Facebook, Twitter Remove Accounts Linked to Iran, Russia

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Social media giants Facebook and Twitter said they have removed hundreds of pages and accounts linked to Russia and Iran ahead of the midterm elections in the U.S.

Facebook said it had removed 254 Facebook pages and 116 Instagram accounts that originated in Iran and were part of a disinformation campaign that targeted countries around the world, including the U.S. and Britain.

 

The social media companies acted on a tip from cybersecurity firm FireEye, which said on Tuesday that the accounts were promoting Iranian propaganda, including discussion of “anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian themes.”

“We’ve removed 652 Pages, groups and accounts for coordinated inauthentic behavior that originated in Iran and targeted people across multiple internet services in the Middle East, Latin America, UK and US,” Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook, said in a blog post.

The removals comes weeks after the company took down several pages of disinformation originating in Russia. On Tuesday, Facebook said it had found more such pages and had removed them. But the company said the Russian pages don’t appear to be linked to the ones originating in Iran.

Also Tuesday, Twitter said it had identified and removed 284 accounts for “engaging in coordinated manipulation” that it said “appeared to have originated in Iran.”

The announcements come after Microsoft said it had taken control of websites it said were trying to hack into conservative American think tanks and the U.S. Senate.

Microsoft said it executed a court order to gain control of six websites linked to the group behind the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee.

Facebook, Twitter Remove Accounts Linked to Iran, Russia

All, News, Technology

Social media giants Facebook and Twitter said they have removed hundreds of pages and accounts linked to Russia and Iran ahead of the midterm elections in the U.S.

Facebook said it had removed 254 Facebook pages and 116 Instagram accounts that originated in Iran and were part of a disinformation campaign that targeted countries around the world, including the U.S. and Britain.

 

The social media companies acted on a tip from cybersecurity firm FireEye, which said on Tuesday that the accounts were promoting Iranian propaganda, including discussion of “anti-Saudi, anti-Israeli and pro-Palestinian themes.”

“We’ve removed 652 Pages, groups and accounts for coordinated inauthentic behavior that originated in Iran and targeted people across multiple internet services in the Middle East, Latin America, UK and US,” Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity policy at Facebook, said in a blog post.

The removals comes weeks after the company took down several pages of disinformation originating in Russia. On Tuesday, Facebook said it had found more such pages and had removed them. But the company said the Russian pages don’t appear to be linked to the ones originating in Iran.

Also Tuesday, Twitter said it had identified and removed 284 accounts for “engaging in coordinated manipulation” that it said “appeared to have originated in Iran.”

The announcements come after Microsoft said it had taken control of websites it said were trying to hack into conservative American think tanks and the U.S. Senate.

Microsoft said it executed a court order to gain control of six websites linked to the group behind the 2016 hack of the Democratic National Committee.

With Sensors and Apps, Young African Coders Compete to Curb Hunger

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From an app to diagnose disease on Zambian farms to Tinder-style matchmaking for Senegalese land owners and young farmers, young coders have been finding solutions to hunger in the first Africa-wide hackathon on the issue.

Eight teams competed in the hackathon, organized by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and a Rwandan trade organization in the country’s capital Kigali this week.

Experts say keeping young people in farming is key to alleviating hunger in Africa, which has 65 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land, but spends $35 billion a year on importing food for its growing population.

“In our families, agriculture is no longer a good business. They don’t get the return,” said Rwandan Ndayisaba Wilson, 24, whose team proposed a $400 solar-powered device that can optimize water and fertilizer use.

“We believe that if the technology is good and farmers can see the benefits, they will adopt it.”

Among the proposed solutions were an app that links aspiring farmers with land owners in Senegal and a Nigerian mobile platform that uses blockchain to help farmers demonstrate their creditworthiness to lenders.

The winner was AgriPredict, an app already operating in Zambia that that can help farmers identify diseases and pests – including the voracious fall armyworm, which eats crops and has wreaked havoc in much of sub-Saharan Africa.

Farmers can access it directly from their phones or via Facebook. CEO Mwila Kangwa, 31, said the initiative came out of the twin disasters that hit Zambian farmers in 2016 – tuta absoluta, a tomato disease, and the fall armyworm.

“We noticed there were no tools whatsoever that will help farmers mitigate or prevent or even counter these diseases so we came up with this idea of creating a software to help farmers,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

As winners, the Zambian team will receive coaching from the FAO to refine their product and an opportunity to meet potential funders and partners.

“What they brought was a technically sound solution … and the ability to convey the message to young people by using, for example, Facebook,” said Henry van Burgsteden, IT officer for digital innovation at the FAO and one of the judges.

The hackathon was held during a conference in Kigali on ways to attract more young people to agriculture through information and communication technology tools.

High unemployment and the challenges of rural life mean many young people desert farming for the city, while aging farmers struggle with climate change, poverty and poor infrastructure.

With Sensors and Apps, Young African Coders Compete to Curb Hunger

All, News, Technology

From an app to diagnose disease on Zambian farms to Tinder-style matchmaking for Senegalese land owners and young farmers, young coders have been finding solutions to hunger in the first Africa-wide hackathon on the issue.

Eight teams competed in the hackathon, organized by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and a Rwandan trade organization in the country’s capital Kigali this week.

Experts say keeping young people in farming is key to alleviating hunger in Africa, which has 65 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land, but spends $35 billion a year on importing food for its growing population.

“In our families, agriculture is no longer a good business. They don’t get the return,” said Rwandan Ndayisaba Wilson, 24, whose team proposed a $400 solar-powered device that can optimize water and fertilizer use.

“We believe that if the technology is good and farmers can see the benefits, they will adopt it.”

Among the proposed solutions were an app that links aspiring farmers with land owners in Senegal and a Nigerian mobile platform that uses blockchain to help farmers demonstrate their creditworthiness to lenders.

The winner was AgriPredict, an app already operating in Zambia that that can help farmers identify diseases and pests – including the voracious fall armyworm, which eats crops and has wreaked havoc in much of sub-Saharan Africa.

Farmers can access it directly from their phones or via Facebook. CEO Mwila Kangwa, 31, said the initiative came out of the twin disasters that hit Zambian farmers in 2016 – tuta absoluta, a tomato disease, and the fall armyworm.

“We noticed there were no tools whatsoever that will help farmers mitigate or prevent or even counter these diseases so we came up with this idea of creating a software to help farmers,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

As winners, the Zambian team will receive coaching from the FAO to refine their product and an opportunity to meet potential funders and partners.

“What they brought was a technically sound solution … and the ability to convey the message to young people by using, for example, Facebook,” said Henry van Burgsteden, IT officer for digital innovation at the FAO and one of the judges.

The hackathon was held during a conference in Kigali on ways to attract more young people to agriculture through information and communication technology tools.

High unemployment and the challenges of rural life mean many young people desert farming for the city, while aging farmers struggle with climate change, poverty and poor infrastructure.

Judge: 3D Guns Are Issue for President, Congress

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A federal judge hearing arguments over a settlement between the Trump administration and a company that wants to post plans for printing 3D weapons on the internet said Tuesday that the issue is best decided by the president or the Congress.

U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik that while he will still rule on the legal issues involving the settlement, “a solution to the greater problem is so much better suited” to the president or Congress.

The settlement prompted 19 states and Washington, D.C., to sue the Trump administration for allowing a Texas company to distribute instructions on how to make printable three-dimensional guns.

Lasnik issued a temporary restraining order blocking the online release of the blueprints. Now, the states and Washington are seeking a permanent ban.

A lawyer for the U.S. Justice Department argued that it is already illegal to possess plastic guns, and the government is fully committed to enforcing that law.

But Lasnik questioned the logic behind enforcing a ban on undetectable guns rather than proactively stopping them from being made in the first place.

It is unclear when he will issue his final ruling in the case.

Judge: 3D Guns Are Issue for President, Congress

All, News, Technology

A federal judge hearing arguments over a settlement between the Trump administration and a company that wants to post plans for printing 3D weapons on the internet said Tuesday that the issue is best decided by the president or the Congress.

U.S. District Judge Robert Lasnik that while he will still rule on the legal issues involving the settlement, “a solution to the greater problem is so much better suited” to the president or Congress.

The settlement prompted 19 states and Washington, D.C., to sue the Trump administration for allowing a Texas company to distribute instructions on how to make printable three-dimensional guns.

Lasnik issued a temporary restraining order blocking the online release of the blueprints. Now, the states and Washington are seeking a permanent ban.

A lawyer for the U.S. Justice Department argued that it is already illegal to possess plastic guns, and the government is fully committed to enforcing that law.

But Lasnik questioned the logic behind enforcing a ban on undetectable guns rather than proactively stopping them from being made in the first place.

It is unclear when he will issue his final ruling in the case.

Trump: It Is ‘Dangerous’ for Twitter, Facebook to Ban Accounts

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U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday that it is “very dangerous” for social media companies like Twitter and Facebook to silence voices on their services.

Trump’s comments in an interview with Reuters come as the social media industry faces mounting scrutiny from Congress to police foreign propaganda.

Trump has made his Twitter account — with more than 53 million followers — an integral and controversial part of his presidency, using it to promote his agenda, announce policy and attack critics.

Trump previously criticized the social media industry on Aug. 18, claiming without evidence in a series of tweets that unnamed companies were “totally discriminating against Republican/Conservative voices.” In the same post, Trump said “too many voices are being destroyed, some good & some bad.”

Those tweets followed actions taken by Apple Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s YouTube and Facebook to remove some content posted by Infowars, a website run by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Jones’ own Twitter account was temporarily suspended on Aug. 15.

“I won’t mention names but when they take certain people off of Twitter or Facebook and they’re making that decision, that is really a dangerous thing because that could be you tomorrow,” Trump said.

Trump appeared on a show produced by Infowars, hosted by Jones, in December 2015 while campaigning for the White House. In removing Jones’ content, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook each pointed to specific user agreement violations. For example, Facebook removed several pages associated with Infowars after determining they violated policies concerning hate speech and bullying.

Twitter and Facebook declined to comment on Trump’s statement. Apple and Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In July, during a House of Representatives Judiciary Committee hearing, executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter testified they did not remove content based on political reasons.

“Our purpose is to serve the conversation, not to make value judgments on personal beliefs,” Nick Pickles, Twitter’s senior strategist, said at the time.

Kabul IT Company Designs Buber, the City’s Own Online Taxi App

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People in big cities around the world typically enjoy a wide range of public transportation options. Those who own smartphones also have the choice of using some of the increasingly popular ride sharing services such as Uber and Lyft. And now, Kabul residents in Afghanistan can, too. VOA’s Haseeb Maudoodi takes a look at Kabul’s newest online taxi service called Buber, which means ‘take me’ in Dari. Bezhan Hamdard narrates.

Dragonfly, Privacy Issues Keep Google in the Headlines

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Google has been in the headlines recently, and the news was not good. The technology company left the Chinese market eight years ago to protest Beijing’s censorship, but now appears ready to return with a new search engine. But the project is shrouded in secrecy, even as Google’s employees demand transparency. Meanwhile, the company tries to defend itself against accusations it has been invading user’s privacy, despite claiming it doesn’t. Faiza Elmasry has the story. Faith Lapidus narrates.