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Australian politicians call for Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg to appear before inquiry | Australia news



Mark Zuckerberg is facing calls to appear before Australia’s parliament and explain how Facebook failed to detect and stop a massive global disinformation network from spreading hate and influencing voters over a two-year period.

The Senate this week set up a new inquiry to examine why Facebook and other social media giants have failed to stop clandestine actors using their platforms to spread falsehoods and undermine democracy.

The inquiry was established a day before the Guardian revealed that an Israel-based group had penetrated 21 far right Facebook pages across the world, and were using them as vehicles to spread huge volumes of coordinated disinformation that promoted far right politicians and vilified Muslims.

Following the Guardian’s revelations on Friday, the chair of the inquiry, Labor MP Jenny McAllister, said “malign actors” must be stopped from using covert and deceptive means to spread disinformation on social media platforms.

“We all must continue to manage these threats and maintain confidence in our democracy and its institutions,” she told the Guardian.

McAllister earlier said it would be in the interests of social media giants to give evidence to the inquiry and that “I think Australians will expect to hear from them”.

Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi was one of those targeted by the 21-page network last year, when it incited attacks on her from more than 500,000 followers.

Faruqi said Zuckerberg must be called to explain why his platform had failed so comprehensively.

“I’ll be asking the select committee on foreign interference through social media to invite Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook executives to give evidence,” Faruqi told the Guardian.

“The Guardian investigation’s findings are terrifying because of what they mean for my safety, but also their implications for our democracy. It really concerns me that we’re nowhere near the bottom of this yet.”

Zuckerberg is unlikely to appear before Australian parliament. He has not attended a range of parliamentary inquiries across the world, other than one appearance before US Congress.

The inquiry set up this week has been tasked with investigating the “use of social media for purposes that undermine Australia’s democracy and values, including the spread of misinformation”. It will examine what social media giants are doing to respond, international policy responses, and the extent of compliance with Australian laws. It is expected to report in May 2022.

McAllister, the chair, said Australia was one of the world’s most successful democracies, and relied on robust and open debate. That debate, she said, was being exploited by malign actors using “covert, deceptive means”.

“This issue is complex, and spans economics, communications, electoral, and national security policy,” she told the Guardian. “The Senate inquiry will provide a forum to better understand the problem, and work together to develop solutions.”

“We all must continue to manage these threats and maintain confidence in our democracy and its institutions.”

Faruqi said the inquiry should examine what Facebook knew about the network uncovered by the Guardian and what could be done to ensure there was not a repeat.

“Social media companies must be hauled over the coals for their role in spreading and profiting from Islamophobia and hate,” she said.

Facebook took action after being presented with the Guardian’s findings, removing pages and accounts it said were financially motivated.

“We don’t allow people to misrepresent themselves on Facebook and we’ve updated our inauthentic behaviour policy to further improve our ability to counter new tactics,” a spokesman said.

Facebook said hate speech was banned on its platform and anyone who advocated for violence was removed, as were those who praise or support it. “Nobody can advocate or advertise hate or violence on Facebook and we remove any violations as soon as we become aware,” the spokesman said.

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Libyan Militant Is Sentenced to 19 Years in Deadly Benghazi Attacks




A Libyan militant was sentenced on Thursday to more than 19 years in prison by a federal judge for his role in the 2012 Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans, including the United States ambassador.

The militant, Mustafa al-Imam, was convicted by a jury last year of conspiring to provide material support to the terrorists who were responsible for the siege on the main diplomatic mission and a nearby C.I.A. annex.

During the trial in United States District Court in Washington last spring, the jurors also convicted Mr. al-Imam of destroying the complex and endangering lives, but deadlocked on murder charges.

Mr. al-Imam, 47, was the second person sentenced in the Sept. 11, 2012, attack, which became the subject of a contentious congressional inquiry sought by Republican critics of the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state at the time of the siege.

“We have not rested in our efforts to bring to justice those involved in the terrorist attacks on our facilities in Benghazi, which led to the death of four courageous Americans — Tyrone Woods, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Ambassador Christopher Stevens — and we never will,” John C. Demers, assistant attorney general for national security, said in a statement on Thursday. “Those responsible for these crimes must be held accountable.”

Judge Christopher R. Cooper, who presided over the case, sentenced Mr. al-Imam to 19 years and six months in prison.

Matthew J. Peed, a lawyer for Mr. al-Iman, said in an email on Thursday night that an appeal was in the works.

“We are disappointed by the sentence, which was based on allegations the jury did not believe,” Mr. Peed wrote. “The judge did find that Mr. al-Imam played a minor role in these events and harbored no animus towards America, which was encouraging. We look forward to an appeal, and hope those truly responsible for this attack are brought to justice.”

Federal prosecutors had argued that Mr. al-Imam, who was captured in 2017 in Libya, should have received the maximum sentence of 35 years.

They said that cellphone records placed him at the complex during the attack and that he spent 18 minutes on the phone talking to the militia leader who orchestrated the siege, Ahmed Abu Khattala, while it transpired. The prosecutors said that Mr. al-Iman acted as the “eyes and ears” of Mr. Khattala, whom Judge Cooper sentenced to 22 years in prison in 2018, well short of the life sentence sought by the Justice Department.

In a sentencing motion for Mr. al-Imam, Mr. Peed wrote that his client was a frail, uneducated and simple man, “not a fighter, an ideologue or a terrorist.” The lawyer for Mr. al-Imam wrote that his client made a tremendous mistake when he agreed to help his friend, Mr. Khattala, damage and loot the complex.

In contrast to the five men awaiting military tribunals at Guantánamo Bay on charges that they plotted the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, Mr. al-Imam was tried in federal court, a venue opposed by the Trump administration.

Mr. Stevens, the ambassador, and Mr. Smith, another State Department employee, were killed when a mob of militants tried to storm the main United States diplomatic mission, which was set on fire. Mr. Woods and Mr. Doherty, who were contractors for the C.I.A., died later when a separate annex run by the agency was hit by mortars.

In 2016, an 800-page report by the House Select Committee on Benghazi delivered a broad rebuke of the State Department, Defense Department and C.I.A. for their failure to grasp the acute security risks in Benghazi and for maintaining diplomatic outposts that they could not protect. The report found no new evidence of culpability or wrongdoing by Mrs. Clinton.


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Indian women politicians face online abuse: Study | India News




Nearly 100 Indian women politicians faced abuse, including rape and death threats, on social media during elections last year, with researchers raising concerns over rising online violence against women globally.

A study by Amnesty International India said 95 female politicians received nearly 1 million hateful mentions on Twitter between March and May, one in five of which was sexist or misogynistic. In all, there were 724 women candidates.


Digital rights experts said gender-based online violence was increasing which was intimidating women and deterring them from putting themselves forward for public office.

“People should know what women in politics endure, what they have to put up with and how unequal it becomes for them,” said Shazia Ilmi, a member of India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in the report.

It was unclear if online abuse against women politicians was worsening or improving as the research was the first of its kind and scale in India, said an Amnesty spokesperson.

But Adrian Lovett, head of the World Wide Web Foundation, said gender-based online violence was on the rise globally in developed and well as developing countries.

He said this was exacerbating the digital divide between men and women which was getting worse as the number of people going online increased and more men than women logged on.

“Gender-based online violence is increasing,” Lovett told Reuters news agency at the World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting on Davos in the Swiss Alps.

“It is not particular to one country or one region. It is a reality in developing countries and an increasing challenge in North America, Europe and across the world.

“This is affecting political participation by women, especially young women being put off by the online harassment of women in public life.”

‘Silencing voices’

Amnesty declined to name the politicians in its study of India, where women hold 14 percent of seats in the lower and 11 percent in the upper house of parliament, compared to the global average of 24.5 percent, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Similar research conducted by Amnesty in Britain and the United States in 2018 studying 323 women politicians found that about 7 percent tweets mentioning them were hurtful or abusive.

Several female politicians in Britain chose not to stand again in the general election on December 12 last year, citing the level of online abuse they faced.

Two-thirds of female politicians told a survey by a British parliamentary committee last November that progress on tackling violence and online abuse against women in politics impacted their willingness to stand for re-election.

Amnesty urged Twitter to step up its response to violations and bring in more policies to protect women.

Twitter said abuse and harassment had no place on its platform, adding 50 percent of hateful content was identified by technology and not reports from people with the company aware that abuse stifled people’s ability to speak freely.

“We will never be done with our efforts to address abuse motivated by hatred, prejudice or intolerance – particularly abuse that seeks to silence the voices of those who have been historically marginalized, such as women,” a spokesperson said.

Reuters news agency


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Congressman Carter calls impeachment trial ‘big political stunt’




KILLEEN, TX — The heated debate continues as the Senate wraps up the third day of the impeachment trial, prompting nationwide reaction.

25 News caught up with Congressman John Carter (TX-31) for his opinion on the impeachment as he returned from Washington, D.C. and stopped by the Killeen ISD Career Center to talk to local students.

“I think it’s a great big political stunt that harms the republic. There are no crimes alleged,” said Congressman Carter.

The congressman did not mince words.

“I’m an old trial judge, and let me start off by telling you, in the United States of America, there is no such thing as common law, criminal law. Criminal law has to be statutory. In other words, there has to be a statue that this is against the law,” he said.

Congressman Carter says he thinks both charges are not statutory criminal actions.

“It is really not an appropriate action to impeach somebody,” he said.


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