SAN FRANCISCO: Facebook said today that it had blocked some 30 accounts on its platform and 85 accounts on photo-sharing social network Instagram over concerns they may be linked to foreign entities and aimed at interfering in US midterm elections.
The announcement came shortly after US law enforcement and intelligence agencies said they had no indication of efforts to disrupt election infrastructure but that Americans should be wary of Russian attempts to spread fake news. A study published last week found that misinformation on social media was spreading at a greater rate than during the run-up to the 2016 presidential vote, which Russia is accused of manipulating through a vast propaganda campaign in favor of Donald Trump, the eventual winner.
“On Sunday evening, US law enforcement contacted us about an online activity that they recently discovered and which they believe may be linked to foreign entities,” Facebook said in a blog post. “Our very early-stage investigation has so far identified around 30 Facebook accounts and 85 Instagram accounts that may be engaged in the coordinated inauthentic behavior.
“We immediately blocked these accounts and are now investigating them in more detail.” It added all the Facebook pages associated with the accounts appeared to be in French or Russian languages. The Instagram accounts were mostly in English, with some “focused on celebrities, others political debate.” “Typically, we would be further along with our analysis before announcing anything publicly. But given that we are only one day away from important elections in the US, we wanted to let people know about the action we’ve taken and the facts as we know them today,” Facebook added.
Despite an aggressive crackdown by social media firms, so-called “junk news” is spreading at a greater rate than in 2016 on social media ahead of the US midterm elections, Oxford Internet Institute researchers said in a study published Thursday. Twitter said Saturday it deleted a “series of accounts” that attempted to share disinformation without giving a number.
Relevant piece: U.S. social media network Facebook Inc. Monday removed 30 accounts from its namesake platform and 85 Instagram accounts for possible links to “foreign entities.”
Nathaniel Gleicher, head of Cybersecurity Policy at Facebook, said U.S. law enforcement agencies notified Facebook Sunday evening about suspected online activities by those accounts with possible connections to foreign actors.
“We immediately blocked these accounts and are now investigating them in more detail,” Gleicher announced Facebook’s measures in an “Election Update” post, which came less than 12 hours before polls open for the U.S. midterm elections on Tuesday.
Gleicher said almost all the Facebook Pages associated with these accounts appear to be in the French or Russian languages, while those on Instagram seem to have mostly been English, with some focused on celebrities and others on political debates.
Instagram is a photo and video-sharing social networking service owned by Facebook.
“Once we know more — including whether these accounts are linked to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency or other foreign entities — we will update this post,” he added.
Facebook said its probe of the activities is still at a very early stage, and it was unclear who was behind those attempts or how long those accounts have existed.
The Menlo Park, a California-based social media network, disclosed on Oct. 26 that it had pulled 82 Pages, Groups and accounts linked to Iran to crack down on online “bad actors.”
With less than one day away from Tuesday’s polling, social media companies are on high alert for foreign interference.
Major internet players such as Google, Apple, and Twitter all have stepped up the fight against online disinformation efforts, with hundreds of fake accounts purged from their platforms.
YouTube clarifies rules on pranks as risky memes rage
SAN FRANCISCO: YouTube on Tuesday clarified rules against posting videos of dangerous pranks, as risky “challenges” prompt people to video themselves doing things like biting into laundry soap or driving blindfolded.
The company already forbid content inciting dangerous activities likely to result in serious harm.
But the clarifications “make it clear that challenges like the Tide pod challenge or the Fire challenge, that can cause death and/or have caused death in some instances, have no place on YouTube,” the company said in a blog post.
“We’ve made it clear that our policies prohibiting harmful and dangerous content also extend to pranks with a perceived danger of serious physical injury,” said YouTube, which like other social networks is trying to show that it is better tackling problematic content.
It made clear the updated policies ban pranks that trick people into thinking they are in danger, such as fake home invasions or drive-by shootings.
“YouTube is home to many beloved viral challenges and pranks, like Jimmy Kimmel’s ‘Terrible Christmas Presents’ prank or the water bottle flip challenge,” said YouTube, owned by Google’s parent Alphabet.
“That said, we’ve always had policies to make sure what’s funny doesn’t cross the line into also being harmful or dangerous.”
While playful or goofy challenges or pranks have become raging trends online, with video shared at YouTube or Facebook, some “memes” have put people in jeopardy.
A “Fire Challenge” dared people to put flammable liquid on their bodies then ignite it, while a “Tide Pod Challenge” involved people, typically teens, biting or chewing the encapsulated candy-colored laundry detergent.
A “Bird Box” thriller released on Netflix a month ago inspired a challenge for people to do things blindfolded, mimicking characters in the original streaming film.
A US teenager over the weekend crashed while driving with her eyes covered, taking part in a challenge inspired by the hit Netflix show, according to media reports.
YouTube policy also bans pranks that cause children trauma, for example the fake death of a parent or severe abandonment, according to the firm.
Sub Task Force on IT recommends for setting up special technology zones in the country
ISLAMABAD: The Sub Task Force on Information Technology on Tuesday recommended for setting up special technology zones to enhance IT exports in the country.
During second meeting of Prime Minister’s Task Force on IT and Telecom which was chaired by Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication (MOITT) Dr. Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, said a statement issued here.
Secretary MOITT Maroof Afzal was also present in meeting while Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman attended the meeting as Co-Chairman of PM Task Force on IT and Telecom.
The three Sub Task Forces on IT, Telecom, and Human Resource Development also gave the recommendations regarding IT, Telecom and Human Resource Development sectors.
Dr. Atta-ur-Rehman said that instead of developing land for setting up special technology zones, existing buildings or infrastructure can be designated as special technology zones.
He said that spectrum should be allocated in right manner and emphasized the need of promoting locally manufacturing products like mobile phones, computers, laptops etc.
It was also proposed that IT related small and medium enterprises (SMEs) should be empowered by establishing special technology zones.
The members of the Sub Task Force on Telecom observed that the telecom taxes in Pakistan were highest in the world and proposed that 12.5 percent Advance Income Tax on internet must be zero.
The meeting was told that 1000 Union Councils (UCs) in the country have fiber cable connectivity and it is target to connect 3100 more UCs with optic fiber cables for broadband supply.
It was also recommended to develop a digital content of all subjects at schools and college levels besides giving IT training to students.
Senate committee gives 10 more days to register cellphones
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Telecommunication Authority has postponed implementation of the mobile registration system for 10 more days following the directives by the Senate Standing Committee on Information Technology.
“This system is too confusing for the literate to wrap their heads around. We cannot imagine how the illiterate will understand it,” said Senator Rubina Khalid, chairperson of the parliamentary committee that met here for a briefing on the Device Identification, Registration and Blocking System (DIRBS).
The DIRBS launched by the PTA was scheduled to come into effect from Jan 15. However, it will now be implemented on Jan 25.
The PTA had launched the DIRBS mechanism in May last year to counter the spread of substandard phones being smuggled into the country.