, have the goal of undermining the spiritual and moral foundations of Russian society,” it said.
It also accused SOTA of co-operating with TV Rain and The Insider, two other independent Russian-language outlets based outside of the country that are linked to the opposition.
SOTA Project, which covers opposition protests and has been fiercely critical of the Kremlin, denied it had anything to do with TV Rain and The Insider and rejected the claims.
But it advised its followers in Russia to “remove reposts and links” to its materials to avoid the risk of prosecution. SOTA’s Telegram channel has around 137,000 subscribers.
“Law enforcement and courts consider publishing online to be a continuing offense. This means that you can be prosecuted for reposts from 2023, 2022, 2021,” it said.
SOTA Project was born out of a split with a separate news outlet called SOTAvision, which still covers the opposition but distanced itself from the prosecutors’ ruling on Thursday.
Since launching its offensive in Ukraine, Moscow has waged an unprecedented crackdown on dissent that rights groups have likened to Soviet-era mass repression.
Among other organizations labelled as “undesirable” in Russia are the World Wildlife Fund, Greenpeace, Transparency International and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.


OpenAI strikes deal to bring Reddit content to ChatGPT

OpenAI strikes deal to bring Reddit content to ChatGPT
Updated 17 May 2024
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OpenAI strikes deal to bring Reddit content to ChatGPT

OpenAI strikes deal to bring Reddit content to ChatGPT
  • Deal underscores Reddit’s attempt to diversify beyond its advertising business
  • Content will be used to train AI models

LONDON: Reddit has partnered with OpenAI to bring its content to popular chatbot ChatGPT, the companies said on Thursday, sending the social media platform’s shares up 12 percent in extended trade.
The deal underscores Reddit’s attempt to diversify beyond its advertising business, and follows its recent partnership with Alphabet to make its content available for training Google’s AI models.
ChatGPT and other OpenAI products will use Reddit’s application programming interface, the means by which Reddit distributes its content, following the new partnership.
OpenAI will also become a Reddit advertising partner, the company said.
Ahead of Reddit’s March IPO, Reuters reported that Reddit struck its deal with Alphabet, worth about $60 million per year.
Investors view selling its data to train AI models as a key source of revenue beyond Reddit’s advertising business.
The social media company earlier this month reported strong revenue growth and improving profitability in the first earnings since its market debut, indicating that its Google deal and its push to grow its ads business were paying off.
Reddit’s shares rose 10.5 percent to $62.31 after the bell. As of Wednesday’s close, the stock is up nearly 12 percent since its market debut in March.